EXCLUSIVE: Kara DioGuardi picks favorite ‘Idol’ contestants, performance and judge (sort of)

Just before Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of chatting up New Rochelle native and Grammy-nominated songwriter/producer Kara DioGuardi, who on Aug. 25 Fox announced as the fourth judge on “American Idol.”

new-idol-panel.jpgA true LoHudder, her connections to the region are seemingly endless. As a child, she attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Scarsdale, sang at the Larchmont Shore Club and provided the soundtrack at campaign stops throughout Westchester County for her father, former U.S. Congressman Joe DioGuardi. She later graduated from The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. Despite graduating from Duke University with a degree in political science, she abandoned law to become a vocalist in an Ossining garage band called Gramma Trips.

After snagging multiple jobs at Billboard magazine for a five-year span, she got signed to a record deal. Although her singing career never took off, her songwriting and producing gigs did. She was partially or completely responsible for writing Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away,” Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” and dozens of other recent hits. No wonder she was named BMI’s 2006 Pop Songwriter of the Year.

My full story about DioGuardi is slated for the week ahead, but in the meantime, check out 10 questions and answers from my exclusive interview with “Idol’s” newest judge:

kara2.JPGWhat recent song do you most wish you’d written?
“Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé.

As a singer, how far do you think you would advance on “American Idol”?
“I would hope to the top 10.”

How long have you been watching “Idol”?
“Since the beginning.”

You’d said that you thought “Idol” would have hired someone more famous to fill the fourth judge’s chair. Had you heard of any famous names who were being considered?
“They kind of kept me in the dark. I hadn’t really heard anything.”

As of Aug. 28, who was the most famous person outside of the show to congratulate you for the “Idol” hire?
“Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics).”

From the first seven seasons, who have been your three favorite “Idol” alumni?
“I’d say Kelly Clarkson, (Chris) Daughtry and, hmm, I like Katharine McPhee.”

Who’s the most underrated “Idol” contestant of all time?
“Katharine McPhee.”

What’s your favorite “Idol” performance so far?
“I thought that ‘Billie Jean’ performance that David Cook did was ridiculous.” (In the good way.)

The perception among fans is that Simon Cowell’s the bad cop, Paula Abdul’s the good cop and Randy Jackson’s somewhere in between. With which judge have you sided the most through the years?
“Probably Simon. Sometimes he can be hard, but I also think at times he’s doing people a favor.”

For your first day judging “Idol” contestants, you sat between Randy and Paula at the judges’ table. Where would you want to sit?
“You know at this point, I’m pretty much just like, ‘Where do you want me?’ I’m the new kid in school. I’m not going to cause waves right from the beginning.”

(AP Photo of Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson/Jason DeCrow; AP Photo of DioGuardi/Chris Pizzello)