Transcript of conference call with Ashton Jones held on March 11, 2011…
Q: Hey, Ashton. We didn’t get a chance to hear much of your backstory, so I was wondering, just real briefly, the basic idea I got was that you were a runaway when you were 15, and that you turned your life around, and nowadays you’re a store manager in Nashville and a prize winning singer too. Kind of give us the short form of that and tell us what it was that turned your life around.
A. Jones: Well, yeah. I had a lot things that went on in my life when I was younger. My father that I knew from birth passed away when I was 14, and I just had some crazy things going on and left home. And I was gone for probably over two and a half years, and it was life changing. And when I finally got back to my family, I got saved. And, of course, I became a Christian and turned my life around. And I immediately started doing more positive things. And just from that experience it’s made me a stronger person. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what I’ve been through. I never wear that on my shoulder though.
Q: Yes. And now as you move ahead here, are you going back to your store job in Nashville, or are you going full time into music?
A. Jones: No sir.
A. Jones: No sir.
A. Jones: No I’m not. I left it there, and I left it there to stay. I’ve worked and worked and worked; I’ve worked all my life and now it’s time for me to be the artist and the performer that God put in me a long time ago. And I’ve just got to go on further in my career, and hopefully, opportunities are there waiting for me, so I’m very excited about what’s to come. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I feel it in my spirit that it’s something great.
Q: So, I wanted to tell you that you were one of my favorites during Hollywood Week, and I was really happy that you made the Top 24.
A. Jones: Oh. Thank you.
Q: I’m wondering what you think America was missing about you during that Top 24 round?
A. Jones: I don’t know, girl. I was thinking the same thing. I just wanted people to see my personality, and I don’t really think that the show showed my personality as much as I wanted to. But it was okay because everything happens for a reason. But I’m kind of glad that the judges saw that personality of a diva, but I didn’t want the world to see me as diva-like I think I’m all that. I wanted them to see the confidence that I have came from God, and that’s it. I have faith and confidence in myself, and I was never timid on stage. I’ve been performing before, even back home. And I’ve always liked to engage in the crowd and dance with them and have confidence. So now I feel like America is going to see that now that I’ve moved on. And I can’t wait to perform again.
Q: A lot was made of your song choice, but “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” is really not as obscure as some of the other songs the contestants chose. So I’m wondering, if you could go back, would you have chosen a different Diana Ross song?
A. Jones: Actually, as I look back at it now, at first I was like, “I shouldn’t have chosen that song.” But as I look back at it now and I start to think-and I chose that song for a reason. I listened to all of Diana Ross’ songs, and that one, for some reason, spoke to me. It ministered to me in a way that I related it to my life and my experiences and my faith and the love that I have around me-all of my fans, my family. And as I was singing that song, the lyrics are what spoke to me. You know how you listen to a Mariah Carey song, “The Hero Song”? It was the same feeling when I heard that song. “Every time you touch me I become a hero.” It’s just amazing, those lyrics. So I didn’t understand why that song wasn’t a big hit, because it touched me. And for Jimmy Iovine and Rodney Jerkins to turn it into such a current R&B song-I just thought it was amazing. So I couldn’t wait to get on the stage. And America really didn’t feel it like I did, but hopefully now that it’s on iTunes and they’re able to download it, it’ll begin to touch them like it touched me. And I believe that.
Q: Hey. It was way, way, way too early for you to go, and you should’ve stuck around much longer.
A. Jones: Ohh. Thank you.
Q: The last person actually kind of took my question. I guess, what was the best piece of advice that you received from one of the judges and …
A. Jones: Oh man. I want to say it was from Jennifer Lopez. Now Steven and Randy told me some great things, but Jennifer always had something real to say that came straight from her spirit. And I knew it was from her spirit. She always told me that, “You’re amazing. You’re going to go far. Don’t stop. I know you got something. I see it.” She said, “I see it. I see it. I see it’s coming.” And then last she told me, she said, “You know, it’s all about the songs in the music business.” She said, “Even when you get that first record, make sure it’s a hit before you put it out because that’s what America is going to notice. They’re going to remember those great songs and they’re never going to go away.” So it was the best advice that she could give.
Q: That’s awesome. If you could describe Steven Tyler in one word, what would it be.
A. Jones: Oh, my goodness. Fabulous. He was fabulous, from his clothes, to his shoes, from-everything. And what he said, he did not care. He didn’t care what people thought. He said exactly what he felt, and for the most part everything was true and he was just amazing. And behind the scenes he was the most humble and sweet person. Humble.
