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‘Idol’ 7: Plenty of nerves ... and taquitos!

As the American Idols Live! tour grinds to a halt, five of the season 7 finalists reflect on their experiences on the show and what, if anything, they would have done differently.
/ Source: contributor

After two and a half months crisscrossing the country, the American Idols Live! tour and its exclamation point finally grinds to a halt this weekend in Tulsa, Okla.

Once it’s done, this year’s top 10 will be free to either start working on their recording careers in an effort to catch up with David Archuleta’s smash debut single “Crush” or pack it up and rebuild their shattered lives.

Since that’s likely to be the last you’ll hear from them in a while, presents some never-published excerpts from interviews with five of “American Idol” 7’s singers, taken from a speed-dating-style pre-show press junket before their Worcester, Mass., show.

Hirsh: Are you ever weirded out by the intensity of your fans?

Cook: I don’t know “weirded out.” I’m definitely humbled to a very severe degree by it. Today, for instance, prime example, I got a package in the mail at the arena. On the show, I talked about one of my favorite foods is a taquito from this gas station called QuikTrip in the Midwest. And I got a package today...

Hirsh: This can’t end well.

Cook: They’re on ice. I just got a ton of QuikTrip taquitos. I don’t know, that’s the kind of stuff that you don’t really think about when you’re going through the process. And all of a sudden it happens, and you’re like, “Man, these people are really invested in what I’m doing.” Which is cool. And I hope that parlays, obviously, into a long and fruitful musical career. But if not, I got QuikTrip taquitos, so it’s pretty good.

Hirsh: There’s a box of frozen taquitos.

Cook: Exactly. It’s a win/win.

Hirsh: Who gets that?

Cook: I do. That’s who gets it. I might share. We’ll see.

Hirsh: What you have done differently in retrospect?

Cook: Would I change anything? Yes. I would’ve cut my hair waaaay sooner on the show.

Hirsh: Let’s talk about Graham Nash. One thing I enjoyed about your finale duet on “Teach Your Children” was the fact that he introduced you and your response was like, “Oh my God, are you kidding me?”

“Oh my gosh!”

“Don’t pay attention to me! Graham Nash!”

White: Yeah. It killed me. Like, “No! Why couldn’t I say that first? Why can’t I say ‘Graham Nash!’?” It was almost like an out-of-body experience, sitting there like, “Is this really happening right now?” Not even sure what to say. And then when I heard him say that I was like, “Uh, no. Graham Nash.” I kind of felt like an idiot, like “What? Brooke, come on.” But how nice was he? We sat down, and the first time we sat down to play, it just came together so fast. That music is engrained in me. It’s what I grew up listening to. And it’s funny, because he’s like, “So what do you want to do with it?” (laughs) I’m like...

Hirsh: “Let’s put a techno beat on it. Some electric guitars...”

White: Yeah, “Let’s throw in a hip-hop groove to it.” No, he was great. So yeah, I was like, “How about I just sing the harmony? How about that?”

Hirsh: “Broadway” is always used as a negative term on the show, which I always imagine makes everybody in Actor’s Equity shake their fists at Simon. And you’ve done commercials. You’re an actress, right?

Mercado: Well, I started out singing when I was four years old. So singing was my original thing. First grade is when I actually was introduced to acting and I fell in love with it. And it wasn’t until probably my junior year, senior year in high school that I really developed this really strong passion for acting for film. So theater and film acting were things that I wanted to do, not just Broadway. But Broadway is beautiful, and it was kind of seen as a negative way after I got off the show, because everybody was asking me about Broadway. And I think I got a little frustrated: “I want to do film, too. What about film? I want to put out an album, too, so what about an album? Are you saying that I only can do Broadway?” So I kind of got a little thrown off, but now it doesn’t bother me. I just embrace it.

Hirsh: What did you most feel like, “Oh, I wish I had done that”? Other than winning.

Malubay: Well, Mariah week, I was so sad I wasn’t even there. I didn’t get to sing. I went to craft service during the commercial and Simon’s walking toward me and he’s like, “This probably would have been your week. You know that, right?” And I was like, (fake crying) “Shut up! Don’t tell me that! Don’t tell me that!” Because when I heard “Mariah week,” I was like, “That’s me. I can do that. I can totally do that.” But I didn’t get to prove myself. Kristy’s like, “You got voted off my week and I got voted off your week.” I’m yeah, “Yeah!” I got voted off country week. Nice!

Hirsh: Ever tempted to just run up on stage and grab the microphone and just start singing?

Malubay: Oh, I wish. Gosh, me and David Hernandez were sitting next to each other, because he’s a die-hard Mariah fan. He was like, “We should be there right now.” I’m like, “Yes, I know! Don’t keep telling me that, because I’m going to feel really, really bad!” (laughs)

Hirsh:Have you gotten any better at the interview thing?

Castro: I think so. We’ll find out after this. (laughs) Yeah, I think I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I just try to think more like a conversation than anything. I used to just hate the questions, so I’d go in with this attitude, like, “Uh.” But now I go in with the attitude, like, “Hey, we’re just going to talk. We’re talking.” Because I can talk. I’m a talker. Just not a very good question-answerer.

Hirsh: Would you have done anything differently throughout the process, looking back on it now?

Castro: I think I did as best as I could. The only thing I can think of is maybe practice for another year, really get more comfortable with it. But then I don’t think it would’ve been the same. I think I might have missed my time. I think now was the perfect window for me.

Hirsh: Did you know that after you did it the first time in the semifinals, downloads for Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” shot up on iTunes?

Castro: I did hear about that. He charted for the first time in the U.S. charts. That’s cool, yeah.

Hirsh: Do you feel like that’s the power that you have?

Castro: Not me, “American Idol.” That’s a combination of “American Idol” and a good song. I was just the messenger.