‘American Idol’ Tracker: Seeking closure with Carly Smithson

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Letting go is hard to do. Thursday night, I talked with Carly Smithson by phone from the ‘Tonight Show’ dressing room, hoping that she could put things in perspective. And indeed she did. The transcript of our conversation follows.

Q: How are you today?

C: I’m good. Thank you.

Q: So what has today been like for you?

C: Very strange. Just exhausting. It’s very strange coming off of the Idol bubble down to the ground and I guess going out to the real world and experiencing that.


Q: Tell me about the dinner. (Note: Each week after the elimination show, the contestants traditionally share a farewell meal in honor of the eliminee.)

C: We didn’t really have it. We had it at CBS and it was very quick. They were going to cancel it but the producer knows how much I love it and as soon as they heard it was me that was leaving, they reorganized it. It was actually just in our holding room upstairs and there was some friends and family. It was very quick. But fun.

Q What was the mood?

C: Everyone was very happy. I didn’t want anyone to be upset for me. I’m not that kind of person. I just want to go out with my head held high and let everyone know that I enjoyed every minute. It was a very great experience and I have no sadness in me. Top six is a huge achievement in my book.

Q: You’ve made a lot of fans. Our site is exploding with people leaving nice comments about you.

C: It’s so nice to hear that. We’re in our wee bubble and don’t know what people are saying.

Q: That’s what I wondered. How much do you know of what people are saying?

C: Not much. I tried to ask friends and family to just keep it to themselves because obviously everybody reads everything and I didn’t have a computer, I chose not to, because I didn’t want to be tempted to look at anything. I heard little bits and bobs, but I tried to keep it to an opinion in knowing what was out there. I wanted to have my own opinion of myself and not somebody else’s opinion of myself. But unfortunately, Simon has one of the largest opinions.

Q: Did everyone choose not to look?

C: I have no idea, everyone had laptops, Everyone was usually on YouTube researching their songs and all that but I have no idea who was looking at what.

Q: I felt watching you that there was a very intense emotional journey, having had your experience with entertainment, then moving away and then coming back, it seemed like you were savoring this so much more than the others even.

C: I know. It did. It meant the world to me. I will cherish every moment that I had. It was a bit strange in the past but I think I learned a lot in everything that I experienced and I definitely learned a lot on ‘Idol.’ It’s a very strange show, and a very great show also, but obviously it’s not the norm.
You do learn a lot very fast and you have to learn a lot very fast because it’s that instant fame and being judged like that every week, it’s a bit different.

Q: How did you learn to absorb that?

C: I think you just do. (Laughs). I’m not sure you have a choice. I think you just stand out there and you get kind of used to it. Every week I went out there and I did the best I could. Sometimes I was so nervous than others. But I know the last two weeks I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did and I know that ‘Superstar’ was my most comfortable. No — come to think of it — ‘Come Together’ was pretty comfortable. And everything before ‘Blackbird.’ As soon as he (Simon) started just being mean, it just threw me off, because it really wasn’t encouraging at all, even though he has said that he likes me, but it just didn’t seem very encouraging. It just seemed -- I don’t know, maybe if he had worded everything a little differently because I understand what he was trying to do. He was trying to push me to do my best.

Q; What’s the feeling when you work so hard on a song for a week and you really feel like you’ve done your best and you get a lukewarm response from Simon?

C: It’s actually really funny. Sometimes we watch everybody on the show. We as contestants all support each other and if somebody’s really good it will be obvious in the green room that everybody feels the same way. It’s just kinda strange when the judges don’t like it. We’ve all been like it was so touching. We try and help each other each week. It is a little bit weird. But I definitely took everything that they said, and I feel that they are there to help you and not just to be mean. It’s all a learning experience, they are there to help you and they mean it in the best way but sometimes in the moment we might pick what they are saying up wrong.

Q: How do you handle the song choice question, with so much to balance, so many things you have to think about, having to be original, but not to do something too obscure, to find your voice but not be self-indulgent?

C: I know, isn’t it fun? (laughs) I don’t know, you just do. Sometimes people choose not even to listen to anything they say, some people use it as a tool to aid them in the future. I just tried to take everything in that they said and understand that it wasn’t necessarily a mean thing and it was something to learn from and to grow from.

Q: You seem to have gotten a lot more confident since the beginning of the Top 24.

C: Yeah, my recap video was pretty funny. You could definitely see the change.

Q: How have you changed?

C: I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about who I am and who I don’t want to be.

Q: And who don’t you want to be?

C: I don’t know. I just learned a lot about not being insecure and having confidence and holding my head up high. I think my final night kind of said it all for me, I just had a smile on my face. I didn’t want to be the sad person who was bitter.

Q: It almost looked like you were comforting the others.

C: I know! I was like, it’s OK. Yeah, they’re a good bunch. And we all made amazing friends with each other and the tour’s going to be ridiculous. I just wanted to go out on a good night. I didn’t want to be sad and upset. I feel that moment when you get eliminated is a very important moment and you can steer it two ways and I wanted to steer it in a positive direction and make sure I used that moment to thank everybody who has been involved in keeping me there for so long.

Q: You seemed like the den mother to the group.

C: I was! I was always making sure they were all good. But I still will be, I’m only a phone call away. And it’s only two weeks until I see them all again. We start rehearsing for the finale, then there’s a week off then a week later we start rehearsing for the tour, so I’m not really going to be home that much. It was kind of a cool time to go out, you know? I feel anything after Top 10 is awesome because you get to go on tour. But I feel Top 6 is nothing to be upset about. I feel that I did my best and there’s not really any regrets that I have about anything.

Q: Tell me how you see your career going from here?

C: I would like to make a record, obviously, and just be creative and start writing as soon as possible.

Q: Would you want to write the whole record?

C: As much as I possibly can, yeah. I just want to make something that’s really, I like interesting lyrics. I’m not really the sort of person who sings about lollipops and rainbows, but I like songs that have a deeper meaning and something that’s just cool and a little more mature. I don’t want to go down the pop route.

Q: Would it be more of a rocker type album?

C: Yeah, kind of like a little bit pop, but I would never call some of the people who influence me rockers. I listen to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and Pretenders and it’s considered rock music but not necessarily rockers. That term is thrown around a bit and I think somebody that has tattoos is all of a sudden a rocker and I don’t think that at heart that’s who I am, but I do like to sing a little bit more of an adult song and I love the power ballads and power notes. I love challenging my voice all the time and seeing just what it can do.

Q: Do you feel, in your relationship with show business — you’ve been through a lot of hard times — that you’ve exorcised some of your demons about it?

C: I feel that leaving it actually helped me. I feel that I had to leave it to love it more. I definitely think that I’m only on the up, I don’t know. I don’t feel any negativity towards what happened to me in the past. I think it was all meant to be. I learned a lot from it and I move forward with more experience and knowledge than I ever had before, so I’m kinda cool with everything that happened in the past. I think that it made me who I am right now.

-- Richard Rushfield