TELLY guru Simon Cowell has revealed how becoming a dad saved him from a “dark” obsession with work.
Simon, 63 — whose shows such as Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor launched Harry Styles and Little Mix — was consumed by ratings wars before the birth of Eric, eight.
Simon Cowell exclusively told SE On Sunday that he was totally obsessesed with work before his son was born
Simon Cowell credits son Eric and fiancée Lauren Silverman for helping to turn his life around
Simon Cowell says he began to get depressed when The X Factor began losing the ratings battle
He admitted: “If Eric hadn’t come along, God knows what would have happened.”
Simon Cowell has revealed how he has turned his life around in the last few years after he became “obsessed” with The X Factor’s ratings battle with Strictly Come Dancing.
The TV legend told how he suffered crippling lows when the smash hit ITV show began to slump before ending in 2018, admitting: “I was tearing my hair out.”
He said that without eight-year-old son Eric — his child with fiancée Lauren Silverman, 45 — he might still be trapped in a toxic cycle of misery.
In an exclusive interview with SE on Sunday as he prepares to up-end the music industry yet again with his latest project, Simon said: “Before Eric, my life was 99 per cent work — I was obsessed with it.
“I got to that point where everything was about, ‘If you’re not rating against this then you’re a failure’ and I stopped enjoying what I was doing and I was miserable the whole time.
“I was obsessed with beating the competition. I took it to a ridiculous level and I would get really down about that stuff, to the point I was depressed.
The mogul smiled as he admitted: “I’m not a wall puncher but I’d tear my hair out, then be sitting there at 4am saying, ‘What am I going to do?’ — coming up with ridiculous ideas like the six-chair challenge.
“You add new elements, then change something else, then something else, then the next thing you know, you’ve got this Frankenstein’s monster.”
“Should we have ended the show sooner? Maybe. We could have done, yeah.
“That last year was very much an ego driven thing. We had to be better than everyone else, but I didn’t enjoy it.
“I was really unhappy. But now Eric is around, I don’t work through the night anymore.
“If he hadn’t come along, God knows what would have happened.
“It’s sad now to think of me at my age, still working till 4am, obsessed with the TV ratings.
“The thought of it — I can’t deal with that.”
Thankfully, the Simon sitting in front of me today at his Malibu mansion — sunglasses on and menthol cigarette in hand — is a very different man to the borderline manic workaholic he describes.
Cheerfully, he agrees: “I’m a very different man to the one I was ten years ago, thank God.
“This would have been a much less fun interview if I wasn’t.”
Laughing at himself, he went on: “It would have been, ‘I hate Strictly, I hate everyone’.”
Simon Cowell was speaking exclusively to SE On Sunday’s Laura Armstrong
So, did he hate everyone?
“You can make yourself very miserable,” he replies carefully. “And you can get burned out.
“But Eric changed everything, to be honest. After I lost my mum and my dad, you kind of think you’re never going to feel that love again — that’s it.”
For a split second, his voice cracks and Simon pauses before regaining his composure.
GIVING PEOPLE A CHANCE
He takes a breath and continues: “Then you have kids, and — though I never thought I would feel that way — it’s beyond your love for your parents.
“It almost hurts how much you love them. Then you start thinking, ‘When he grows up, what’s his dad going to have done?’ I think about that a lot.
“I’m more down the path of helping people. It should be fun, but giving people the chance to start a career.
“That feeling — that you might have found a star — is the best feeling in the world.
“It is addictive, I swear to God, it is. There have been days where I’m thinking, ‘That’s it, I’ve had it, I don’t like anybody,’ then someone turns up and I’m like, ‘I love my job again’.
“X Factor at the beginning, when there was no expectation of us and we could just do what we liked, was great fun. It was when it became successful that everyone, including me, went a bit nuts.
“It was a time in my life where everything was great on the surface but underneath that it just wasn’t fun, and not great. Everything was skewed wrong.
“And I never want to feel that way again.
“Now I think you have to be satisfied with the quality of something, rather than what you’re being judged on — ratings or chart positions.
“There is always going to be someone more popular than you and someone less popular, and you have to manage that. The way you do it is by doing your best.
“And at the heart of everything, it has to be about the quality — not the money.”
Simon Cowell says he is regularly asked by young people when The X Factor is coming back
Simon’s impact on global TV and music audiences over the years has been massive — with The X Factor and Got Talent airing in more than 180 countries.
And this month saw his contribution to music grow even greater with the launch of groundbreaking new project StemDrop on TikTok.
It saw a new song by Max Martin released to the world on the site, which allows artists to work with and make their own material, as well as collaborate with others.
Asked if he is nervous about the new project, Simon shrugs and says: “I’ve learned that things take time to work. If they don’t, we die trying. But the worst thing would be not doing something new because you’re too afraid.”
As well as StemDrop — his latest project with TikTok which has had more than two billion viral video views in two days — networks want to bring The X Factor back in the US — and Simon says it is “more likely than not” that the UK version will also return in 2024.
But he admits feeling conflicted on the decision.
And he revealed that aside from The X Factor and the Got Talent series, he has no ambition to chase further TV appearances.
He went on: “Am I tempted to focus on StemDrop and not bring back X Factor? Personally, yes. The temptation would be to do something new.
“But the funny thing is that when young people approach me on the street, all they want to know is when X Factor is coming back.
“They all watch it on YouTube. When we stopped the show, I genuinely thought there was no need for it — that everyone would be signed from YouTube.
“But there are so many people wanting to be signed that we could use that extra platform.
“That said, I would only do it again if we could go back to where the show started — if we could find some great people and create those TV moments that live forever.
“There would have to be a genuine opportunity to make it how it was in the early years, and I would only do it with someone who was genuinely enthusiastic about it.
“I would also bring back the managers and the A&R people instead of having artists judge the talent because I don’t think that’s great.
“If you have a great party, do you hold it again in ten years or do you do something else?”
Meanwhile, he has US networks urging him to make another version in the States.
But if those proposals do not move forward, what would Simon want his next project to be?
He said: “I have ideas. I’d like to do more mentoring because I get frustrated with people bringing me the same thing.
“There’s a lot of creativity in the world right now, it’s like everyone is auditioning, and if I can do something to help then I get a buzz out of that.
“We just need to get rid of the formats and rules — and being in one country. We don’t have to be boxed in, with projects like this we can make music globally.
“And I’m not desperate to be on TV. I would only do it if there was a purpose to it. So yes, those shows aside, it’s possible I won’t appear on screen again.
“If X Factor doesn’t come back, I won’t be looking for other shows to appear on. I don’t want to be just a TV personality.
“The idea of The X Factor not being on so I go on a game show . . . I think I’d jump off a cliff. I genuinely can’t think of anything worse.”
Simon added: “If you were to ask me now which is more important, my career or my family, then I’d say family, 100 per cent. But when you talk about legacy, you want to believe what you’ve done has been worth it, that’s important too.”
I asked Simon whether he thinks he has already achieved enough.
“No,” he answers without missing a beat. “I’m proud of the things I’ve done. I’ve given some incredible artists the platform to go off and — through their own merit — achieve their success.
“But it’s never enough. There will always be the next thing.”
Simon Cowell says he was so obsessed with X Factor that there were times he was up working until 4am