The X Factor: L.A. Reid and Tate Stevens

*As Antonio L.A. Reid prepares to make his final appearance on “The X Factor” tonight, the longtime music executive – responsible for cultivating such talent as Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Usher – says he’s facing the end of this chapter with lots of excitement toward the next.

“It’s funny, when you work hard, sometimes you gain more energy,” he told us backstage after last night’s final performance show. “I’m feeling really upbeat and very energetic right now, really happy with the performances, really happy with how I feel Tate has done – it feels good.”

Tate Stevens, a 37-year-old country singer from the Midwest, was the last “over 30” standing among Reid’s team and sits in the top three with Britney Spears’ 13-year-old Carly Rose Sonenclar and Simon Cowell’s girl group formed on the show, Fifth Harmony.

“To watch all of them, first of all, is a really prideful moment for the show,” said Reid. “For Tate Stevens, I just thought he was amazing. And having Little Big Town come up and perform with him, it was like the perfect endorsement because they’re authentic, true-to-life country stars. I think the whole thing was just great.”

Reid last week announced that he would not be returning for the show’s season 4, preferring instead to focus on his day job of running Epic Records. As previously reported, he will be honored on Feb. 9 for his contributions to the music industry at the annual Pre-Grammy Gala held by Clive Davis and the Recording Academy.

Below, Reid, tells us what it means to be given the event’s prestigious “President’s Merit Award,” joining such past recipients as Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, Richard Branson, Davis, Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen, Berry Gordy,Doug Morris and Mo Ostin.

Below, “The X Factor” began Wednesday’s final performance show with Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” as a tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary School.