Following is a transcript of eliminated Idol contestant Erika Van Pelt’s conference call on Friday morning.
Unlike most others who have been eliminated, Van Pelt spoke her mind … very refreshing…
Theories on why she was booted:
VP: For the past few weeks consecutively being in the bottom pretty much every week–I felt like I didn’t have enough momentum right out of the gate, even though I was progressing every week and really coming more out of my shell. Regardless of my solid performances every time I hit that stage–I didn’t gain enough momentum at the beginning. I ended up lagging behind a little bit in the eyes of the voters.
Did her makeover hurt her.
VP: I’m sure it confused some people that may have a little trouble with either change or seeing a little outside the box. I don’t think it was detrimental. It got a few more people to at least notice. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of blonds! Even though I’m a natural blond. This was my chance to break out. Tommy Hilfiger had the idea to go short. It was my idea to go dark and take it one step further.”
Why did some finalists hesitate to take Tommy’s advice?
VP: I’m so go with the flow. It’s hard for me to imagine not taking risks. I’ve always done that. Some people may be afraid of change. On the other hand, people might just be so sure of themselves that they’re not willing to budge one bit. I can certainly understand it from both angles.
On her Americdan Idol friendships
VP: There’s no way that, with all the editing that happens in reality television, that you can even get a fraction of the serious family bond that is in this group. We all seriously 100 percent love and support each other, all the way. We drive some people crazy on staff–I’m sure the tour is going to be no different– because we’re having fun! We have 12 hour rehearsal days sometimes and we’re just all exhausted, but seem somehow to still be able to pull each other out of the darkness and just get some serious work done and literally have fun every single time we hit that stage.
What did the judges say to her about not using the save.
VP: I didn’t even think to ask them why they didn’t use the save. I had my preconceived notions as to why they wouldn’t if I ended up in the bottom. For me I was already mentally prepared for that. I know with what happened last year with Pia Toscano, and them using their save early on with Casey, that it was going to be hard. They have a little post traumatic stress, which is understandable and feel like they may need to save it for an even crazier elimination. I wanted to thank them for giving me the opportunity.
On the transition from DJ to AI.
VP: There’s a huge transition that happens from stepping out from behind turntables when you’ve got 20-30 people listening to what you’re doing to literally millions of people watching you sing and pour your heart out onto a stage. There’s nothing like it in the world. It was certainly an adjustment. I’ve been on stages my whole life but throw in cameras, and lighting and audio and all these other crazy things. It’s just a whirlwind.
What are her immediate plans?
VP:I have to spend the rest of today in L.A. I fly to New York tomorrow. I have a press schedule to do the Today Show, Anderson Cooper, and a couple of other things while I’m in New York City. I will eventually within the next week and a half or so make it back to Rhode Island, which I am super happy about. I’m only going to be there for a few weeks. I’ll get to at least go to dinner in Newport with the family, or something, before I have to come back out here for finale.”
On the nodule that she has on her vocal cord.
VP: This is a weird thing. I was listening to recordings of myself from 4 or 5 years ago when the nodule wasn’t present on my vocal cords and I certainly sound completely different. I used to be more of a mezzo soprano. And now, because of the node, I’m more of an alto. It’s taken away a part of my range–which is another thing that I felt may have been detrimental to me in this competition. People like to hear those high notes–people like to hear the high belting. That’s just not my style. It’s been hard. I’m trying to maintain and not get any worse.
What is she looking forward to most about the tour?
VP: I am looking forward to being able to go out there and perform for the fans and not have people judging. It puts a whole nother perspective on performing. I always thought I was a good performer and natural until I got on American Idol and I realized how much I had to stay focused. You not only have to think about your delivery, and your vocals–but now you have to think about which camera you’re supposed to be looking into at the right time. You have to worry about your in-ears falling out. You have to worry about your loud mic not being put on correctly. It’s crazy. There are so many elements.
How much did she agree with Jlo’s critique to move around on stage and get a little more loose with her body.
