SIMON Cowell has recruited Leona Lewis as the first guest judge for X Factor: The Band.
The music mogul’s latest incarnation of the ITV singing competition will see him search for a new group following the success of One Direction and Little Mix.
Simon, 60, will be joined by Nicole Scherzinger on the panel, and the MailOnline has claimed former winner Leona, 34, will be a guest judge.
A source told the outlet: “Simon means business and wants no one wasting his time.
“He’s looking for the band of 2020 and for a group to follow in the footsteps of One Direction and Little Mix.”
Auditions have been taking place at Simon’s record label in front of some industry bigwigs.
The source continued: “This isn’t a TV audition, it’s the biggest record label meeting the prospective artists could ever hope for.
“Simon and Nicole aren’t putting just anybody through. These are undoubtedly the toughest auditions in years.”
Simon decided to ditch a planned All Stars version of the The X Factor in favour of The Band series, which is direct competition for Little Mix’s new BBC One show called The Search.
The girl band will also be looking for the next big group in their series which will air early next year.
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However, one person who will be missing from the new X Factor series is Louis Walsh, with The Sun exclusively revealing the Irishman had been axed by Simon.
Show sources said Louis was offered a backstage role advising Simon and Nicole. But he turned it down fearing he would be at a loose end on the series, which airs over a single week starting on December 9.
A source said: “Louis had a fantastic time on X Factor: Celebrity and was confident he would be back for The Band.
“He obviously has a lot of experience working with bands such as Westlife.
“But Simon had other ideas. He felt it would make more sense to have him mentoring the boys and Nicole looking after the girls. Louis was offered a role as an adviser.
“But it soon became clear there was no real job, so he turned the offer down.”
The X Factor: The Band begins on Monday, December 9 on ITV.