Before this year’s Top 10 “American Idols” took the stage to throngs of screaming fans — at the Target Center Friday night — they took a moment to talk about life on the road and what’s next with just five shows left to go.
It was a routine they’ve no doubt come accustomed to, as “press hour” has been built in to their daily schedule of bus trips and sound checks. Still, the foursome of “Idol” stars — runner-up Crystal Bowersox, Aaron Kelly, Tim Urban and Didi Benami — faced another round of media questioning in stride (even if it interrupted Miss Bowersox’s, no doubt, needed napping.)
So without further ado, see what the Season 9 finalists had to say during their brief stop in Minneapolis.
Tim Urban is up first.
Well, first of all, welcome to Minneapolis.
Tim Urban: Yeah, thanks, it’s great to be here.
So, you guys have quite the hectic schedule as far as tours go. How’s everything going so far?
Urban: It’s been going great. It’s almost over. We only have five more shows. We’re on the home stretch but we have a crazy schedule because it’ll be seven straight shows, so you know, we’re right in the thick of that. But, so far, it was a really good tour.
What’s been the biggest change in your life from, say, a year ago?
Urban: There’s not really anything that’s the same. Looking back a year ago, nothing’s the same except for my family and some of my really close friends. Other than that, it’s a completely different life, pretty much. So it’s kind of weird to look back on what’s changed and what’s the same because there’s not a whole lot that’s the same.
Is that a good thing?
Urban: It is a good thing. It’s a difficult thing, because there’s a lot to get used to. Obviously, there’s so much going on, you just have to take time to process and not let it completely freak you out. But yeah, it’s a good thing for sure.
So far on this tour, do you have a favorite stop or one that sticks out in your mind?
Urban: We’ve been to so many different places. I don’t know if I could pick a favorite. Dallas was good, that’s where I’m from. Seattle was incredible, that’s where I was born — a lot of family there. Mountain View, California. I had no idea what to expect in Mountain View, California, but they were insane. It was so loud and there was so much energy. But you could go through any number of places, I mean, Philly was great, you could pick any of them and it was a really good crowd.
What’s it like to see the fans that voted for you along the way, and get a chance to thank them in a way?
Urban: It puts a face with all the support you get — the letters and the votes that you never see, but that’s why you’re on the show. So for me, it’s really cool because you get to meet people and realize they stayed up really late to all hours of the night voting for you on the show. It’s pretty incredible.
What’s it like knowing you were among some of the last “Idols” to get judged by Mr. Simon Cowell?
Urban: Yeah, Mr. Simon Cowell, Ellen (DeGeneres), Kara (DioGuardi), yeah. That is definitely something that I’ll be able to take with me for sure. He was such an iconic figure on “American Idol,” he kind of defined the show for a very long time, was such a huge part, that with him leaving it kind of changes the whole kind of feel of the show, as far as judges go. You can’t replace him, you can’t get another Simon, so — (hears Aaron Kelly recording a promo for the Timberwolves by shouting “Go Wolves!”) Well done, Aaron, well done. I like that energy. … But yeah, Simon Cowell, you can’t replace him. It was pretty cool that I was able to be on his last season.
Next up, Didi Benami stops by.
So when did you guys get into Minneapolis?
Didi Benami: Today? Um, yeah, today.
What’s the hardest part about being on tour?
Benami: It’s not easy but I guess being in a completely different place every day and being in a different time zone sometimes, and being completely thrown off because you’re not sure where you are anymore. They’re all different, they’re all really cool but I wish we got a chance to see the different cities more. And being away from your friends and family for such a long time. But you know, I’m used to it, I’ve lived in L.A. for four years and at the same time, I miss my L.A. homebase. I miss going out, doing my regular thing — going to see my fans that I love.
What are some of your more memorable moments on tour?
Benami: Yeah, there was (a show) where my microphone didn’t work. That was when, when was that? I don’t know, but there was some sound issue and so I went through the whole song without the sound working, and that was funny. And then last night, I grabbed Andrew’s mic instead of my mic, so that was a second mishap. They figured it out quickly, it was only the first verse that they didn’t get. So those are the little flops, that are just kind of funny. But whatever, we’re professionals, we roll with it. Siobhan has all these memorable moments, she’s just hilarious. She’s just a memorable person. I’m going to miss her so much when this is all over.