VP: I didn’t agree with the critique, mostly because I was singing “New York State of Mind.” Anyone that has ever seen Billy Joel perform this song, sees Billy Joel sit behind the piano the entire time and still sell it. I thought I sang it to the best of my ability. I was really really connected to the lyrics. New York holds a special place in my heart anyway–my cousin is a New York firefighter–with all the ties to 9/11. It was a special song for me to sing. I was disappointed when she said that because I felt like she wanted more of like–almost a fake performance so people thought I was singing harder maybe than I actually was? Which didn’t really seem correct to me.
What was the song she planned to sing for “Idol” week.
VP: I was hoping to maybe do a Pink song. But I’m hoping that I can still do some of that on tour this summer. We haven’t really worked that out. We’re going to wait until we get a little closer to finale to start working on the details for that. People can more than likely expect to hear some of that on tour.
When she was singing for her life, how did she gauge the judges reaction?
VP: This weird thing happens when I go into show mode, I black out a little bit. Especially if I know I’m being judged. The weird thing for me is, the judges are the last people I look at. I’m trying to engage with the people in the audience, because they are giving me the energy that I need to perform. I’m thinking about my family and friends back home. I’m not really thinking about whether they are going to save me or not.
What kind of feedback did she get from family and friends when she unveiled her look? Will she change it any more?
VP: I will do anything that I feel. I’m pretty fearless when it comes to that stuff as people got a look at this week. My family was not shocked at all. I’ve always been a chameleon in the realm of hair dos. It’s been every color of the rainbow, it’s been permed, it’s had extensions. Most of them just laughed and said–’there she goes again.
Which mentor was the most beneficial to her?
VP: I’ll be honest. I worked with some amazing people and took some amazing things out of the mentoring sessions. Mary J. Blige, will.i.am, Diddy–but I feel like the person who honestly was the most helpful to me was Jimmy Iovine. He was there with the other mentors every single week…and talked about songs. He’s such a heavy hitter in the industry. And to hear him also pretty much be behind me after every single one of my performances–a couple times he had some ‘eh eh’ things to say–maybe he wasn’t that stoked on the performance end–but he always said that vocally I was one of the strongest. He went as far as to say the music is just in my blood. That meant a lot to me coming from him.
What is she taking away from the experience at this point.
VP: Aside from all my amazing personal relationships that I’ve built since I’ve been here, American Idol has been the best catalyst for getting to that next part in my career. I’m 26 years old and I’ve been working my butt off at home. In Rhode Island it’s really hard to get a career started…we’re pretty low-key. I needed to make that move to either New York or Los Angeles to get a kick start at it. American Idol was the perfect way for me to do that.
Does she think her age was a problem with the voting?
VP: Absolutely. I would be a fool to say that I didn’t think that was part of it. Elise and I have talked about that at length. Her and I were roommates through a good chunk of this process. Being the two oldest I think definitely played a part in why we kept ending up in the bottom. When it comes down to it, American voters really want to feel like they can relate. Elise and I are the type of artists that are slightly more out of the box–a little less mainstream. For a show like American Idol, it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing for us to break out and let people know that we can be relevant, we can be current, we can be mainstream. They have to open their eyes to see it.
What was the sentiment among the girls this season? Did they worry about being eliminated right away like seasons 9 and 10?
VP: Us ladies definitely felt like we had to bring a little something extra this year. There has been this consistent–what seems like guy favoritism. But then again, we have to look at the main demographic for the show. There’s a lot of teenage girls. I keep saying, If I were voting at home, it would be hard for me not to vote for the really cute boys too! Let’s be honest. They are very charming. They’re all extremely talented, extremely different, and just really great guys. I can understand where that comes from.
Does she regret taking Tommy Hilfiger’s suggestions?
VP: No. I had been thinking of doing something drastic with my hair regardless. What happened up until that point, every time I asked to change my hair, I was not allowed to because of consistency with the show. They didn’t want to scare people before they had gotten a chance to get to know me. Had I been home, I probably would have been changing it every 3 weeks.
How did she respond to the judges’ criticism throughout the competition? Were any of them too hard on her?
