Eliminated contestant Elise Testone’s conference call interview session with the nation’s media Friday morning:
What made you decide to audition for Idol and why now?
“I did audition one time when I was younger and that didn’t work out. I always felt that I wouldn’t be ready for a responsibility of the fame until I was older and learned those life lessons–just knew who I was more before throwing myself into the hands of others. Also, I was very very much inspired by the students that I teach at the school to kind of be a role model for more people, being how I played a role in their lives.”
What kind of album do you see herself making?
“I definitely learned that my forte is the rock genre. But I will definitely have the elements of blues, soul, jazz and funk in there.”
What’s next for you after you go home after the tour?
“After the tour and during the tour I will be writing songs and constructing a plan to get my album ready. I’ve been waiting my whole life to release an album, so it’s not going to be something I want to rush. I’m going to take my time and experience and put it into those songs. And really just figure out who are going to be the guests on those albums, who I want to help produce it and all that. That will be my main focal point, but I will also hope to perform as much as I can.”
Who would you like to do duets with?
“I would love to do something with Stevie Nicks–and she mentioned it. I would love to have Brian May play guitar on a song, as well as my guitarist, Wallace from my band. And Steven Tyler would be a great duet.”
What is your theory on why you didn’t connect with viewers?
“I think that the majority of voting really comes from middle America, if I can’t win them over, it’s not going to happen. That’s just a theory. I really don’t know. I felt like I was honest and sang with my heart and passion, and that’s the best I could do.”
Was it a younger demographic that didn’t vote for you?
“That could be true, but I feel like I still connect with them. And maybe that’s wrong, but as a teacher I had a lot of younger students and I felt probably closer to them than people my age. But I don’t know if they saw that given the little time they could see me on the air.”
Were you given any great advice from any of the judges or Jimmy?
“Being reminded of really capturing the essence of the song and being in moment of the song was great advice. And that’s something I know, but you always need to be reminded of that. I did kind of let that slip away thinking about pleasing people and thinking about being judged and trying to fit into some sort of lines. When really, I’m the kind of singer who sings outside of the lines, if that makes sense.”
What are you most excited about the tour?
“I’m really excited to see all the different landscapes and get on the road and just travel and get some fresh air. I’m really excited to sing and rock the stage with whole songs. I keep saying that, but singing the whole song and not just an edited version of the song–I shine best when its real and I have time to get into it. And to see the fans–all the people who have been supporting us from the outside.”
What made you choose the Queen and Jimi Hendrix songs this week and did you agree with the judges and Jimmy?
“Personally, I don’t agree, because those were the best choices for me. And I felt that and I believed in it. Everyone’s definition of what’s right is different, and I guess they think what’s right is what’s the majority of people going to take a liking to. Even He said he loved the song, he was a fan of it, but what he meant was that the melody wasn’t one that people could sing along to at home. And I think that probably the majority of people want to be able to sing along to a song, but as an artist I’m trying to convey the message of the song and bring the lyrics to life. I did that, so I feel successful.”
What’s it like working in a club vs the TV show.
“I have performed in venues varying from singing the national anthem to a crowd of 10 thousand a cappella, to doing a show with Snoop Dogg to 1800, to playing to 3 people with a 4 piece band. I’ve been in every sort of scenario. It’s different on Idol, because there’s so many things involved. You have to remember what part of the stage to go and make sure the camera captures you, the judges are judging you for different things. They told you one thing last week, and you’re trying to achieve that then you lose sight of what you had in the beginning. That kind of plays a huge role in kind of getting into your head. I think that’s what I’ve learned the most–to not let any thing get in my head, no matter what is thrown at me. It’s very different singing a song for a minute and a half because you get this adrenaline rush where you want to put all of your emotions into that minute and a half and all of a sudden you start singing with technique you didn’t mean to do, because you are just wanting to nail it and sing with this conviction, quickly, before the song ends. I think in a live setting where you can sing a song that’s 5 minutes long, you have time to get into it and its easier to just breath and give the song the space that it needs.”
How much did touring help you on the live shows from the aspect of working with Michael Orland, the band, working on the arrangement aspect of the song?
“Oh, a lot. I probably spoke up the most out of anyone about ‘oh no no, there’s a drum beat here that’s missing, or this needs to do that, or I want the backup singers to do this.’ Especially with the first live performance I did the Adele song. I arranged that myself and I added actual responses that the backup singers sang. More so than just playing with my band, I arranged so many shows in Charleston. So I was familiar with the process. That helped me a lot in putting the songs together most weeks on Idol.”
Did you have much of an opportunity to write?
“No, not really. I just actually realized I wasn’t doing it at all. I’ve been writing things in my head, but I don’t know if I remember them now. I was just actually making myself carry around the journal now so I’m really going to get focused on that a little bit more.”
Will you continue to be a vocal coach, and if so, what do you think Idol is going to do to change your student’s view of you?
“I think that they will probably look up to me a little bit more. I formed such great bonds with the students I had in Charleston. And some I had been with for 3 years, and I just watched them blossom. The think that I enjoyed most about that process was just having someone come in, totally closed off in their shell and watching them come out of it. That’s one thing that the parents always tell me ‘We don’t even care if they sing, they’re just so much more confident now and they can’t wait to see you, and they’re so happy when they come out’ so I would like to continue doing that somehow, whether it be one on one, me going to them, or even opening my own place. I’m not really sure, I’m just throwing this out there. I definitely would like to continue doing that and make a difference in their lives.”
Did the younger contestants come to you for advice or treat you like any differently than they might have treated some of the younger contestants?
