Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a conference call interview with Matthew Rogers, the second person voted off of American Idol. Matt's fun-loving personality came through in the interview just as it did on the show. Here's what he had to say:
You've been so fun to watch because of your enthusiasm, and you are the ultimate good sport. What did Simon say to you after the show?
(*laughter*) Simon came up to me after the show and gave me a big ol' hug. He said, "You know, Matt, I've always liked you and I'm really gonna miss you on the show." Then, he took me to his dressing room and said, "Matt, there's no reason to beat yourself up over it. The reason you are off the show is because you chose the wrong song." He also said, "If you need any help with anything, here are my numbers," and he gave me his number in England, all his phone numbers. He said if I needed a reference or advice or anything like that that I could give him a call. To address the other part of your question, I was pretty upset when I found out that I was the one getting voted off. I didn't want to sing, to be honest with you. But, then I thought, "I have 15 more seconds in front of America. I need to make something happen." (*laughter() I had a good time on my way out, and, ultimately, I'm thankful that I got this far, you know?
Matt, your look changed over the course of your time on the show. What did you do to get your Idol "look"?
Well, I definitely had better eating habits. You know, I lost a bit of weight. I also looked a lot slimmer because of the clothes I was wearing. I always wore the big, baggy stuff, and they put me in fitted jeans (which I had never worn before), and they went two sizes smaller on the shirts than what I was used to. Then, after I made the Top 12, I had about 3 weeks off, and the stylist said, "Grow your hair out as much as you can." So, I grew my hair out, and the stylist dried it out…um, he pushed everything forward, dried it out, and poofed up the front.
You and Jon Peter Lewis seem to have the largest female followings at the show tapings. We know what it is about you—you're hunky, you're charming, and what not—but what do you think it is about JPL that the girls are latching on to?
Well, first and foremost, it's his looks. I mean, the girls love his face. I think they like the way he portrays himself. He's not afraid to take chances—obviously, with the Elvis thing and then his first performance in the Top 12 where he was dancing all around—he's just got that thing the girls are drawn to.
What is your take on the brouhaha about Simon's middle finger "incident"? Do you really think he was flipping someone off?
I think it was definitely blown out of proportion. I mean, the guy leans against his hand, and people think he's flipping everyone off. Noone noticed it. The first I heard about it was when I was doing some on-camera publicity stuff. My publicist told me they might ask me about it, and I was like, "What?"
Did you propose to your girlfriend?
(*laughter*) She knows I'm gonna marry her, and it probably would have been a lot sooner if it weren't for the show.
Do you have any interest in acting?
Yeah, this is definitely a stepping stone to where I want to be. I mean, let's face it. When you have vocalists like George, Fantasia, Latoya, Diana…they're awesome. My plans were to finish like 6th or 5th or so and get enough publicity where I could use it as a stepping stone to get into acting, which I want to do. Obviously, that didn't work out, but doors are opening. I've had several reading for movies and different TV shows. Plus, "Access Hollywood" and "Extra" have talked to me about being a correspondent, and someone said that I might even be up for Bob Barker's job on The Price Is Right when he retires, so…(*laughter*)
You always seemed to have a jokingly antagonistic relationship with Simon. Where did that come from? What that the producers' idea? Was it scripted?
You know what? I think it started…in my first audition—when I sang "Just Once" to make it to Hollywood—you saw me walk out and do that opera voice. After that, I started singing this opera song that I made up, something like, "Goodbye, sweet Simon…I'll see you soon…", something like that. Anyway, I'm singing it to him through the walls, and I know he heard me 'cause I was freakin' loud. So, after that, he comes up to me and says, "Yeah, I'm gonna have a lot of fun with you on this show." So, in Hollywood, you only saw him rip on me once, but he ripped on me every single day, and I always had something to say to keep the lines of the love/hate relationship open. So, I thought, "I'm gonna ride this out as long as I can." The producers didn't tell me what to say, but they did give me the green light to go ahead and have fun with it.
You mentioned your opera voice, which is incredible. Why didn't we hear something like that on the show?
Because I'm stupid. (*laughter*) I didn't do what I should have done. Simon said, "I think you sold out, Matt." Those are strong words for me to hear, but in a way, I think he's right. If I could go back in time for Country Week, that was my thing. I would have thrown on my cowboy hat, sung a Toby Keith song, and I would have rocked the whole show. You know, you listen to all these people saying, "America wants to see your sensitive side", and I end up doing that. I wish I would have done the opera thing more, and I wish I would have done other things. But, I tried to please too many people instead of just being myself at the very end, you know? That's probably why I'm sitting here talking to you right now. (*laughter*)
If you had to pick your best and worst performances, what would you pick?
My best performance was probably my very first audition to get me on the show, and my worst performance was my last one.
Who do you think will be the Final 2?
Fantasia Barrino and Diana Degarmo.
Care to predict the winner?
People love you. You have a great personality. Why do you think you were eliminated so soon?
I really, really don't know. I can't imagine why I got eliminated. I cannot imagine getting the least amount of votes out of all the contestants. I'm telling you, I had so much support from all over. Dude, I had so many people voting for me. It's still hard for me to believe. I don't think there's any kind of fix or anything. I just think it's really, really odd that I got the least amount of votes. I cannot imagine it.
