AI6: Interview with AJ Tabaldo: The Other One That Got Away
Another extremely nice contestant was let go this past week. Here are the transcripts from the AJ Tabaldo media call. He dishes on lots of topics and seemed surprised that he was in this position today. I canít blame him, it was NOT his week to go.
You know, I have to agree with Paula Abdulí s assessment from last night. That itís really hard to see you go, because you are such a talented singer.
A. Tabaldo: Thank you.
You really are. Iím not just saying that.
A. Tabaldo: That means a lot, really it does. It makes me feel so much better.
I have friends who are Filipino, and sometimes their families question the entertainment business. Can you tell me about how your family has supported your musical endeavors, and also how you will continue to pursue singing, because you really should?
A. Tabaldo: My family is so supportive, especially my parents. They go to every show, every audition, everything that has to do with music. Theyíve been supporting me since I was 12 years old trying to break out in this business. They were with me on my first American Idol audition when I was a minor. They slept outside with me. My whole family is so supportive. They want me to succeed, because they know this is exactly what I want to do in my life.
Weíre so diverse, not only because weíre Filipino. Weíre just so close knit and I donít know what I would do without them. I would probably be a wreck right now if I didnít have their support. They know how bad I want this and how much Iíve been trying to make it and to finally get my shot.
As far as me continuing to pursue, Iím going to keep on going. My whole thing is, Iíve tried so long trying to make it, five times auditioning for Idol alone, and then trying to make it the hard, long way since I was 12 years old. Why give up now? Thatís my whole thing. So Iím going to definitely keep on going. I made so many contacts here with American Idol and the judges seemed to enjoy me and theyíve given me a little inspiration and some positive things that, hopefully, the future will entail.
I definitely just want to keep on working hard towards my goal and eventually, get my stuff out there. Hopefully, America will remember me and embrace me, once I get out there on my own away from the Idol spotlight deal.
Correct me if Iím wrong, but did you and Leslie sing the same song?
A. Tabaldo: Yes, we did.
Okay, thatís what I thought. A bad luck song, I donít know. What are your thoughts on the song in looking back?
A. Tabaldo: Based on my first performance from the first week, I took their constructive criticism and tried to choose something different, still fun, and showing off my range. They liked it, so nothing against the song at all. I guess it was just coincidence that we happened to choose the same thing, because we really didnít know. Because the guys and girls are so separated in the competition that when we choose and rehearse our songs, weíre separate. So we really donít know what the girls are doing and vice versa.
I love the song. It definitely got good reviews from the judges, didnít go over well with America, unfortunately, but Iím happy with it. And Iím still thankful for all the people who did vote for me and all the fans that I got out there. Iím just hoping that will catapult something for me in the future, and hopefully, America will remember me and embrace me when I plan on putting stuff out there and pursuing my career finally out on my own.
Iím working on a piece on ďThe National AnthemĒ and how so many idols go on to make that the way that they are seen in the public light. I saw in your profile on the Idol page that you had an embarrassing moment with ďThe National AnthemĒ. Can you share that story and tell me about how difficult getting in front of a lot of people and singing that song might be versus being on American Idol?
A. Tabaldo: That incident happened back in high school. It was one of the big football games, and I sang and I just went completely blank, and I just hummed the rest of it. It was just embarrassing, but from that point on, Iíve become, actually, a national anthem singer. I already do it for professional boxing matches that are aired on Showtime and HBO. Hopefully, I can continue to do that, to keep singing, to keep working, and getting my face and voice out there after Idol. I think thatís a great outlet to start, because itís a demanding and challenging song to sing, so anybody who can pull off ďThe National AnthemĒ to me is pretty talented.
You had even said before that the judges really liked you the other night. Were you surprised at all that you were voted out of the show?
A. Tabaldo: Yes, I was definitely shocked, along with the judges and a few other people, but thatís the name of the game. Not everybody gets to stay. I went out there and did my best. Iím happy that Iím leaving on a good note at least, to look at it on a positive side, because, obviously, I didnít really want to leave this early in the game. But I would much rather go out this way and then the fact that I did my performance. I felt like I went out with a bang versus going out on a week where the judges said I was horrible or that I sucked or something. Do you know what I mean?
