The following are excerpts from a  Live Q&A with Randy Jackson and the new American Idol judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

The questions were submitted by US fans of the show and moderated by Ryan Seacrest.

Why did you join the show?
It’s American Idol, this is the biggest show. It changed trends in music, it’s created massive superstars and people that are going to have timeless careers. 
How did your judging change throughout the show:This is really about the contestants and the truth is you really do become attached to certain contestants who have a massive amount of talent and at that point for me it was really a hard decision, it went way beyond who’s going to be the biggest star, it was I’m really, truly attached to this contestant and I don’t know how I’m going to let them go.
Of the past American Idol winners, who has the best voice and why?
That’s really hard to say and I feel like I would be remise to judge the winners. A lot of them are very different, you go from a Carrie Underwood to a Fantasia and they’re very different in their approach and their style but they’re both amazing. But I would just say I have so much more respect for the process of this whole thing that just sitting here and seeing people go through it, I’m like wow for the people that have gone on this show and gone on to have a career afterwards whether they won or didn’t win, that’s just amazing. 
Secret of career longevity? 
You have to work like you can’t even imagine. It Is extremely hard to do this for a living and if you want to have a really long career you’vegot to work even harder, even when you’re sick, no matter what it is and you have to love it, really it’s not about doing it because you want to become famous and infamous or whatever its about loving this as a lifestyle and loving music.
Who’s your childhood idol?
My mother was the first person I heard sing and she sang all different styles of music but she started as an opera singer. 
In my house I was exposed to every kind of music. There are too many incredible signers to name but starting with number one, my mum’s is the first voice I ever heard. 
How does it make you feel when the contestants sing one of your songs?There was one time in particular when a girl sang one of my songs, I thought that she was really good and she was beautiful and I was like ‘this girl has a chance’.
The whole journey was very interesting.

Why did you join the show?
I knew it was going to reach the masses and like I keep saying, it was something that wasn’t expected of me and I always like to do things that people wouldn’t believe that I would do. The producers were really sweet and I asked a lot of people I really cared about if I should do it and the last person that I asked was Little Wayne and he said ‘absolutely do it’ and that was my last thing where I found peace with it, so I did it, I signed on the dotted line.
If there was one thing a contestant could do for a good first impression, what would that be?  
Flash me. That would make me remember a person. One boy in particular took off his shirt and was trying to be all sexy.
How do you feel about evolution of an artist?
Everyone’s journey is different. Fans want and expect different things from each artist. I think the key to your own evolution is just being true to yourself. 
What was your inspiration growing up? 
My inspirations are unicorns, rainbows. Unless you want the really corny answer? I dealt with a little bit of a dysfunctional household and my inspiration was if I can just make it out of this, I could help my family and that was my driving force and I’ve said it for my entire career, but it’s the truth. Sometimes, if you attach your dreams to something bigger than you it’s like it’s impossible for you to ever stop, so my thing was always I’ve got to get my family out of this kind of life and at times when I thought about giving up, that’s what kept me going. 
Are you looking for a vocalist or entertainer? I think it’s just something that you’ll know when you’re in the same room with it. 
I think in the time that we’re living in now, we need an entertainer. Because it is this day and time.
I feel like I’m looking for an all-around entertainer, someone that’s going to captivate people with or without music. 
I think it’s more about who you are now, with social media people want to get a chance to really know who you are.
It’s not about a record company giving you a song, it’s about is this song really you, am I inspired by you, can I relate to you, is what you say really who you are when you go home. 
It’s kind of a process of elimination, we all four vote on everyone, America’s going to decide who they want, whether they want a big singer or an all-round entertainer, it’s not going to be us, it’s going to be you guys.

Why did you join the show?
I’ve watched Idol for a lot of years and I love singers, I love musicians, I love creative people and I love what this show can do for people that otherwise are trying to find a way in. 
Contestants and original music?
There was a girl in Hollywood week, she’s 15 and she sang an original song, played piano and sang and it was like I said to her, if you release that song tomorrow, people will buy it by the boatload. So yeah, there’s some great original music.
What is the key to longevity? 
Making art that stays relevant and changes with the times and yet not losing yourself in the process. There are certain artists that keep doing the same thing and that’s actually what their audiences love about them, they don’t want them to change, but there are other artists who always change, we don’t want to hear the same thing. 
You’ve just got to be authentic.
How hard is it to tell the contestant no?
 First of all I think it depends on the contestant, everybody handles criticism or no differently. I think if you walk onto American idol and you’re wearing some wacky costume and you look just legitimately crazy then I think it’s easy to say no. I find it harder once we start making connections with people.
What has been the most fun part of the entire Idol experience? I don’t find that it’s one thing, it’s the dysfunctional family that you see before you, I love the unpredictability of everyday on the set. The whole thing is fun.
I saw you fall out of the chair, and I want to know what caused you to fall out of the chair?
You have to see the show because it’s in context with what happened two seconds before. Either a glass was going to break or someone was going to fall out of their chair, one of those things was going to happen. 
Every single one of us watched somebody we love not get to go through and it’s very frustrating. But I also know there are people that I love, that I’m thrilled about, they’re going to go through.

Why did you join the show?
I love this show, it’s the best of its kind, this is the Picasso Ryan! There may be some trying to copy or duplicate but you can’t copy the original, this is the true OG.
If you look at these three up here (MC, KU, NM) their careers are all distinctly different and what I will tell you is almost every American Idol winner was unique to themselves.
What are you looking for in a singer?
There are three things which are real huge characteristics for me – uniqueness, unbelievable talent and star potential. Those are the three things for me that make up a great artist and give you a great shot at a career. That’s what I’m always looking for.
You’re the vet and you have a new set of judges, what do you at the beginning of the season to bring the judges together?
These guys are all amazing professionals, you have to be real as a judge, you have to call it as you see it, we all may think the same thing but mostly we’re all different. We even had a lot of tie breakers in the auditions this year because two of us would say yes and two of us would say no and we had a different person in each city whose vote could break the tie. 
Because we’re four distinct, individual people, we just try to keep it real and the most important thing is just to be honest about how you feel about somebody. 
What are you looking for?
I want it all. The stage is set now to have an entertainer with an incredible voice. Why can’t we have it all?

Each of these artists (judges) are uniquely different and that’s what you’ll see as they judge this season of American Idol.

Who will follow in the footsteps of Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez? Find out when you watch all the talent, laughs, tears and drama American Idol has to offer on ETC!

American Idol Season 12 premieres January 17, Thursday via satellite at 6PM with a primetime telecast at 8PM, and January 18, Friday via satellite at 6PM with a primetime telecast at 9PM.

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