If Randy Jackson has been hard to recognize since ending his 12-year run on American Idol in 2014, it’s no accident. He’s lost 114 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery in 2003, and has been working hard at keeping it off.

“For years I’ve been developing things that are going to help me stay healthy, and treating my body right after so many years of treating it wrong,” Randy, 63, exclusively tells Closer. So now, in addition to developing new TV shows, the musician who’s played with everyone from Journey to Mariah Carey has founded Unify Health Labs, creating a line of wellness products to benefit himself and others.

“These are things I’ve learned along the way, and I’m trying to take them forward for people,” he says. Yet even with all the projects Randy’s taken on, “the greatest hat I wear is being a father,” the single dad of three reveals to Closer. “Kids make you realize how precious life really is.”

Keep scrolling below for Closer‘s exclusive Q&A interview with Randy!

Good to see you in such good shape! What inspired you to develop nutritional supplements with gut-health boosters?

I was trying to assemble a team of professionals to help me design what Unify Health was going to be. I learned that most diseases start in the gut — you literally are what you eat! And part of the issue was keeping the weight off. So trying to get sustainability with the weight loss is the real issue that led me through this health craze.

How are you feeling, and what goals would you like to reach?

I feel really good! I’d like to get taller. [Laughs] There’s no pill for that, though! I just want to be even healthier.

We’d love to see you back on American Idol! Who do you keep in touch with from the show?

Simon [Cowell], Paula [Abdul] and I are all still very close. We’ll have dinner, we’ll chat on the phone. We’ve been plotting [project] ideas for a couple years now. Maybe one of these years we’ll put something together. I talked to [Ryan] Seacrest a bit ago. If the four of us came back to Idol or a show like that, that would be interesting, We had some great chemistry.

randy jackson paula abdul simon cowell american idol
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

What are your best memories from the show?

Simon, Paula and I had so much fun. The funny auditions are still the wildest to me, like the guy that thought he was a lion! And you watch a shy Carrie Underwood blossom in front of your eyes, see the greatness that Kelly Clarkson’s achieved. And Adam Lambert, Ruben [Studdard], Jordin Sparks, Chris Daughtry. And Fantasia … my God! How do you feel about the latest slate of talent shows? The Masked Singer is really an entertainment show, which I think is great. It’s not really about singing, it’s about guessing who’s behind the mask. The Voice and Idol have some great judges and find some great talent. I don’t know why none of that talent is successful, but wait … I actually do. [Laughs] ’Cause they didn’t have us to shepherd them. Cowell and I were A&R guys who developed stars and made records.

People may also forget you were a musician and producer for a lot of top artists. Any memories stand out?

Being in the studio with Aretha [Franklin], a consummate professional. She’d come in and sing, do her thing once or twice — just unbelievably great — and then she’s gone. I had lot of funny times with Mariah, Ms. Carey, just an amazing songwriter and singer. Also being in the studio with Bruce Springsteen, cracking jokes. Just seeing all the greats — [Bob] Dylan, Elton [John], Billy Joel, Whitney [Houston], Madonna — and their process, and trying as a younger producer, musician, writer to sponge it all up.

You came a long way from Louisiana! What was your childhood like?

I was the greatest child ever! [Laughs] I was a supermodel at 1. No, I’m kidding. I had a great childhood. The reason I am where I am now is because of the good, the bad, the different, because as a child, you don’t see anything bad. I had two great parents. It wasn’t always rosy, but that’s what growing up is.

You have daughter Taylor, 30, from your first wife, Elizabeth, and daughter Zoe, 29, and son Jordan, 22, from your former wife of 22 years, Erika. Do you feel like an inspiration to your kids?

I certainly hope so! Some days I wonder. [Laughs]

randy jackson family 2007
Angello Picco/Shutterstock

What are they up to?

My oldest is a film dialogue editor. The middle girl is a photographer. My son’s a producer-DJ. They’re all in the arts.

Can we expect grandkids anytime soon?

No, thank God. I’m not that old yet! [Laughs]

How have you kept them grounded?

By really being honest with them, telling them the truth and not ever shading it, ’cause I think people sugarcoat stuff a lot. Truth is the only reality we should live by.

You recently finalized your divorce. What life lessons did you take away from the past few years?

You gotta love yourself first, and if you don’t love yourself, you can’t really love anyone else. That will help you with your health, with your mindset and everything else.

randy jackson guitar stage
Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Are you interested in dating again?

I currently have a girlfriend, so I think I’m good there. I try to keep that very personal, very private.

What new projects are you working on?

We’re still going strong with Randy Jackson Eyewear, 15 years now. We’re developing two TV shows: One’s a new music show, and we also have a celebrity chat show called Turning Point. But everything’s a bit on hold right now, as you can imagine.

How would you describe this chapter in your life?

I’m just so happy and proud of what I’ve learned, trying to pay the wisdom forward.

What mottos do you live by?

Take it one day at a time … and good health is definitely the new wealth!

With reporting by Diana Cooper