“They definitely would come to me for advice, which I admired. I was really excited about that. I also went to them. It was a two way street. During when we did group stuff, I felt like a natural leader in that sense, just because I have arranged those before. So I know what needs to happen and what could make something sound really great and what would be missing. Whenever they were unsure, I could always see their eyes shifting over to me, looking at me like ‘is this right? What should I do?’ Sometimes they didn’t even have to ask. I’m sad about leaving for that.”
What advice did you go to them for?
“I’m not shy about anything I’m feeling about speaking my mind. If I felt like something sounded like crap, I would just ask them–listen to this, or what do you think–just anything. Even just life.”
How confusing is it when judges give you two different critiques?
“I have to say that Steven did love my performance, he was just worried about the song choice not being right for America, so that didn’t bother me as much. Randy kind of bothered, me, but whatever. I just let it roll. I liked that Jennifer was fighting for me. The controversy sometimes is helpful and nice to see both sides. I didn’t feel like I was boxing with the song and that’s what Randy said. I didn’t feel that way at all. I feel like the song flowed out of me very naturally, and I was painting a picture and feeling the lyrics. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what it’s about, but I read about it and I understand it.”
How did you deal with the pressure of being continually placed in the bottom 3 in recent weeks? Did you think you’d be inevitably going home?
“I never really thought about the results show until–it always seemed like it hit me about a half an hour before the show came on the air. Then all of a sudden the make up artists and hair people were like ‘she’s feeling it’ and they knew, because I would always go to them. I don’t really prepare myself too much. I just try to go with the flow and have fun and stay calm the whole day and think about it when I have to because it is a stressful time for everyone, and I not only worry for myself, I worry for everyone else. It’s a lot of hard feelings, and I feel like I can handle them, but it’s hard.”
Were you surprised to be eliminated, or did you see it coming beforehand based upon how you’d been in the bottom 3 a few times throughout the season?
“I was a little bit surprised just because in my heart I didn’t feel like it was time for me to go. But also, it wasn’t a total shock, because I’ve been in the bottom 3 that many times. I guess I just felt sort of like a fighter in that I was going to push through.”
Did the judges comments really help you in the end? Did it just wear on your confidence over time?
“It didn’t wear on my confidence. Some stuff they said was really great, but then I felt that some stuff I didn’t agree with. I think that’s what was frustrating about it because people are getting to know me. This was their first impression of me. I felt like sometimes the criticism didn’t line up, or it was discrediting to things that I have achieved and worked hard to achieve. That was hard. I’m confident in myself and that’s why I did speak up sometimes because I believe in certain things, and I don’t want to just keep my mouth shut and smile. I was never trying to be rude or argumentative, it was just honesty.”
Was there one contestant you were closest with throughout the competition?
“I was definitely closest with Phillip. We had really nice talks and we’re kind of on the same page.”
Who do you think has the best shot at winning the competition now?
“I have no idea. I just hope whoever it is has the mindset that they’re in it and they’re going to be responsible with the title and be a role model and an inspiration–whoever that person is. I can’t speak for them.”
Is there anything you would have done differently during the competition? If you had the chance, would she go back and change anything?
“I’ve been saying that I wouldn’t and I do believe that. But just earlier today I was thinking ‘I would have sang ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston because then, right off the bat, I feel like it would have been a better first impression for America. I guess that’s the true answer. Otherwise, I would not change anything. But also maybe doing that song helped me in some sort of weird way. Who knows. That’s why it’s hard, you don’t want to really mess with what happened because you never know how it would have affected you or changed you.”
Was there any week in particular that you felt was the hardest?
“The second week, Whitney Houston week–that was probably the hardest for me, because it was again, sort of still the first impression. I felt like I was misunderstood or taken the wrong way and I didn’t like that. Being misunderstood is probably the worst feeling that I ever have.”
Erika Van Pelt felt her age played a factor. Do you feel that played a little bit in her elimination?
“She always talked about that! She always called us the ‘old girls’. I’m like ‘why are you saying that!’ She’s two years younger than me, too! I’m sure it played a factor. There’s so many different factors, I don’t think it was the deciding factor. People are going to vote for their favorites. If there’s a bigger group of people who had one favorite, then that person is going to persevere. I’m sure it mattered.”
Did the judges confuse you?
“Sometimes they would be contradicting from song to song. But also, that contradicting thing could be mistaken for us not finding the balance.”
Are you planning on doing anything with your band after the tour?
“I would love to have some of my bandmates record on the album with me and hopefully do a show again together. I’m not really exactly sure what is in store, or what I’ll be able to do. I absolutely miss them to death and I have some of the best shows ever with them.“
Will you team up with Phillip Phillips on the tour for a duet?
“Hopefully. I still haven’t seen that set list, so I’m not sure, but I’m definitely going to put in a strong request for it.”
What were you planning on singing for British week?
“I was planning on singing either Jesse J song, ‘Who You Are’ or Joe Cocker, ‘A Little Help From My Friends’”.
What was the most valuable thing you took from your entire Idol journey?
“The most valuable thing is to always follow my gut, my heart, my intuition and just stay true to that.”
What inspires you most in songwriting?
“It’s this thing I have to quench. A feeling that I can’t exactly touch, that you just have to put out there in a melody. Sometimes, the best songs come from just using my mouth and singing sound and they turn into words because your subconscious just makes it happen.”
Elise’s closing remarks:
“Thank you to everyone for taking time to talk to me and showing an interest. And also for the people who inspire me to be here. Thank you so much for their support.”