VP: I will admit that Jennifer’s criticism got to the point were it was a little much for me to take in and a hard pill to swallow because she made several comments starting back at sing for your life, that I wasn’t pushing hard enough. But what happened between Jimmy and the 3 judges, and the producers and everybody behind the scenes–everyone is very opinionated in this business. And what ended up happening is I got really confused. I’ll be candid about that. I got really confused. I felt like there were a lot of comments that were contradicted from week to week between them. First I wasn’t doing enough, and then I was doing too much. And then I wasn’t doing enough again and then I was over singing. And there was never a balance. I felt like I could never just sing and be myself because it was either going to be one or the other.
What was going through her head during her song last night.
VP: This is when I know that singing is what I was born to do. I honestly do go into blackout mode and my emotions are running so high. There is such a fire inside of me, it’s really difficult to pull together. I sang for my life several times. It just kept getting harder every time, it never got easier. For some reason I almost go on auto pilot. A lot of things around me just disappear. It’s just me and that microphone. If that doesn’t tell you that’s where you’re supposed to be in your life, I don’t know what does.
Can a woman win again?
VP: I think it is 100 percent harder for the girls. To be realistic, the voting demographic is a lot of adolescent females. I’m a female too and I’ve been a fan of the show since I was a teenager so I totally understand. I do think it’s a harder hill to climb for the ladies. Do I believe a girl can win again? Absolutely! Especially this season. I feel like all of the girls are strong contenders–all very different styles. They have fierce competition with the boys. Everybody is bringing it this year.
Does she regret singing the Whitney song for her save me song?
VP: The whole save me song thing–how it came about was interesting. I had used a lot of the songs I had sung previous, I didn’t want to do anything that I hadn’t done with the band already. If it came down to that–and I did have to sing for my life, I wanted to make sure that at least that part of it would be solid. Those guys are great. They are the best of the best. The emotions were running high. I thought personally that the Whitney tune was one of my better performances just vocally speaking. I wasn’t afraid of not being able to pull it out because of emotions. I figured if I broke down in the middle of it, so be it. That would be the way that it would have to go. I feel like I left on a high note.
What did she think about the Jermaine Jones disqualification.
VP: The whole thing with Jermaine–I still talk to him on the regular. It was shocking. We never expected that to happen, obviously. The circumstances were just so awful. They could not have gone any worse for Jermaine at that one stage in the game. He’s doing really well as far as I know now. That was the way it was meant to be for whatever reason. Jermaine knows that too. I know that there was a reason that I was the first out of the Top 10 to go home. Not quite sure what that is yet, but I’ll figure it out.
Who does she think are the front runners to win.
VP: I honestly can’t answer that question. It’s so weird to me. Because of the versatility of this group. Everyone is way too different to even say. I don’t even feel people jockeying for position at the top. We’re all so tight. We all have a pretty good mindset. No delusions of grandeur. Whoever deserves it–we feel like–will end up at the top. End of story.
Has she ever seen the Idol tour?
VP: I have never gotten to go to the Idol tour. I’ve been working. I am a self-professed workaholic. I take very little time off. Up until February of last year, I hadn’t taken a vacation in 6 years. I never got around to it. I catch up on all the clips.
What changes would she make to Idol in light of new competition from other shows?
VP: Mixing up the themes would help maybe with a little bit of the viewer loss. It’s cool to see the same things done year after year because you see how past contestants do in comparison to new contestants. But I feel like for a show as big as American Idol, it’s really important to make sure you are constantly breathing fresh air and new life into it. American Idol is such a huge show and has really become like a staple in American culture. Keeping it fresh the main thing to remember.
Last words from Erika:
VP: I want to let everyone know that I am extremely devastated, but obviously so much looking forward to what is coming in the future. I have big plans for myself. I have big plans for the tour this summer, which is going to be great. Just want to remind people that my songs are available on iTunes for download. I’m even hoping to maybe get into some musical theater with Broadway. When the tour wraps I’m going to be working on writing for my freshman album and all that stuff is going to be happening behind the scenes. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the fans and perform without being judged. (chuckles).