What’s it like behind the scenes, when you guys aren’t on stage but are living in close quarters together almost like a little family?
Benami: We are, we’re like a family. Every once and a while, we get tired of each other. But we’re all here for each other, if anything is going wrong, we’re here — you know, “What’s wrong? Is everything OK?” And we are, we’re like family. Anything that a normal family would deal with, we do. Yeah, I’m going to miss everybody when we’re off tour. But I’m sure we’ll all see each other again, so I’m not too worried about it.
What’s your favorite performance to do on this tour?
Benami: I love singing “Terrified,” that’s my favorite by far. That song means a lot to me, in every way. When I first sang that song I was with somebody that I thought “I could be in love, this could be real, this could be right” and then it ended up not being, of course, because it’s hard to keep a relationship when you’re on the road. And then you know, the fact that I sang it for Kara (DioGuardi) and Jason (Reeves) — after I got off the show, I sang it with Jason — and just to be able to be praised by the people who sang the song, it just means the world to me. It’s cool because it wasn’t really well known yet, and I kind of think it made my “Idol” career kind of happen, that and “Hey Jude.” So yeah, I like to repeat it every night.
It was pretty memorable on the show as well. What’s the crowd reaction like when you sing that song?
Benami: I get cheers and people will tell me after that they cry when I play that song. It’s cool to know you’re moving people with music, because that’s what I want to do. I’m succeeding in what I came to do in the first place.
Aaron Kelly heads over next.
With five shows left, how do you guys keep up every night and go on stage with so much energy after so many shows?
Kelly: Well, I mean, this is what we’ve all been working for. So we all just have to step up our game. And we’re all having a great time with it. The adrenaline’s going every night when you’re going out on stage in front of thousands of people, and I mean, you’re jumping out there in front of an extremely large audience. I mean, on the show there’s 30 million people but you don’t see them. You just see the small studio audience that’s like 300 people, maybe. So it’s a big jump. There could be 5,000 people out there watching. So it’s adrenaline. It’s a blast.
There’s a lot of fans that follow you guys and get so involved in your life. Are there any fan moments that stick out for you?
Kelly: There have been many. The most recent one, I had a fan, she had written me a song. And she brought a ukulele and played the entire song, while we were standing in the parking lot with a bunch of other fans. And she played the entire song. And it was really cool, the words — but she knew everything, she got every detail about me right. It’s just amazing how much they pay attention to you. Every single thing — even things they didn’t say on the show. I mean, they research about you. And she just put it into a song so it fit so perfectly. I just stood there and she sang the whole thing on her ukulele. It was really cool. That was one of my favorite experiences. I’ve had a lot of fans that are creating fan sites and they’re just doing so much out of their lives to help further our careers and it’s so nice to have fans that want to help you and love you so much they want to take time out of their schedule to help your career. That’s something I highly look up to in my fans. The Twangers — that’s what they call themselves. I have really great fans.
Is it weird to think about how a year ago no one really knew your name and now people are putting in on signs, T-shirts, the whole works?
Kelly: I never understand that, you know. I love it. But I don’t understand it. I mean, I’m a fan of some people, but I’ve never made a T-shirt or anything. I’m a huge fan of Rascal Flatts and sure, I’d stand and wait outside their tour buses for their autograph. And I guess for me being a guy, it’s different for me, but you know, girls make T-shirts and do a lot of things. It’s really cool though, you really feel — this is honestly what we’ve been working for. To have a fan base of loving and adoring fans who you inspire, it’s a great feeling. And they want to do things to be like you and it’s awesome to have people like that supporting you.
You guys are approaching the end of your tour, right?
Kelly: We have five shows left and I’m going to miss everybody. Definitely going to miss my Idol family. I’ve been with these guys for a very long time and I mean, we’ve gone through Hollywood Week together. And we’ve lived together for a really long time. So I’ve been with these guys on the bus for a long time. I’m going to miss my Idol family.