A. Tabaldo: Itís just I felt like I went out on a good note. And hopefully, like other contestants who went out and the judges totally disagreed with the way America voted, I can mold a career thatís just like them, like Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry. So, hopefully, Iíll be out there one day.
Definitely, and also now, you said five times, thatís pretty persistent of you. Do you regret auditioning that many times at all and auditioning this last time?
A. Tabaldo: No, not at all. American Idol to me has been such a perfect opportunity for struggling artists like myself, because you go through the struggles and the years of trying to make it in this business. Iíve been trying to do it since I was 12. And when you get the constant door slamming in your face, it hurts, and itís hard, and itís not an easy business to get into.
Then thereís a show like American Idol that people call the shortcut, or whatever they want to say. But to me, itís just a perfect outlet for those who just are not getting the chance, and against the average underdog, average guy like me a chance to finally get some kind of shine, and hopefully, enough to catapult a career. I just think its perfect and no regrets at all. If I could try again, I probably would.
In terms of the surprise about your elimination, not just you, the judges, do you think youíre a better singer than some of the people that are left?
A. Tabaldo: To me, this actually a tough year. There are some big contenders in this competition. But I guess, based on what the judges say, I feel like I was up there with the better singers, and wish that I could have stayed longer, but thatís the name of the game. Not only is it a singing competition, but it also turns into a popularity contest. America votes in so many different degrees. They want to go against the judges, or they want to agree with the judges. There are just so many different things they vote on and at the end of the day, you could be the greatest singer and still go home.
I feel that American Idol has shown that over the seasons. And people like me, who have been voted off and have been praised by the judges, I feel like Iím going to be okay. Thereís going to be opportunity out there, and hopefully, the doors keep opening and the opportunities keep rolling in.
Yes, youíre not the first person that the judges thought was really good and got eliminated. Which night is more nerve wracking, the performance night, or the elimination night?
A. Tabaldo: Definitely, the elimination night.
A. Tabaldo: Performance night, they prepare a solo. Theyíre so good to us. They donít just throw us out there in front of national TV in front of 30 million or 40 million viewers. They give us so much practice and enough rehearsal to where weíre comfortable. And by the time itís time to do it in front of the judges, its second nature, piece of cake.
On elimination day, everything is so up in the air. Not only are nerves going, but youíre worried about how the reaction is going to be and what the result is going to be, and then having to sing your song under those circumstances. If youíre going to cry, if youíre going to get through your song. Do you know what I mean? Thereís just so much more pressure and so much more anxiety going through you then performance day, because weíre all so one with the stage. Thatís just where our niche is and our element, so definitely, elimination day has to be the worst day.
Just looking at some early reports that have come in from some entertainment magazines, theyíre saying that, obviously, Iím sure you read some of it, but it was truly a surprise that this happened.
A. Tabaldo: Yes.
Some analysts or entertainment reporters have said that you have a great voice, but perhaps the reason why you were eliminated so early is that you didnít develop enough of a fan base. What is your reaction to that?
A. Tabaldo: I think thatís partly true. At the end of the day, it is a singing competition and a reality show, and there are people who get the opportunity to create larger fan bases, as far as early exposure and what-not. No animosity towards it all, everything to me happens for a reason. But I feel maybe if I did get a little bit more exposure and opportunity to gain a bigger fan base before the live show, who knows? Maybe I would have stayed in longer, but I donít know. Itís a tough one, because the competition to me is fair. At the same time, itís hard to go against those people who have equivalent talent, yet have established such huge fan bases at the same time.
I think I was a little under-advantaged, but I feel very proud that I got this far based on talent alone without a back story, without the early exposure. All America saw was my talent and that got me through, at least two rounds, so Iím pretty proud of myself.
How have these other contestants developed fan bases? How do you do that?
A. Tabaldo: I donít know. I guess during the audition process, they have their back stories shown and their auditions are shown, so people get to know them more and they get a feel for who they are before the live show even starts. America develops their favorites automatically, and thatís completely fair. Itís just the way the show works.
