'American Idol' Exit Interview: Michael Johns
Every week the evicted American Idol contestants chat with the press and for the past few each contestant has given a variation on the "Oh, I knew I was going home" answer. The same cannot be said for Thursday's (April 10) bootee, Michael Johns.
"I'd be lying to say I wasn't shocked," Johns says, the morning after the most surprising elimination of this American Idol season. "I mean, I hadn't been in the bottom three and I thought definitely the last two or three weeks had been strongest. But we're in this competition and stuff can happen and it did."
While the Internet is a-buzz about the various factors led to Johns' dismissal, the 29-year-old Aussie gives little credence to judge Simon Cowell's repeated insistence that choosing Aerosmith's "Dream On" on Tuesday's Inspirational Songs Night did him in.
"I'm living my dream and that song's all about heartache and struggle and overcoming things and I've done that in the last 10 years," he explains. "You know, living in America and getting to live my dream. Dream on until your dreams come true. And they're coming true right now, so that's why I chose that song, for sure."
Cowell criticized the song choice both on Tuesday night after Johns' performance and then on Thursday after his elimination, generating disagreement both times.
"Sometimes Simon is off the mark, to be honest," Johns tells reporters. "Most time he's on and I respect his opinion a lot, but he wanted me to sing that soul-blues stuff every week ... I'm a rock-soul singer. I like to do both genres and so I wasn't necessarily going to just pander to what the judges said every week, you know what I mean? You have to go out there and say, 'This is the kind of record that I'm going to make and this is the sound that I do.' And some weeks they loved it and some weeks they didn't."
Johns didn't hesitate to address what may be the week's biggest controversy, host Ryan Seacrest's reminder that nobody went home during last year's Idol Gives Back week, a statement that ended up being a big tease.
"Look, I get the television aspect of this competition, but it was tough," he says, "because I thought, 'OK, I'm going home' and then they said that and I'm like 'Oh, wait a second. I'm not going home, maybe they're just having a good laugh.' I hadn't been in the Bottom Three, so I was thinking that was a possibility, but when reality set in and Ryan gave me a look as if to say, 'I'm so sorry I have to do that.' But you get it. You're in the business and you get it, so I won't hold it against Ryan or anything."
For now, Johns is just happy that his departure has stirred strong emotions and that he'll be missed.
"Nothing's sunk in quite yet, but the backlash that I'm seeing, just snippets in the press and talking to you guys, that means a lot," he says. "It means that I struck a nerve somewhere. This year, more than any other year, I really believe, especially with this Top Eight, you can't let your favorite go, 'Oh, he had a great week' or 'She had a great week' and 'I'm going to give them half of my votes and then I'm gonna do the other one that didn't do it so well.' A split vote like that can happen and unfortunately the people that you thought were going to be safe go home."
Other highlights from Johns' exit interview:
On his plans to continue his professional path in the United States: "Will I live in Australia again? Maybe when I'm older? I don't know. But for me, my life and career are here. I love it here. I've been here 10 years. My whole adult life's been here, so it's kind of like ... I mean, obviously I'm not American, but I don't really feel Australian anymore so much. It's weird."
On whether his fashion choices may have played a role in his exit: "No. I don't think so. I mean, the ascot that killed America? No. It was a fun outfit and it was time to step it up a little bit stylistically and I went for it. No regrets there."
On his hopes for the future: "Winning the thing or not winning Idol, it just really depends on the artist, it depends on what album you make afterwards, it depends whether or not on the show you were absolutely true to yourself and did not change and I think that the people who have succeeded after Idol, from the Kimberley Lockes to the Carrie Underwoods, that's the one common thing, is that they're themselves and they stay true to their hearts."