Q: Good. Good to hear. So you spent a lot of time with some of the other singers in the Top 13. So what kind of personal relationships started to form there? Are you thinking these are going to be people you’ll be in contact with pretty much forever?
A. Jones: Oh, my goodness. Yes, I’m going to stay in contact with them. I have their numbers. We were best friends. I never thought I could have so many best friends, and we’re literally best friends. We all talk to each other. I lift them up. They lift me up. I can cry on their shoulder; they come cry on mine. And that’s what a best friend is. That’s what it’s all about; having people around you that are positive. And my advice to everyone that is trying make it is to never look at the blogs. Never listen or read any negative comments about you because it’s going to discourage you. You have to stay focused, and you have to have people that are positive around you that are constantly feeding great energy and faith into your spirit because in the end that’s what’s going to make you a great artist and performer.
Q: Alright. Right on. So moving forward here over the next couple months or whatever, are there any specific producers or artists out there that you’d like to work with on some music?
A. Jones: You know, I actually enjoyed working with Rodney Jerkins and Jimmy Iovine. I really, really enjoyed it. They brought me into a place that I’d never known that I could go to. They had me singing notes that I couldn’t even hit before. And when you’re bringing the best out of someone-I just think that they would be great, great producers that I could work with. And I also followed Monica, of course. I sang her on the show. I would love to meet Diana Ross. Barry Gordy was there, and if he has anything for me to do, I don’t care what it is, I would do it, and I would be happy to.
Q: You looked like you were in such pain when you found out that you were going home. What exactly was going on with you at that moment?
A. Jones: You know what, it really was not pain. It was moreso leaving the stage and the friends that I had made, and I just had to let it out. I always hold stuff in. I’m a very, very strong person. Over the years the things that I’ve been through have made me strong, so sometimes you have to let it out. You’ve got to show your emotion. I’m a real person just like America. I’m just Ashton, and I’m from Nashville, and sometimes you can’t hold back. But I cried because of all of the things that I went through on the show-the experiences. I couldn’t believe that I had made it so far.
Q: What about the fact that you were the first person voted off. Is there any stigma to that?
A. Jones: You know what? I think it’s not always a bad thing to be the first person. It could be a good thing because everything that I went through on the show-now I’m going to take it and put it toward my career. And I don’t think anything is going to stop me, and I feel like it was all in God’s timing. And he has something better for me. I’m not saying American Idol was not. But something great is what I feel in my spirit right now, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.
Q: I was wondering, as everybody knows, being a finalist, or even winning American Idol, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a flourishing career. What do you think it takes to find that success post the show? It’s always interesting to me to see who goes far and who doesn’t. So what will it take to find success after the show?
A. Jones: That’s an interesting question because I say that all the time. And when I got on the show I always had to remind myself that some of the greatest that didn’t even win are doing well, and very comfortable in their careers, and millionaires-doing great, awesome. And I constantly had to remind myself of that, and I still believe that. And that’s also kept me sane and kept me driven. Right now, as I’m not on the show anymore, but I’m still driven because I know that. And, like said before, I have a wonderful feeling that there’s something. And I don’t care if it’s one thing or ten things, there’s going to be an opportunity there for me that I can do. And I’m going to be able to do exactly what my goal was. I want to buy my mom a house; I want my family to never have to worry about anything. And I just want to have an amazing career in music because I love to do it. I don’t want to go back to working jobs that I don’t want to work. I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t want to feel pain anymore. I just want to show the world who I am and spread the love, spread the faith, and let everybody know, “Don’t stop.” I want people to see me and say, “Hey, she’s my idol anyway.” And that’s the biggest thing. It’s not about winning. You have to feel like you’re already a winner.
Q: Great. Great. And Casey Abrams was unable to attend last night’s show for health reasons. But I’m wondering how stressful is being on a show like American Idol, and how were you able to overcome any of that stress that you ran into?
A. Jones: Wow. I love Casey so much, and our prayers go out to him. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m sure he’s going to be okay. I prayed for him. But it can be stressful if you make it stressful. You have to stay grounded, and that’s why I believe in God and believe in faith so much because if it wasn’t for Him, I would have been crushed as far as I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk to you right now. And with that being said, you have to whatever you do-your meditation, whatever you do to continue-you have to do it because it can stress you out. It really can stress you out. But you’re constantly moving. It’s fast paced, fast paced, and sometimes you don’t have time to think. But even when you have those down times, you have to go to a place in your spiritual world, your meditation, and you have to stop and think about what you’ve accomplished already. So when elimination comes, nothing can stop you from being the best that you can be.
