Leann Rimes
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Simon Cowell, American Idol

UPDATED: The latest name thrown in the ring for an X Factor judges spot: Singer LeAnn Rimes.

Sources say Rimes is interested in joining the Fox reality hit, with one source adding that she’s met with Factor co-producer FremantleMedia North America about the gig.

X Factor chief Simon Cowell is seeking to fill the judges panel spots vacated by Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger before the second season starts production later this year. Sources say he’ll most likely hire two female talents to join himself and music producer L.A. Reid for a gender-balanced panel.

Cowell has not made firm offers for the posts, while the list of candidates continue to shift and official outlets continue to decline comment. But Rimes could make sense on a few levels for X Factor. First, she would add country music expertise, like Blake Shelton provides for NBC’s The Voice. That could also boost the show’s ratings since country music award shows have been one of the few TV genres to have successfully grown their audience in recent years. Rimes also knows what it’s like to compete in a TV talent competition since she first gained national attention when she was eight years old by becoming a finalist on Star Search in 1991. Plus, Rimes’ personal life, marriage to Eddie Cibrian, and weight issues — while polarizing — have also drawn plenty of headlines, which would spur press coverage of the show.

Rimes performed a tearful tribute at a concert last week to Whitney Houston, who Cowell considered for an X Factor gig before her death on Feb. 11.

Another name recently floating about for the Factor judges panel: X Factor UK judge Kelly Rowland. The British press have reported yesterday Rowland is quitting the UK series to “focus on her solo career in the U.S,” though sources say none of the UK spots have been decided yet. And the former Destiny’s Child star recently declared she’d be interested in switching to the U.S. version. “It would be awesome to be a judge over here for X Factor,” she told CNN. “I really enjoyed my time over in the UK being a judge.”

Other names circulating for X Factor posts include singers ranging from Vanessa Hudgens to Britney Spears.

Cowell, Fremantle, and Fox declined comment, but you can expect more X Factor judges news later today. Cowell is doing a conference call with reporters in an hour. Check for updates.

UPDATE: Reached for comment, Rimes told E! Online she was “open” to joining Factor: “I love the show. I mean, I love all the shows … I was a kid on Star Search when I was eight. I obviously have an 18-year career in this business … There are a lot of unknowns, but I’m always open. Always open to many, many different things.”

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Simon Cowell, American Idol
The X Factor
Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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