This was the last interview of the day and the one I was most looking forward. I was really surprised when he was eliminated the night before so I was interested in what he had to say. After I had my few questions with him (they are highlighted in red) I have to say I might have a small crush on him. He seemed like he enjoyed his Idol experience and hopefully he can go onto success.
I was just wondering, in terms of the song, “Free Ride,” regardless of what everyone else said, it seemed like it had a certain personal feeling for you. I’m wondering what was behind the choice of that.
R. Cardenas: You know what? I guess I have been getting a little heat about picking that song, but I just wanted to come out and sing a really fun song that people would really enjoy. I knew I was going first, and I just wanted to grab the attention of the American public and say, “Watch this show. We really can sing.” I thought it showed my range, and I just really wanted to have a good time with it. It’s so difficult going first, but I just gave it my all.
Well I mean, did you have a personal – like did it have a personal memory for you like, “If I ever get to be on a big TV show I’m going to sing, “Free Ride.”? Did you have a history with the song; I guess is what I’m asking?
R. Cardenas: You know what? I sing it a lot and I love the song for sure and I think it’s so fun. As far as a personal history, like does it mean something special to me? Not necessarily, but I do love the song. I know it like the back of my hand. I wanted to pick something that, even if I was super, super, super nervous, I knew that I could still at least sing the words correctly and sing the melody correctly without being overly nervous about it. So that had a lot to do with it, also just me being comfortable with the song. I love the song and I sung it a lot of times over my career. I think it’s fun. I think it’s a fun song.
I was wondering, since the popularity of Idol has definitely soared this season, do you think that the contestants in the top 24 will have a larger chance than before of being noticed and potentially picked up by a label? Where do you personally want to go from here?
R. Cardenas: Wow yes, I hope so, I really do. I hope to be the only one to be voted off first, and actually make it in this business. You know what? This phenomenon is so amazing. That’s the cool thing about this show, is that even if you are voted off, you still have a chance. Especially this year, there are so many true musicians, people that write songs, people that play their own instruments. Really true musicians like Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry and that were last year.
As far as what’s in store for me, so many doors are already opening and I’m going to continue touring with my band, Impact. Definitely this has kind of inspired me to definitely be in the front. Singing with that amazing band and being in front of so many people, I said, “You know what? I think I can do this.” It inspired me to finish my album and finish the songs that I’m writing. I’ve been talking to producers already and stuff. It’s going to be really great, and I’m really excited about what the future may bring.
Okay, and quickly, what kind of style does your band, Impact, have?
R. Cardenas: Impact is like a vocal jazz, pop, funk group. If you know the group, Take Six, we’re similar to Take Six, except for without the religious undertones. We’re just a contemporary vocal group with a lot of jazz influence, R&B, and funk style. It’s very cool, it’s very different, it’s definitely not commercial or anything like that, but it’s something that I enjoy doing. It challenges me. They’re just a bunch of great musicians, and I love working with them.
It seemed like on the show, and you kind of mentioned this in your little bio piece before you sang, that Simon for some reason had some sort of dislike for you. It seemed kind of obvious on the show too. Did something happen that caused that, or was it just kind of an out-of-the-blue thing?
R. Cardenas: I have no idea. I think, for one reason or another, he just gets ticked off at me – not ticked off, but I think he’s passionate about his opinions. He’s not afraid to show it and to say what he thinks. I just happen to be on the wrong end of that I guess. It hurt obviously, his commentary, but you have to take all that stuff with a grain of salt, the good and the bad. Just take from it what you will and become a better musician for it. I’m not going to live my life trying to please Simon. I’m going to do what I can to be a better musician for me, and put out really good music.
You were the first person to perform on both of the shows out of all the 24 people. Do you think that’s put you at a disadvantage at all, not kind of knowing what the other people were going to do or what to expect or anything like that?
R. Cardenas: Right. Gosh, it’s hard for me to think about that, because I’ll drive myself nuts. It’s like, “What if I would of – you know?” I mean yes, was it hard going first? Absolutely it was hard. It was funny because I was just talking to, just the guys right before hand, and they were wishing me luck and reminded me that I’m about to open the biggest show to ever hit the airwaves. Basically, “Good luck, don’t suck.”
R. Cardenas: Yes, it was tough opening up the brand new season. I wanted to just go out there and just kill it. Did I overdue it maybe a little bit? Maybe a little bit. I don’t know. Thinking back, I maybe would have picked a different song, but there are no regrets. I’m really just happy with the way things turned out and blessed that I got this far.
Did you have the chance to be good friends with any of the others in the final 24?
R. Cardenas: You know what? It’s so funny. There’s actually a fan site called BLUDACHRIS. It’s Blake, Rudy, Chris fan site. It’s so flattering when you kind of see that kind of stuff, because I think people did get that we became really good friends, those two guys in particular. I’ve actually known Blake for quite awhile. We knew each other five years before this even happened. Then Chris and I, we met for the very first time in the very first audition, so like when this whole thing started.
So just to get to be with them and get to know Chris better was just amazing. Such a blessing to have them, and I wish them the best of luck. It’s been great getting to know everyone in the competition really. They’re all fantastic musicians.
What did you guys do in your downtime? How did you spend your free time together?
