RJ Helton is hoping no one ever remembers he was a finalist on “American Idol.”
Not that he isn’t grateful for the exposure the Fox show and subsequent tour gave him. Helton was one of 10 finalists on the first “Idol” that Kelly Clarkson went on to win.
But the 22-year-old singer doesn’t want to be pigeonholed when his debut album, “Real Life,” is released on March 23. Sure, he’s happy for his fellow “Idol” stars Ruben Studdard, Clarkson and Clay Aiken, who all have successful recording careers; he just doesn’t want to be known as “the singer from that show.”
“Real Life” is a mostly predictable pop CD; it’s heavily produced by a myriad of producers, Helton has a solid, crooning voice, and it’s loaded with ballads that sound a lot like many of Aiken’s songs.
But “Real Life” is different because Helton sings a lot about his faith in God, though he’s hesitant to say he’s a Christian artist, and some songs deal with heavy issues such as child abuse.
“Real Life” is being simultaneously released by B-Rite Music in mainstream and Christian markets. It was produced in part by Tommy Sims, who worked with Clarkson. Helton wrote many of the lyrics, and he worked with writers on the other songs. He even sings in Spanish, though he doesn’t speak the language.
AP: Is “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell getting meaner?
Helton: I just think he’s boring. He says the same exact things over and over again. Honestly, I don’t really watch the show very much anymore because it’s all the same stuff. I think to keep it successful they need to try something new.
AP: What was the worst thing he said to you?
Helton: He just said I was average all the time. I figured, OK fine, I can live with that.
AP: What do you think about “Idol” reject William Hung getting a record deal?
Helton: I think he’s hilarious. I think that’s why a lot of people go to auditions, so they can be on TV whether they can sing or not. I guess, more power to him.
AP: Do you keep in touch with Kelly Clarkson or other “Idol” people?
Helton: Kelly and I are really good friends. We just saw each other a few weeks ago. I didn’t really know the other people that well.
AP: Are you unhappy you didn’t win?
Helton: Honestly, no. I’m grateful to have been on ‘Idol,’ but I want to be my own artist and kind of hope people forget I was on the show, so they don’t listen to my music for that.
AP: The song “Delicate Child” sounds like it deals with some sort of child abuse, and you wrote that song. Was it from personal experience?
Helton: I was sexually abused when I was 7 by a family friend. I kind of put it away and didn’t deal with it until recently. It takes a lot of time to heal from this, and I wrote the song as part of the healing process, it took a year and a half for me to write the song. But I wanted to be able to confront him, but he died recently and I never was able to.
AP: Are you worried about being so vulnerable?
Helton: No, I’ve already had lots of letters from people saying the song changed their lives and dealt with their own issues because of the song. I wrote it to help others, so maybe they wouldn’t hide from it if it happens. And you have to expose yourself to do that.
AP: Do you think you’ll isolate possible listeners by singing about your faith in God?
Helton: I don’t think the CD is ‘Christian,’ I also write about the power of love and the aspects of life, and my faith is one part of that. I don’t think it’s preachy. But I wanted to do songs that were related to my roots and where I came from.
AP: Why did you sign with a religious recording company?
Helton: Many people from many labels started calling me, mainstream and Christian. And my label, B-Rite, allowed me to talk about my faith and talk about my relationships. I had a lot of control.
AP: What does RJ stand for?
Helton: Richard Jason.