Unfortunately, I didnít get too much exposure in the beginning, which is okay. I think thatís the way America just has their favorites and theyíre very gung ho for who they want to be in that top twelve or that top ten, and they stick to their guts. Itís all up to them at the end of the day. We canít do much, but do our best.
Do you remember that moment that they said you were being eliminated?
A. Tabaldo: Yes, itís very clear to me. It was jaw dropping, very surreal, very nerve wracking all at the same time. I was standing up there, bottom two, next to Sanjaya. I mentally prepared myself, because anything is possible. I felt like I could totally go home, or it could totally go the other way and he could be eliminated. It was so up and down iffy for me, but I mentally prepared myself, because I knew that if it was me going home, which it was, it was my last chance to sing in front of America, as far as being on American Idol and I wanted to go out with a bang, and I feel like I did. I feel like I was able to show America what I can do. And, hopefully, they can look back and think, ďOh my gosh, maybe we shouldnít have voted him off, or maybe we should have voted for him, because heís really good,Ē so I just hope to have left an impression.
Any regrets on the song choice or anything?
A. Tabaldo: No, not at all. I guess I donít regret it, because I did get good reviews from the judges and as contestants, thatís what we really want. Even though itís really based on what America thinks, we really do care about what the judges have to say, because we know, in a way, they sway the votes and it does influence America. But in this incident, it really didnít, because the judges did praise me and said that I was a talent and what-not. They just went the other way, which is okay. There are still millions of other people who did vote for me, and that makes me feel good. It makes me feel like my talent is validated and that I can still succeed after American Idol.
What were the comments that you got from each of the judges?
A. Tabaldo: Letís see. Randy said something about soul, such an out-of-body experience. Let me try to bring this back. Randy said something about how he liked that I chose that. He said it was something that was kind of nice and that he liked how it showed off my skills. Paula said that I have a really, really good voice, and that she loved how I experience other kinds of genres and expand my horizons. Simon was pretty impressed. He said that it was a really good performance, and that he feels like I did the right thing by choosing that kind of song, that kind of style of singing, the way I did, because he said he feels like it set me apart and it made myself different. I think thatís it.
Are you heading back home today?
A. Tabaldo: Yes. Iím going back to the hometown and focus for a little bit and see where I want to go and which direction, what decisions Iím going to make. I think Iíll just take a few days for myself, just to get back to reality for a second.
Iíve talked to former Idols in the past and said they sort of sensed that maybe they might be going, whether it was the way that producers looked at them, or where they positioned them, or anything like that. Did you sense anything?
A. Tabaldo: Yes. Itís always in the back of my head. The producers are really good at throwing us off, so I wanted to have the benefit of the doubt. After the top row was free and nobody from that top row was eliminated, I just knew that two people from the bottom couch were going to go and I was in that bottom couch.
Chris Rich was amazing. Brandon is amazing. Sanjaya is amazing. We were all so good, but when it was down to me and Sanjaya, I knew that there was a very good chance that it would be me going home. Despite how hard the judges had been on him, I just knew he was a really early favorite and had a huge fan base who supported him, which is admirable. I had an inkling feeling. I didnít want to psyche myself out, but at the same time, I kind of had a feeling that it was going to be me. It gave me a chance to mentally prepare myself, so I could get through my song.
Very cool. Some of the other singing competition shows, the contestants are allowed to blog throughout the season. Do you wish that you guys would be able to do that?
A. Tabaldo: The only thing I wish I could do is respond to the positive mail, positive blogs and stuff. Thatís what I wish I could do. Other than that, in the early rounds, they advise us to stay away from it. It will really benefit us in the future, or in the competition. I look back now and itís true, because there are some contestants, they sneak and try to read it. They get really affected because they read all the negative ones and it really affects their performance and how they feel about themselves.
I personally stayed away from it, because I know thereís people out there who may not enjoy what I do and who I am as an artist, and theyíre going to say negative things and thatís what comes with the territory. But I just personally chose to stay away from it, because I was trying to focus on this competition and do well without having all of that stuff in the back of my mind right before I go on stage, like just the negative things I didnít want to have to worry about thinking about that.
