This past Friday, I had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with George Huff, the latest person voted off the FOX show American Idol. We all saw on the show not only how good a singer George is but also how much of a gentleman and how gracious he can be. Those same qualities came through in the interview as well. Here's what he had to say:
George, what made you decide to try out for the show?
Well, I had watched the show, you know, and I knew it was something I'd love to do. I had gotten tired of trying to work just to…I had been working for two years trying to pay off a little measly bill I had with the school, and I said, "I have to do something." I was just trying to think of a way to speed up the process, you know. I didn't decide until the last minute to go and audition for the competition. So, I caught the Greyhound bus, I slept outside like everybody else…It's crazy, you know. When I got to Houston and saw all those people and realized that Paula, Simon, and Randy weren't the first people we were going to see, I was actually getting ready to leave. Even when we got to the Top 32, I thought about giving up. I mean, I thought about not wanting to even be considered to be an alternate. Thank goodness I didn't. (*laughter*)
What was it like when you got that phone call saying you were in the Top 32 after all?
Oh my God. I was sitting on my couch and was just turning over from snoring a little bit, and the phone rang. I didn't answer the phone right off the bat. But, I checked my messages, and there was a message from American Idol for me. I kept my nerves down and returned the phone call. They said, "What are you doing right now?" I was like, "I'm just sitting here on the couch watching television." They asked me, "Are you ready for this?" I said, "What?" They said, "We want to fly you back out here." I started screaming and hollering. (*laughter() I called my mom, and she didn't even believe me! I only had 2 hours to get on the plane and get there for a photo shoot that night and then learn songs for the week.
Then you get picked as a Wildcard by Simon himself. That must have been something.
Can you believe that? I just could not…I just could not believe it. I said, "Simon, we have come a long way" because we did. If you knew what I went through in Pasadena…oh my God.
You were always such a gentleman on the show, and you always seemed so up. How do you do that, given how intense things can get?
You know, I sit down and I look at everything that's around me. I look at my situation. I mean, yes, I lived in the projects, and someone might consider that to be "in the hole" or whatever. Yes, we weren't as fortunate as other people, but when I turn on the television and see the kids that are starving with all the flies all over them and…do you see what I'm saying? I'm grateful for what I have. You know, it's easy to focus on the little things that don't even matter in life. But you can't let that get you down. I mean, I just think, "What am I complaining about?" I can't complain about Simon and them throwing pecans at me and all that stuff, because I'm on the show when 70,000 other people would love to be here.
There was a story that you haven't been feeling well. How are you feeling now, and how did that affect your performances?
Oh my…for the Gloria Estefan night, believe it or not, my voice was back. My voice had come back to me. During Barry Manilow week, I decided to drink some hot tea—and it's really cold in the studio—and I completely lost my voice. It's amazing…I mean, you go through these things and…Barry Manilow week, I didn't have a voice. But, God gave me a voice when I stepped out there on the stage. The judges didn't even know that I didn't have a voice. They just thought, "Well, George, I didn't like your rendition." I thought, "If y'all only knew…" (*laughter*) That's why I really didn't comment on what they had to say. I was just thankful that I made it through that performance. Even with the CD…if you pick up the CD and listen to me singing "Me & Mrs. Jones" and then "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", it's two completely different sounds. Usually, when I'm singing different songs or whatever, it'll bring out different qualities in my voice. Usually, when it's a slow song I have to sing, you get a clearer, smoother sound.
When you release your first CD, what kind of music do you want to have on it?
Well, it won't be too heavy on the R&B side. It won't be too heavy on the hip-hop/pop side. It will definitely be a feeling more along the lines of a classical soul type of feel, you know? The best description I can use is that it will have more of a Michael Bolton or Luther Vandross type of feel to it. Those people have a really broad audience, and I want to do something that everybody can relate to.
George, if you had to critique your own performances, which would you say was your strongest, and which was your weakest?
Hmm…I think the Big Band Week was my strongest. I enjoyed that a whole, whole lot. My weakest…I would probably have to say it was the Barry Manilow Week, because I was just under so much…I don't even know if I was there mentally. (*laughter*)
Were there any performances from any of the other finalists that really stood out to you?
