Part 2 of a three-part series from a conference call with Kara DioGuardi on Feb. 10, 2010:

 Q: I wanted to ask what your thoughts were on the rumor that Howard Stern possibly joining Idol next year. Do you think he’ll make a good judge?

Kara: “Right now that’s a rumor, and I don’t really know if I can even speak on it. I don’t think he has musical background or any kind of music anything, and I think that if you’re going to replace Simon, you have to have that background. You have to be somebody who knows about signing great artists and being a part of their career from the very beginning to the very end like he’s done with people like Leona Lewis who he spotted early on and nurtured and turned … into …. I think that’s probably a precursor for whoever takes that position if they’re not a big artist who’s been through it themselves.”

Q: Just for fun if you could give Ellen a grade on her performance as a judge, what would it be?

Kara: “I’m not going to give Ellen a grade on her performance. I think she did great.”

Q: I have a very, very important question to begin with. What’s up with the vitamin water cups replacing the Coca-Cola cups? Everyone’s talking about it.

Kara: “I know. I think they own VitaWater. I’m assuming that. I don’t think we slipped another brand in their place, so I think they own it.”

Q: Was it just like you guys got to the desk, and they were suddenly there and you didn’t even ….

Kara: “Yes, they were kind of colorful, different.”

Q: Can you also just speak a little bit about, there have been rumors of sort of … tension between Ellen and Simon. Can you speak at all about that? Is there any validity to those rumors?

Kara: “I think you have to take any rumor you hear about American Idol with a grain of salt. They’re usually not true.”

Q: So that’s a no.

Kara: “No, last year it was Kara and Paula fighting, hate each other. Kara sits in the corner. These things are just ridiculous. We’re all there to do one thing, and that’s to find the greatest contestant, the greatest American Idol winner that we can find, and that’s what the focus is, and I know Ellen and Simon both take that seriously.”

Q: I know you guys see a lot of basses, but I was wondering if you could fill us in at all on Ashley Rodriguez. We didn’t get to see her performance last night. I was wondering if you could maybe share a little bit of how it went.

Kara: “I’m not really at liberty to talk about things that haven’t aired. It’s just not fair for me to sort of put out that information if the show isn’t putting it forth themselves. I think you can kind of understand that. That wouldn’t be fair if I just started talking about the contestants, but obviously, she’s a good singer. Hopefully, you’ll see more of her.”

Q: What do you see as the biggest mistake contestants make during Hollywood Week?

Kara: “The biggest mistake they make during Hollywood Week, it’s usually, if I were to look at this year, it’s definitely song choice. It’s that they take on something that’s way too big for them, or they go through the audition rounds and we praise them and say how great they are, and then they decide to completely change when they get to Hollywood Week.
“There was one contestant in particular, who’s kind of a country singer that did that, and I was very disappointed because I had real hopes for him. He decided to do something completely on the opposite of what he should’ve been doing, so that’s usually the thing that kills them the most, that and the fact that they stand on that stage, and they can’t fill it up. They can’t perform. They can’t project. Those are the two things usually.”

Q: It seemed like every judge on the panel has a role, and with Paula gone, how do you think the roles have changed?

Kara: “Paula was very nurturing, and I think, at least for me, during the audition rounds, I try to give kids the benefit of the doubt and try to give them another shot when they had some modicum of talent. In the beginning phases, you kind of just got to say can they hold a tune? Can they sing? Or else we’re not going to have any contestants.
“Remember, we have to have I think it’s 170. If you judge them the way you would during the final rounds of the competition, we’re not going to have any kids because there is that learning curve. There is that growth that goes on throughout the competition. At least for me I felt I was a bit more supportive in the beginning rounds than maybe I would’ve been in the previous year.”

Q: My one question for you is how do you think Ellen will or has changed the dynamic of the judging panel this season?

Kara: “I think the dynamic is something that grows over time. To kind of speak about right now would be problematic because, again, we’ve only had one week under our belt. When I speak about the dynamic, I spent five days with her for many, many hours. What you’re seeing is an edited down version of what happened, and there are specific reasons why the producers put certain scenes in and certain scenes aren’t put in.
“I think the dynamic will develop over the season. I think that’s what’s going to make it such an exciting season that it’s very unpredictable. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and I’m just very excited to see it through and find a great winner.”

Q: I know you made the comment earlier that you felt that Ellen did a great job last night, right?

Kara: “I think she did. When I say last night, I mean I think she did a great job during Hollywood Week. How it’s edited and what you see is very different from my experience. I remember what led up to the kind of jokes about the kids not wearing shoes. I remember just thinking that she was funny and also was critical and had heart. I was very pleased with her and having, I mean, it’s such an honor to sit next to her.”

NEXT: In Part 3, Kara talks about the possibility of a female contestant winning it all this season.