NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07:  Actor Harry Connick Jr. attends Broadway Talks Conversations with Harry Connick Jr. at the 92nd Street Y on February 7, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage) Harry Connick Jr. joins the judges panel at "American Idol," which has a two-night premiere Jan. 15 and Jan. 16 on FOX. Credit: Michael Stewart/WireImage

For Harry Connick Jr., joining this year’s “American Idol” judges lineup was a no-brainer.

“It just felt like a natural thing to do,” says the multiplatinum Grammy winner, who will take a seat alongside Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban on the judges panel when “Idol” returns with a two-night premiere Wednesday and Thursday on FOX. “My whole life has been a lot of interaction with people who are a lot better than I am, and as I got older I started to be on the giving end of those things. … I feel very comfortable in that kind of environment.”

The singer is no stranger to “Idol,” having served as a mentor to contestants in 2010 and 2013. He even cops to watching the show since day one. Becoming a permanent fixture on the scene, he says, is “different, but not a surprise.”


“It’s extremely intense. The days are long. It’s very emotional, but it’s just the wildest ride, and it’s a wonderful ride with great people, and I really just like being a part of it. … We’re just having a ball.”

Despite a rotating cast of superstar judges (Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, StevenTyler and Ellen DeGenereshave all served on the show) “Idol” has been on the ratings decline in recent years. Connick says he didn’t ask Lopez or Urban for advice before his new gig because “it’s not rocket science.”

This marks the first year without industry vet Randy Jackson as an “Idol” judge. Jackson is shifting into an in-house mentor role, a move that Connick is happy with.

“Randy Jackson is great. … But it’s a new show now,” he says. “It has different producers, differentdirectors, different panel, different contestants. It has a new look, it has a new feel, and it’s a new day for this great show. Fortunately for all of us Randy is still a huge part of it as a mentor, and I think the kids are going to be very lucky to have him on their side.”

And the kids who have Connick on their side will know — the singer says he won’t be shy about doling out critiques. “Sometimes you do have to give bad news, and the truth is the best thing these kids can hear. I think you can be diplomatic about it, but you also have to be real. You have to tell it like it is.”

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