The last performance that Jennifer did. That was like…oh my heavenly stars…I was just…I didn't know what to do, I didn't know what to say. I was just blown away by that performance. It was unbelievable.
Let's talk about Jennifer. She talked about how close the two of you were. Talk about her a little bit and about how much she helped you being in the house with you.
Yes, she definitely did. You know, Jennifer and Fantasia…we bonded a whole lot during this thing…on a spiritual level, you know? I think that's why Fantasia was crying when I left. We connected in some of the same ways that Jennifer and I did. Me and Jennifer were so close, because in Pasadena, who I hung around with was Jennifer. Jennifer, she has a winning personality, and it's just like…it's unbelievable. She has a heart and she's genuine. When I heard her voice and saw her personality, I was like, "Wow". Then, connecting on that spiritual level…that just put it over the top.
Was that the hardest goodbye?
That was the hardest goodbye for me, yes. She was on the Ryan Seacrest show doing an interview, and I was getting ready for that Subway shoot. Anyway, when Ryan brought up my name, she started crying and couldn't speak after that. I saw that and just burst into tears.
Have you talked to her since?
Oh, yeah. I talk to her all the time. I actually talked to her on the phone yesterday with Ryan on his show. I thought he had her there for the show, because he showed me the clip of what she had to say about me when she was on the show, and then he said, "Jennifer? Jennifer?" I was like, "Oh, no you didn't, Ryan." He said, "No, I didn't. She's on the phone." It was kinda funny. We laughed because Ryan asked her who she thought was going to be leaving the show, and she said, "I don't know, but I didn't think it was gonna be my George." (*laughter*) She's just so funny. She's a comedienne.
One more thing about Jennifer…the week she got voted off, there were all kinds of conspiracy theories going around, everything from a power outage to cries of racism. What do you think about that?
Well, I…you know, the show is what it is. I would like to believe it's a fair show and that the audience votes based on talent. But, you never know how the votes are gonna go, because when one person is voted off the show, you never know where those votes are gonna go. I don't want to think anything else; I just want to take it for what it is, and, Lord, just hope that it's real.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of talk about people voting for personality over talent. How important do you think each should be?
I think it's a balance, you know? Singing is a form of expression, and whatever your personality is, it's gonna shine through. I believe America is pretty wise, and it has a lot to do with the voice. But, at the same time, I believe that America wants to be connected in every way, because music…When you're singing a song, you're expressing what you're singing about. You want the audience to feel that. I mean, even if it's something you can't relate to, they can at least get a sense of who you are through that song.
Let me throw out some names to you, and you tell me what comes to mind. Let's start with…Randy Jackson.
I love him. Well, he's, you know…he's unpredictable. I think all of the judges are…well, two of them are unpredictable. Paula, she's pretty much the same all the time.
What about Ryan Seacrest?
I love Ryan Seacrest. He is…I'm telling you, he is like one of the best hosts that is out there. He's a real professional at his craft. He is, because he can really do it up.
Tell me about Fantasia. What's she like?
I love her. She's a very sincere, wonderful person.
She's gotten a lot of flack about talking back to the judges. Was she just playing around?
Yeah, that's what it was. She's very sincere. Every time she cries, it's all the real deal. She's not going to hide who she is, and I don't think anybody else…well, I don’t know. But, she's definitely just…she is definitely the sweetest person. Believe it or not, she's one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet.
Once the tour is over, do you think you will all keep in touch?
Oh yes. I definitely plan to keep in touch with all of them.
Before we close, George, is there anything you'd like to say to the people that voted for you?
Oh my. Every chance I can, I've been thanking my fans and preparing them for what's to come with me. Please let them know that I've received a whole bunch of e-mails, and I've read all of the nice, positive things they've said about me. It's really helped me throughout this competition when I've felt like giving up. It really, really has…even from the beginning, when I didn't make it into the 32. There were those out there that said, "Bring him back! Bring him back!" I thank all of them.
Well, George, I'll pass that along. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. Congratulations and all the best in the future.
Thank you so much. Bye.
My thanks to George for taking the time to talk to me and to the people at FOX for arranging the interview.