Anoop Desai: 'X Factor' Will Be Bigger Than 'American Idol'

The season 8 finalist offers his insight on life after 'Idol' as he launches an ambitious roll-out of new music dubbed the "Zero" project.

American Idol Season 8 alum Anoop Desai is launching an ambitious roll-out plan of his new music, dubbed the “Zero” series. Over three EPs released in succession this year, the singer will deliver an array of new tunes, recorded by the likes of Calvin Matthews and Sak Pase (Rihanna). This way, he reasons, his music is as fresh as its gets -- as in, still warm from the recording studio to your hard drive.

A North Carolina native, Desai lived in Los Angeles for a stint post-Idol, but ultimately decided to return east, settling in Atlanta. “L.A. was so big and a little cliquey,” he says. “I just wasn’t feeling it and I missed home.”

The south is also where Desai feels most productive and inspired. “Musically, Atlanta is a lot more diverse than Nashville,” he says. “But the level at which all these different types of music are happening is like in LA.”

What other music industry insights has Desai picked up since being wild carded in 2008? Read on and check out his latest batch of just-released songs on iTunes.

The Hollywood Reporter: One of the things that’s instantly noticeable about Zero.0 and your music in general is how you can navigate multiple genres and different sounds that go beyond pop-R&B.

Anoop Desai:I listen to everything. Going though my iTunes, I have Frank Sinatra, then Adele, then Mumford and Sons, T-Pain, Avril Lavigne Radiohead... I think most people are like that -- they crave variety. But look at pop radio right now and it's the same stuff over and over again. I was looking on Mediabase the other day -- yes, I'm a nerd – and there are songs from 2009. It just seems slow to react, and as a songwriter, singer and performer,  I never want to be slow to react, but at the end of the day, I want to be a Top 40 artist -- adult contemporary and urban-leaning.

THR: What’s the thinking behind this roll-out?

Desai: It started as a mix tape with DJ Trauma. I've always been about wanting people to spread my music and share it. This way, it allowed me to adapt in real time. So while there’s stuff going up on iTunes May 11, the second album is already written and the third album is halfway done, too.

THR: What is your process when it comes to writing and working with producers?

Desai:It’s like dating -- it sounds strange to say that, but you have to test people out. You have to be like: A) I like your music. B) I like you, you're a good person. C) Let’s hang out and see if we can work together. And that is where music comes from. That's where the best stuff I've written has come from -- it's a very natural organic process of feeling people out.

THR: The music industry is looking at ways to collect money for music, yet you’re for giving it away. How do you reason?

Desai:If you only have the mind of, “We have to sell this music and I have to make money on this music,” then it's not really about the music anymore; it's about the money. I'm not saying I don’t want to make money, but I'm thinking a little more long-term than just making a buck today.

THR: Do you feel like you have a good grasp of how the business works?

Desai: When I went to LA, I didn't have this grasp, I had American Idol, which although it's an amazing experience and I've learned so much from it, it's not real life. So I didn’t have any of these insights into how you can be successful. Naively I thought, “OK, I was just on TV in front of 30 million people, I can sing, where do I sign?" And in the two years since then, it's really been a growing process for me in terms of songwriting and performing.

THR: It’s ironic, but in a way, isn’t it harder to try and launch a career after Idol?

Desai: I remember when we got off the tour, everyone saying, “Don't worry, we just went through this process, we’re good, you'll be fine..." That's about the dumbest thing that we could've said at the time because you begin to believe that and internalize it, and the truth of the matter is, you have to work harder than everyone else. Because whether the viewing public knows it or not, in the industry, there is a stigma associated with American Idol. There's no other way to say it. You hear these people sing for a maximum of a minute and a half every show. As a contestant, you have to say, “All right, I was on the show, awesome, what a great perk, now let me work.” Once you step on that Idol stage, you have the potential to play with the big boys, to do what Adam Lambert has done, it's just harder to get there.

THR: That’s true now more than ever with The Voice and soon X Factor crowding the talent show space…

Desai: But what we're seeing is Idol maintaining 23 to 24 million people every night. The Voice is doing healthy but X Factor will be insane. I will go on record and say that, when all is said and done, X Factor for the 2011 year will probably be more successful than Idol. But I think it also hurts the contestants of those shows. When I got off Idol, there were some 80 people who had competed before me, that was hard enough. Now you have a top 10 for three shows and that goes for another eight seasons? That's 240 people who've done exactly what you've done. Idol has the benefit of brand recognition and loyalty, which I think is really important, but there have been superstars that have come out of X Factor, too.

THR: The Voice is welcoming former Idols with open arms, any temptation to try for a second chance?

Desai: Absolutely not. Just... no.

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