Speaking of whatís on the Internet, were the guys aware of what was going on with Antonella, and did you guys talk about it?
A. Tabaldo: We donít talk about it much. We love the girl. Sheís a really good friend of mine. Sheís a strong person and I feel like sheís going to do really well, but we stay away from it. Thereís some sleazy people out there who do some sleazy things. I feel bad for her, but sheís beautiful. Sheís going to do so well in this competition, and I know everything is going to be okay with her, but we try to stay away from it.
I want to ask you, since you did audition for Idol five times, was the reality what you expected, or what you hoped to gain from the experience, what you imagined? Was it better than you imagined? Tell me a little bit about, you had so many hopes built up for so many years before you finally made it.
A. Tabaldo: Like I said, Iíve tried so many different avenues, and American Idol has really only been the one who has given me a chance and opportunity. Iíve auditioned five times and every year, I feel like Iíve gotten better and gotten further. Like last year, I made it to Hollywood, got cut the first round, came back, and I was part of the top 24 or top 20, to say even that. But it was everything I imagined and more. It was definitely an education for me. I learned so much about the business, met so many people, met so many contacts. I just feel like by making it this far, Iím going to be okay and Iím finally going to get that opportunity to pursue something after all these years of trying to make it.
The glitz and glamour are just like you see on TV. They treat us great. They teach us so much, and itís free. Thatís the best part. Itís free boot camp for singers. Itís awesome. If I could do it all over again, I would. Itís just that amazing.
From home last night, it looked like Ryan Seacrest made a joke about Kelly Picklerís boobs, and I was wondering if that was the case from being on the set, and what was your reaction?
A. Tabaldo: I guess I didnít catch on to the joke.
Okay. Well, he looked at her chest and said, ďHave you bought anything new with your money?Ē
A. Tabaldo: Oh, is that when she said shoes, or something like that?
A. Tabaldo: I was sitting behind, so I didnít really see.
Just to let you know that if voting was allowed here in the Philippines, you wouldnít have been sent home last night.
A. Tabaldo: Thank you, guys.
Tell me, just how Filipino are you? Do you speak any Filipino? Do you eat Filipino foods, and stuff like that?
A. Tabaldo: I donít speak fluently. My mom does, and my grandparents do, and some of my cousins, aunts, and uncles are all fluent in Tagalog and Ilokano. Iím actually 75% Filipino. My dad is half and my mom is full-blooded. We eat Filipino food all the time, almost every day. My favorite dish is sinigang.
A. Tabaldo: I really embrace the Filipino heritage.
Have you ever been here? When was the last time you were here?
A. Tabaldo: Iíve never been, but I was actually supposed to go this year to sing at a family memberís wedding, but because of Idol, I wasnít able to make it. But I do plan on going one day. I would love to visit.
Are you aware that Idol finalist Jasmine Trias was able to establish a career here and she has her own album here and has gotten several product endorsements? I was thinking maybe if you knew that, perhaps you would have some plans of doing the same.
A. Tabaldo: Definitely. I definitely plan on expanding my horizons. I would love to be an international performer, not just here in the States. I would love to travel abroad and be successful in other parts of the country, especially Philippines where my heritage. That would be great, because I admire Jasmine Trias. She was from season three. I remember her. So sheís doing really well over there?
Tell me, does the fact that youíre Asian, like Paul Kim, who went home last week, does that have any bearing on how far you go in the competition?
A. Tabaldo: I donít know. I donít think race has a lot to do with it. I think it really is a singing competition and a popularity competition all put together in one. So, I donít think race has a lot to do with -- hello.
A. Tabaldo I donít think race has a bearing on the competition at all, because itís been so diverse. Every season there have been Asians, thereís been Hispanics, thereís been Indians. Itís just what America enjoys as far as who you are as a person, because Iím so diverse. And me being Filipino, I donít think really had a bearing on why I got cut earlier and it seemed like that. But I think Iíll be okay. I think I can establish a career.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call.