Do you think it had anything to do with Simon's comments to you?
Who knows. I think the biggest thing was my performance. I think America was probably thinking that I was gonna give this big performance, and I come out and start the song sitting on the steps, and it's this slow song. America was probably like, "Dude, what is this guy doing?" I always try to look at it from the outside in.
Why do you think Simon hugged you and brought you back to his dressing room—two things he's never done for anyone before—especially after he bashed you so much?
Well, I think Simon bashed me because it makes for good television. But, when all the cameras were off, we got along really well, and I think—at least I hope—that he sees something in me that has potential. I mean, the contacts you make on the show…you never know where they're gonna take you. We had a really good off-camera relationship.
What's the best piece of advice that you received from the judges?
Hmmm…I would probably say when Randy told me that I need to show my bigger-than-life personality and that I need to pick a "tough guy" song. After I sang "What You Won't Do For Love", he came up to me and said, "Dude, that's not you. You need to pick a 'tough guy' song." Then, I came out and sang "Hard To Handle", and I wasn't in the Bottom Three. So, that was good advice. It got me through the next round.
How was the vocal coach able to help you?
She was able to show me how to not just sing a song but tell the story of the song and understand what the song was saying. I didn't realize until I got to this show that singing is really, really hard. When you get to this level, singing is hard. You have to shut everything out, focus on your breathing, concentrate on the music…She taught me that singing is not easy. It's work…it's hard work.
Is there any advice you'd give to people who want to try out for the show?
For your initial tryout, I would say…you know, you have 30 seconds to make the judges notice you out of 90,000 faces, so what are you gonna do to get them to notice you, you know? Once you're on the show, stick to what got you in. That's where I screwed up. Do what it takes to get you in, but once you get in, don't steer too far from that. Be true to yourself. I mean, like John Stevens…No matter what kind of genre they throw at him, he's gonna give the same performance every time, and I think you're gonna see John around a few more weeks, no matter if he forgets his words, if he's boring, or what. He might be around until the Top 6.
If you could record an album with anyone, who would you like to work with?
Toby Keith, definitely.
What did you and Camile talk about when the two of you were on stage waiting to find out who was going home?
Um, me and Camile…we were pretty close. I mean, she and Diana were like little sisters to me. We were from the same group, so we were pretty close. It was like, "Man, I can't believe we're both up here together." It was sad, because we wanted to represent for our group, and we knew that no matter who went that the next day we wouldn't be hanging out together. It was sad. I mean, Camile is a real person. What you see on TV is how she is. She is just a sweet girl. It was sad…I thought that I was gonna stay. Obviously, I was wrong.
What is your impression of Jasmine Trias?
Jasmine is a really sweet girl. Her dad, Rudy…he is awesome. He made me breakfast every morning! (*laughter*) Jasmine is just a little sweetheart. She's awesome.
The fact that you were a college football player, do you think that helped or hurt your fanbase?
I think it was like a double-edged sword. A lot of people were like, "Hey, I love football", so they became fans of mine. But, a lot of other people had this pre-conceived idea that because I was a football player that I am the typical jock bully-type who picks on people. Those people are just ignorant. Little doe they know that when I was a freshman in high school, I was the fat kid that always got picked on. So, when I had my growth spurt and started playing football, I was the one who always looked out for the kids that got picked on.
Which judge do you think is the most knowledgeable about the music industry?
Which guy do you think will go the farthest?
What are your thoughts on the popularity of William Hung?
(*laughter*) I think it's awesome…good for him! He got so popular because of his attitude. It was entertaining, man. It's just funny, dude. I'm glad that something good happened to him.
You talked about acting earlier and how you'd like to get into that. How do you see your career in music going?
I don't want to rule anything out, because you never know what's around the corner. But, if I had to make a guess about a music career, I'd say it probably be in country music, which is pretty freakin' ironic since I got eliminated during Country Week. (*laughter*) I see more promise for me in acting and less promise in music, but you never know.
When Ryan told you that you were in the Bottom Three, what did you think?
I thought, "Let's see who else in the Bottom Three. I should be OK." But, as soon as he said Diana was in the Bottom Three, too, I knew I was in trouble.
What kind of relationship did you have with John Stevens?
We had a real good relationship. I always kind of played around and joked around with him, because, I mean, he's just a young kid. He's 16 years old, his mom was always by his side…At night, he was always the first one to go to bed, so we'd take videos of things like me tucking him in and stuff. It was funny. We harassed him in a fun way. I had a good time with him.
What did Randy and Paula think of your serenade to Simon?
They loved it. The producers and Simon even loved it. They said, "That is the best exit that we've ever had on a show." Simon told me later, "That was a stroke of genius, Matt…a stroke of genius. You made the mold and then you broke it."
Of all the performances you saw, which do you think was the best one that was televised?
Man, that's a great question. Fantasia's performances stand out in my mind. When she did Stevie Wonder—"Signed, Sealed, Delivered"—that was awesome. You know what? I'd have to say that Latoya's Group 3 performance ("All By Myself") was really awesome, too.
My thanks to Matt for taking the time to do the interview and to the people at FOX for setting it up.