Scott Borchetta on Joining 'American Idol' and Signing This Season's Winner

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"We know what to do"

The winner of American Idol season 14 will be in good hands. The performer taking the top spot this year will be signed to the same record label as Taylor Swift and will be guided by one of the industry's deftest management hands: Big Machine Label Group founder Scott Borchetta. The man that made Swift a country and pop princess, and international megastar, has signed on to mentor the contestants on the show. Borchetta will be replacing Randy Jackson, who took over the role from Jimmy Iovine as the in-house mentor in season 13.

Billboard caught up with Borchetta to discuss what he’s looking for in an Idol winner, Big Machine’s venture into the pop world, and what the show’s pool of talent is looking like this year.

How does it feel to be a part of the American Idol Family?

Scott Borchetta: It’s been incredible, and the opportunity for us to be part of the show is really interesting in the fact that the label is all about artist development. With the opportunity to have so many people screened across the country, you really get a look at what’s out there. We can’t get to artists early enough, honestly. So if this gives us another great A&R opportunity to take advantage of all of the talent that they have screened, why wouldn’t I do that?

So it’s official then? Big Machine is going to be signing the winner of Season 14?

Oh yeah. The winner will be signed to Big Machine/Universal. Game on!

Are you prepared for the fact that you may land an artist that is outside of the country spectrum?

I think obviously the huge pop success with Taylor shows that we know how to do it in any genre. We’ve been having pop success with Taylor for six years. It didn’t just start. Love Story was a No. 1 pop record. So yeah, I’m very confident in telling you, “We got it. We know what to do.”

Is Big Machine open to signing any of the other contestants as well? Maybe some of the runner-ups on the show?

You never know. I’m certainly not going to say no. If we see something great, whether it wins or not, we’ll certainly consider it, but it’s about the winner. Hopefully we’ll get to a place where we’ve got a winner that is everything that they need to be and that we need them to be. They gotta have an incredible desire to do this for the rest of their life. That’s the person I want. I want them to show that this is everything that they’ve always wanted and they are going to put in the work and have the desire to do it. If they have that, I’m in.

Big Machine has traditionally been country-focused, but with Taylor Swift venturing more and more into pop, do you see the label taking on more pop stars and/or doing more country-mainstream crossover in the future?

We’ve got a mantra at the label: We either fall in love or we don’t. And because we are Nashville-based and predominately a country label, people obviously think of us in that way, and that’s fine. But I grew up in Southern California. I played in rock bands out here and I’ve been around pop music my whole life. I’ve been around all music my entire life. So I think we have a fair understanding of what a hit artist looks like, regardless of genre. And I’ve got the opportunity, with my relationship with Universal and 19 [Recordings], to put the winner exactly where they need to be, regardless of genre. They are not limited by this relationship. If anything, just the opposite. We can go anywhere we need to go.

What type of mentorship do you plan to bring to the constants this season?

Each contestant will have a little bit different need. Some of them need help with song selection. Some of them need help with image. Some of them need help with engagement. So each one of them are unique and will have different needs. We’ll get in there and try to help them with whatever they need.

What have you seen so far, talent-wise this season?

A great, diverse bunch of young artists. And that’s really the key word is ‘artists.’ You know you want to be a great singer, but you want to have artistry behind that. So I think the group of contestants that we have are really going to blow people’s minds.

Season 14 of American Idol premieres on January 7, 2015 on FOX. 

This story first appeared on Billboard.com.

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