Q: I have two questions. One, where do you see yourself in about two to five years ?
A. Jones: Man. I really see myself performing. I see myself going overseas performing. I see myself helping my mom out with her businesses that she wants to do. I see myself continuing to be a songwriter and a motivator and someone that has grown in her faith.
Q: Do you see yourself winning a Grammy-being a big, big, artist?
A. Jones: It’s possible. It’s very possible. You can’t really say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to do that.” But I’m a big, firm believer in speaking everything into existence. If you speak stuff in yourself, if you constantly tell yourself, “No. You’re not going home” or, “No. You’re not going to lose. You’re going to be a winner regardless if you do go home” or, “Yes. You’re going to get a Grammy” if I speak that in my spirit every day, it’s going to happen because when you speak it, you’re constantly driving yourself. And I believe that. I believe that with all my heart. So yes. The answer to your question is yes. I believe that I’m going to have a Grammy. I believe that something great is going to come out of this experience that I’ve had.
Q: The other question is, onstage, well I was surprised that you were going home. But onstage I was really touched with the strength I saw in you when you wanted to cry and you pulled it together. Where did that come from?
A. Jones: Once again, that strength has nothing to do with me. That strength comes from God. And I know a lot of people don’t believe or don’t understand what I’m saying, but it doesn’t have anything to do with us. That strength comes from up above-whatever you believe. There is no way that I could be sane right now; I keep stressing that. And I left those tears on that stage. I did break down a little bit because I was leaving, but I left them on the stage. And right after that, I picked myself up and said, “Okay, on to the next.”
Q: You actually made the finals as a judges pick instead of being voted in by viewers. So had you had any concerns about that and suspected you might be in the bottom three this week, or was it a surprise to you?
A. Jones: Actually, it wasn’t a surprise. I had a feeling. It was one of those feelings where there’s so many talented people on the show, and regardless if I had the least votes or the least fans, I was still a part of those people. I was still there, and the judges saw something in me that I didn’t know that I had. So it didn’t crush me at all. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fans and I don’t have fans, it just means that I had the least votes. And I am just honored to have been on the show with superstars. I look at them as stars, and they said the same thing to me last night-that they feel I am too-and it touched my heart. All of the fans that I have, my little fan base, they’re going to stick by my side through thick and thin, and that’s all that matters. It’s not about having the most fans. It’s not about the competition-competing and trying to be better than someone. It’s about finding your lane and learning who you are. And I believe that competition really showed who I was. It helped me to find the person that I am and what lane can I go in right now as an artist and a songwriter.
Q: OK. And it seemed pretty unlikely that the judges were going to use the judges save during the very first week of the finals, so what was going through your head once Ryan revealed you were the low vote getter? Did you think there was any chance they were going to use it, or were you resigned to your fate at that point?
A. Jones: I felt it in my spirit that it was time to go. I did. I really did. That’s why I went to the hair and makeup ladies, and I said, “You know what? I want a Mohawk today” I’m usually in dresses, usually looking with my hair poofed out, and I said, “You know what? Pin my hair up. I’m going to have a good time. Whatever happens, if I get kicked off, I’m going to go out with a bang. I’m going to go out here and do the group number, have a great time, watch the concert.” And that’s what I did, and I had a wonderful, wonderful time.
Q: I was just wondering, what are you going to tell your grandkids about this whole experience when you reflect back on it?
A. Jones: Man, that’s so funny you asked about that because last night I was telling one of the other contestants how we can tell whoever-our kids, our grandkids-they’re going to look back and say, “Oh my gosh. My grandmother did this-accomplished this” because really, honestly, this is not the end. Some people, they end right here, and there is no way that I can end right here. And that’s what I’m going to tell them, “I couldn’t end right there.” It’s only the beginning of something great, and you have to continue to go on. You can’t live off of, “I was American Idol and Top 13.” You can’t live off that for the rest of your life. You have to go further, and you constantly have to be driven. And I just thank God for even allowing me to be there because it made me stronger than I already thought I was. I wasn’t even as strong as I thought I was. And now there’s an inner strength that’s come and burst out of me, and just happiness, and a glow that I’m so thankful for.
