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Rita has best bits of Kylie & Jessie plus she's raw, sweet and kind .. if she wasn't on the show, I'd still hang out with her; VOICE PALS JUDGE WILL SAYS ORA IS JUST WHAT SHOW NEEDS.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE HALINA WATTS & S & EMILY RETTER reporters@dailyrecord.co.uk

PULLING a face, will.i.am apologises to the press officer next to him. "Sorry, I had to tell the truth," the Voice judge says with a sheepish grin.

It's music to the ears of any journalist - but you can see that monitoring what does and doesn't come out of the mouth of the Black Eyed Peas star is not an enviable job.

The truth he has just admitted to is that the X Factor continues to outperform The Voice at launching chart-topping stars.

Since it began in 2012, The Voice hasn't won a Top 5 single or created a single big name from its winners.

Will - the rapper, songwriter and producer - also admits that the rival show's success is all down to Simon Cowell.

He says: "Simon and his show... he has something really. I have to give it up to him. Simon knows how to put on a show and find artists and make them have careers.

"You can hate him all you want. You can say what you want - he really makes careers out of these people. That's one thing you can't take away from him."

Will, born William Adams, could be forgiven for joining the ranks of Cowell detractors. He admits that when he managed Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, he had regular battles with the music mogul to get Chezza what she wanted.

He says: "I had to fight for her. It was a good fight. We are still friends and they are still friends."

Mind you, Will doesn't seem so friendly with Cheryl these days. In October 2013, the 31-year-old singer dropped Will as her music manager and went with One Direction's team instead.

Hinting that he rarely speaks to the former Girls Aloud star, Will says: "She's married now, right? That's good. I don't really know that stuff."

So it's Rita Ora, his new co-judge on The Voice, who seems to be his bezzie mate now.

"I hang out with Rita all the time and we record a lot, go out a lot. We are alike in terms of, if Rita wasn't on the show, I would still hang out with Rita as much as I hang out with Rita now," he says.

On The Voice, Rita is filling the slot previously occupied by Jessie J and Kylie Minogue. Will insists she is perfect for the job.

He adds: "I think she's the best of both worlds.

"The good things that Jessie bought to the show and the good things that Kylie bought to the show you have in Rita. They are nice but Rita is unfiltered. Rita's raw. She's sweet, she's kind. I'm really excited about her. She's awesome on the show. It's a bunch of fun and she adds a lot of spice and spunk."

The Voice is now in its fourth series and Will, 39, has been a judge since the start. Its opening night won good ratings and he hopes this will be the year it storms into the charts.

The track record is not encouraging. Leanne Mitchell, 31, who won in 2012, was dropped by her label after her record flopped.

Andrea Begley, 28, got to No7 but admitted she hasn't done as well as she hoped.

Last year's winner Jermain Jackman, 19, hasn't released anything apart from the winning single, which peaked at No 39.

It's going to be a challenge to find a winner who can do better and Will seems to have a lot on his mind. He's tired and barely stops yawning.

Maybe it's because as well as judging The Voice, he is also working on new material with the Black Eyed Peas.

He says: "I am surrounding myself with obscure older music, so I can prepare for the next Peas stuff.

"We are in a vibe, we are in a zone. It's a total hunt for obscurity, whether that obscurity is underground dance music or samba. But we purposely want to stay away from pop stuff."

Not easy, when you judge The Voice. But Will is known for his can-do attitude and endless hard work, born of his tough upbringing. Raised in the tough housing areas on the east side of Los Angeles, he never knew his father and his life could easily have gone off the rails.

But his mother discouraged him from falling in with gangs and nurtured his creativity and self-confidence.

Thanks to a scheme devised to encourage racial integration, she got him into a good school in a wealthy suburb.

Will got into music at school and formed the Peas in 1995 soon after leaving.

He says they were commercially switched on from the start, ignoring the obvious path of "gangsta rap ghetto" to concentrate on college campuses "until every single college kid" knew them.

They got a record deal - but it took until 2003 before they had a global smash with Where is the Love.

Will says having a No1 single doesn't necessarily equate to success. He adds: "I know people that have had No1 singles and never go on television. I know people that make No1 singles that never make money.

"To go to No1, it's great, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't mean you have a career. We all know people that have No1s then disappear off the face of the earth.

"And we all know people that have been on TV six times that disappear off the face of the earth too."

Will says of The Voice: "I do the show because I have insight and I like being in London.

"This is a great opportunity for singers - a great platform. Whether or not they turn into record careers, that's a different question." ?The Voice is on BBC1 on Saturday night at 7pm.

Jessie and Kylie are nice but Rita is the best of both worlds WILL.I.AM

CAPTION(S):

THE OPPOSITION Will used to be Cheryl's manager. He's pals with Simon Cowell, top

winner Jermain

DOING A TURN Will and Rita on The Voice judging panel with Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs and veteran singer Tom Jones

STRONG OPINIONS Will and Rita have insight into world of pop music
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 14, 2015
Words:1035
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