It sounds like everyone’s kind of heading in opposite directions. Will it be hard staying in touch?
Kelly: Well, I know there’s some people I’m probably going to lose touch with, that can’t be helped. They’re going to be busy and they’re going to be going on with their lives. But it’s been such a privilege to share this experience with such wonderful people. I’m going to have friends for life. I know there’s people that I will keep in touch with. Me and Tim (Urban) are already, he’s going camping with his family and he’s invited me to come. So we’re going to see. There’s some guys, we’ll be friends forever. I’m going to look back on this experience when I’m like 80, sitting in my old rocker and think, ‘I can’t believe I did that. That was one of the best experiences of my life.”
So what’s next for you?
Kelly: I’m moving to Nashville right after tour and I’ll be working with Nathan Chapman and Stephanie Chapman, so I’m going to get some good music out there. So the fans can enjoy my music — some original music I’m working on. Going to go with the country music career.
And last, but certainly not least, Crystal Bowersox, Season 9’s runner-up closes the “Idol” press hour.
I hear you’re working on a new album?
Crystal Bowersox: Yes, I haven’t started recording yet but definitely working on it.
Very cool. What can fans expect from this upcoming album?
Bowersox: My material, original songs, maybe a few covers but some of my heroes, I like to say, like “hippy country,” a little bit of blues and rock and maybe some jazz influence and just things that I love about music.
Are you able to have your family with you on tour at all? (Crystal has a young son named Tony at home.)
Bowersox: No, unfortunately “American Idol” doesn’t spring for the family bus. Yeah, I wish they did.
Has that been tough for you?
Bowersox: That’s been the hardest thing. It’s been the hardest thing throughout the show and this tour, is being away from my son. But it’s almost over. As grateful as I am for this opportunity, I can’t wait to snuggle up with my mini man.
After this last season, it seemed like there was a lot of fans hoping you’d win and rooting for you to win. What’s it like seeing those fans on tour?
Bowersox: It’s been amazing. I’ve had some really cool, intense moments of just complete love and gratitude, just right in the middle of a song and I see that everyone’s waving their arms in unison. It’s like, wow, that is massive. And I just think about where I was a year ago, a year and a half ago, and you know, it’s been a nice trip but the real journey is coming. It’s all in the future.
What was that first show like, to see all those fans and perform in front of thousands of people?
Bowersox: Well, I think if you watch the show, the in-studio stuff with the small audience is very different than the Nokia Theatre performances because that was a huge, huge audience. That’s what I want — the more people the better. The energy I get from them, it definitely effects what I do on stage. This tour’s been great, too. The arenas and everything. I guess my favorite venues are the outdoor venues when I can see everybody. I like to see the audience.
After the tour is over, what are your plans?
Bowersox: I’m going to take a couple of days off and then I’m going to San Francisco to be part of Michael Franti and Spearhead’s festival, they do Power to the Peaceful, a three-day festival in the bay area every year, arts, crafts and it’s just going to be a lot of people, like 50,000 some people, just hanging around and having a good time. Bring your hacky sack. It’s going to be fun. My friend Frankie May, a bass player, I talked about him a lot, he’ll be coming with me. So it’ll be good. And then after that, I’ll be doing the album.
Do you have a release date at this point for the new album?
Bowersox: I don’t want to say, the label would like to tell you this fall, but I think they’re insane for wanting me to push it out that soon. I don’t want to put out an album that in 10 years I say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve taken more time with that.’ I want it to be right and that’s what it’s all about.
What are you going to miss the most from this tour?
Bowersox: Apart from missing my cohorts here, the Top 10, I think I’m going to miss this crew. The crew on this tour has been amazing. The stories from some of the truck drivers and the roadies, the whole experience really. And the fans. There are no fans like “American Idol” fans, that’s for sure.
Who would you love to work with in the future?
Bowersox: Yeah, I’ve talked about it on the show, too. Melissa Etheridge, Linda Perry, I’d like to work with a lot of people. I like Sia a lot, there’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of people I’d love to work with. Bruce Springsteen, Willy Nelson — call me if you’re listening.
Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.