Q: Very cool. Did you get to party with Diddy- as sad as a night as it was, was there…
A. Jones: No. I didn’t. No. You know how Diddy is. He’ll say, “Hey. How you doing. Alright” But no I didn’t. I’m glad, and I’m so proud of him. But at this moment and this time, he’s got his thing going on. Right now I’ve got to focus on me and getting to that Diddy position.
Q: Hi there. I just wanted to know what you thought of the live performances in last night’s show?
A. Jones: Last night’s show-I, of course, wanted to cry so hard while I was singing. It’s always so hard when you’re so hurt and, you’re trying to sing a song. And I gave it my best, and I gave it my all. And at first I was like, “Oh my gosh. I should have picked another song.” But you know, as I look back, now I feel, no, I picked the right song. It was for me. It was destined for me to sing that song because it did something to me. It ministered to me. And Jimmy Iovine and Rodney Jerkins were able to bring that song back and make it a current R&B song. And it sounds amazing to me because Diana Ross is such a soft singer-such a passionate soft singer. And I felt like I gave it a different edge because we differ in our style, so they were able to make it so current. And it’s on iTunes now for download, and I just love it. It showed a different side of me, and they also brought something out of me that I didn’t know that I could do from the high range to the key changing. And it’s different. You have to grow. And I believe this show, it helped me to grow in my faith and my confidence and my voice and performance.
Q: And after living with and practicing with all the other contestants, who do you predict will go far?
A. Jones: You know what? Honestly, I’m going to speak outside of the show. I predict that all of them are going to go far in their careers.
Q: Want to know, did you ever get a chance to actually meet and talk to Barry Gordy?
A. Jones: No. I didn’t. I was doing so much stuff, so busy, I didn’t get to. I got a wink from him and one of those smiles, and that’s all I needed, and I didn’t get to. I hope I made him proud. I hope that he saw the difference that I brought to the song. I didn’t try to do it like Diana. I tried to do it differently. And there were probably some notes that I probably would’ve done differently. But I don’t take the experience back by doing it in front of him and doing this for Rodney Jerkins and Jimmy. I’m very proud and happy on the outcome because I know that there’s some great things to come.
Q: And one other thing-do you think that you’re emotionalism and the way you wore your heart on your sleeve, do you think that that might have hurt you with the voting public?
A. Jones: Well. I’m not really sure if that did or not. I really don’t know how they felt about that. I can only be myself, and I’m not going to be a different person just for TV. I’m going to constantly be me, and I feel like being yourself in the end-you’re going to prosper from that. Even though I didn’t win the show, and I didn’t stay there-I got the least votes. In the end, being myself, and staying true to my beliefs is going to win.
Q: Can you just tell me, what was your most memorable or special moment over the whole journey of American Idol?
A. Jones: Wow. There are so many moments. But I must say every contestant, of course, all of the contestants. But the most part that stuck out to me was every time I got on the stage. It was something about the stage. For some reason every time I got on the stage I felt like I can conquer the world. I just got on there and the confidence and everything just came out. And I didn’t want America to take that in a weird way. But that’s who I am. I’m really this sweet person, humble backstage, goofy, corny, have fun, kick it. But when I get on the stage, it’s something else. And that was the thing that stuck out to me was the lights, the cameras, the 30 million people watching, the audience, the judges, and the stage. And it was just an amazing experience, and I hope that I can continue to do that for the people that are my fans.
Q: Also, how did you feel about performing in front of music legends like Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez?
A. Jones: Oh my goodness. I’m honored. I’m going to say this and I hope it just doesn’t happen, but if I don’t get to do anything ever in my life, I’m honored, and I’m so excited and glad. And it’s a wonderful thing that I got to perform in front of them and all of the other stars that were on the show, too. I met some wonderful people doing this, and I just hope and pray that it doesn’t end here. I don’t feel it in my spirit that it will, but I’m going to say that.
Q: I wanted to ask you if before last night you had given any thought to what song you would have sung next week for the songs from the year you were born?
A. Jones: Oh man. There was a Whitney Houston. There was Janet Jackson. Those hit songs. Probably would have done a Diana Ross song that everyone knows-one of the hit songs. I would’ve of course chosen the absolute hits. And I think that would’ve won the crowd over and kept me there. But it’s okay. I don’t want to look at the past, be depressed and say, “Oh I should have done this. I should have done that.” Now it’s time to take everything that I learned, everything that I’ve done, and move forward in my life, and grow as an artist.