R. Cardenas: We were a bunch of music dorks really, especially Chris and Blake and I. We’d just sit around and rock out to music and write music and collaborate on stuff. That’s the great thing about this competition, especially this year, is that there are true musicians, people that play their instruments, people that write music. It was so fun to collaborate with them and just to geek out on really cool music.
It was funny because we all have different influences. So I’d bring in a little Latin influence, and Chris would bring a little bit of the rock-ear influence. Blake, he’s very kind of collective in his taste. So he would bring some jazz. So it would mix with some really cool like house beat-boxy stuff. It was just really cool, just to collaborate and make some good music.
I was just wondering which of the guest celebrities you would have liked to work with the most, with J.Lo and Bon Jovi.
R. Cardenas: That is such a sad question too, because I’m like “Dang it, I was so close.”
I know, I don’t mean to rub it in.
R. Cardenas: I think it has to be between Tony Bennett and J.LO. J.LO because maybe they would have incorporated something more Latin because she’s done Latin albums, and that’s just my passion, that’s where I am. I’m oh, I’m so upset that I’m not there to really be there and shine at that. Then Tony Bennett: I studied jazz in college and I would have loved to do a big band night and get to meet him. He’s so fantastic, such a fantastic iconic sort of vocalist. So both those two would have been fantastic. I mean with the lineup, I mean you could have said anybody. They’re just so fantastic. They’re really going to hit it out of the park this year I think with their judges, their guest....
What about outside of that group, is there anyone in the world that you’d like to work with?
R. Cardenas: Yes, I mean I’ve been so lucky to have met some really cool musicians. I’ve gotten to work with people like Take Six, and met David Foster not too long ago. I think if I could pick like the perfect person to work with, somebody like Marc Anthony, who has just an inspiration to me, would be awesome. It’s funny – that’s why it’s funny that JLO is going to be there, because they’re married.
R. Cardenas: So the idea that he might have gone with her, it just like makes me crazy. Thank you for putting that in my mind.
Yes, oh I’m sorry.
R. Cardenas: No, that's okay. I’m so happy for the rest of them. I think it’s going to be such a great show to watch.
I thought you did great actually. Can you just talk a little bit about the whole experience? Unless they’re just going into this, I guess you can’t – I mean can you tell your friends that you’ve made it this far? I mean, like what happens?
R. Cardenas: Yes, I definitely couldn’t tell them for awhile and because everything is just kept so secretive. We kind of live in our own kind of American Idol bubble for awhile. They knew right along with the rest of America, when they saw me on TV. That first time when they saw me get to the Golden Ticket, of course I started getting calls. Then when they saw the Hollywood episode, then I was in a group with Chris Sligh and Blake and myself. We just brought the house down with our performance, and they got to see that. Then of course, I got more calls because of that. Then when they saw the top 24, I got more calls because of that.
It’s just so nice to hear from people, and just everyone has been so fantastic. I’ve gotten tons of e-mails from old friends, from old classmates, from people I don’t even know, just supporting me and just saying, “You know what? I really relate to you. I think you’re really great or whatever.” Just being really supportive, and that’s been so amazing. It has been so great. I just want to thank you to all of them.
Did you have any idea that when you went into this that all these people would come out of the woodwork, or is it sort of like just a surprise to you that this happened?
R. Cardenas: Say again – I’m sorry.
Did you have any idea that people would start coming out of the woodwork, or were you prepared for it in any way at all? Was it like, “Wow....?”
R. Cardenas: They try to kind of prepare us for it when they’re kind of giving us the rundown on what’s going to happen. They say, “Okay, people are going to come out of the woodwork. Don’t be shocked.” Then just literally, just people that I haven’t seen or talked to in ten, fifteen years, are saying, “Hey, I was in your preschool class.” It’s like, “Oh, really, okay.” They’re just showing their support. It’s always great to have six degrees to the American Idol.
It’s funny because every time – and I’m sure all the other contestants who are voted off will feel this too, but you always feel like you kind of let them down, because they’re living vicariously through you. “Hey, I went to elementary with you.” That person kind of feels – and it almost feels like they’re with you there, because they know you. It sucks when being voted off and knowing that, “Oh I kind of let these people down.” But I’m going to keep chugging away and doing what I do and hopefully make it in this crazy, crazy business.
Just going back to performing first, just logistically, how do they decide that and how early do you know that you’re going to go first or whatever order?
R. Cardenas: They keep that kind of stuff pretty secretive too, but I knew the day of. I was glad, I guess to go first, because I got to get it over with. Like I said, it’s definitely nerve racking to know that you’re starting the biggest show in the country. No pressure. But again, I wanted to come out there and give it my all. Nigel came up to me and said, “You know, Rudy, we picked you to go first for a reason. You really bring it on stage. Remember to sing it from your heart.” I think I did that. I gave it all I had and sang it from my heart and left it all on the stage. Of course people are going to hate it. Some people are going to love it, but I know I just gave it my all and I’m happy about what I did.
Okay, so they pick it. It’s not a drawing or anything like that?
R. Cardenas: No, no. We pick our own song.
No, I mean pick who goes when.
R. Cardenas: Oh yes, the producers. I don’t actually really know how that works, but I’m sure – they’ve been doing this for quite awhile. It seems to be working pretty well, so they know what they’re doing as far as the order and stuff is concerned. I feel blessed to even be here. So I just said, “Okay, I’m going first. Okay, I’m just going to just give it my all.”
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this interview.