AI6: Interview with Chris Sligh: Relieved to Be Gone
Yesterday, I was able to participate in a conference call with Chris Sligh and many other media outlets. (All my questions are in red) I was truly surprised to hear some of Chris’s answers to the questions. He sounds like a really nice guy who was using American Idol as a stepping-stone for his band back home. I hope he has great success and I am really disappointed that he left.
Is it true that you were the one who originally wanted to wear the pony hawk and Sanjaya went and stole your idea?
C. Sligh: No. Not at all. I could never pull that off. I give Sanjaya props for pulling it off.
In rehearsals for the song you sang this week, were you getting any sense that you were going to have a problem staying in the pocket, as they say, and I do love learning all of this music lingo along the way?
C. Sligh: You know what the thing was is that actually when I sang with Gwen when we did that, that was on Saturday, and I just picked that song out Friday afternoon, and had changed my song. I was originally going to do “Give a Little Bit” by Supertramp, and the Goo Goo Dolls just did a version of it. I really wanted to challenge myself a little bit more than “Give a Little Bit.” So I had never really looked at the music, and had never really, actually, even listened to the song. So I didn’t realize that it was going to be quite that much of a challenge.
Then by the time I got to rehearsals on Monday, I had started to get the rhythm down a little bit. I went back and listened to my performance from Tuesday probably about ten or fifteen times. It wasn’t a great performance, but honestly, it was not as bad as what the judges made it seem. But that’s part of being on the show. As soon as they gave me the spanking that they did, I kind of knew that I was going home.
Plus you got to see Gwen Stefani up close.
C. Sligh: Yes. She’s a lot prettier in person than she is on camera.
Mute Math’s lead singer Paul Meany said thank you for singing his song a few weeks ago. I just spoke with him. You were considered an early favorite, but you kind of lost momentum. What’s your interpretation, what do you think happened?
C. Sligh: You know what I think it was, Rodney, is I think that for me, I never came into this wanting to win it. I come from an Indy alternative rock background. For me, I think that winning American Idol would hurt what I was really going for. I think what kind of solidified it in my mind was when I was pretty much universally trashed for my arrangement of “Endless Love.” I thought, “This isn’t really the competition for me.” Actually, I almost dropped out that week. I went to the guy from 19, and I was like, “If I drop out when I make the top 10, can I still be on tour?” They were like, “No, you have to get voted out.”
So I said we’ll see what happens. Actually, this week I thought that it was a pretty good song for my voice, and I really gave it my best. I think that’s what I’m going out with is knowing that I gave my best for every song that I did. I admit it wasn’t a great performance this week, but I didn’t think it was a terrible performance either.
What bet did you have with Phil Stacey? We heard you say that to him live on the air.
C. Sligh: I’d knew that I was going home. I just had this feeling in my heart that I was going home because pretty much nobody gets away from being trashed like I did on Tuesday night unscathed.
C. Sligh: I had told Phil that I was going home and he was like, “No way. There’s no way that you’re going home before me.” And I said, “Dude, I bet you $50 I’m going home.” So he took me up on it and I won.
Do you have your $50?
C. Sligh: Yes.
I’m just wondering, since you said you knew that it wasn’t the competition for you, did you feel like maybe if I don’t give my best performance, I’ll get voted out?
C. Sligh: Honestly, obviously, I don’t know that I ever really had it on my mind that I wanted to win, but I did want to do well in the competition. There’s that competitive side of me that kind of kicks in. After the top 12 performance, I took some time to decompress, and talked with some people that I trusted. And then I came out and I was like, “I just really want to do a good job, but I’m going to do it on my own terms. If that means that I get cut early, then that means that I get cut early.”
With “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” it definitely was a riskier choice. But I feel like one of the things that I was a little frustrated with is that if you look through the six songs that I did on the show, all six songs were risks in one way or another, and I felt like that was ignored. Really the judges never commented on my voice, which I think was a little bit frustrating for me. At least say, “You have great vocals, but I didn’t like the arrangement.” It was never that.
I understand that it’s a TV show, and it’s a reality show. American Idol is the number one TV show on the planet for a reason. They know how to make it. It can be political, but at the same time, it’s a TV show and you understand that. So I wasn’t surprised at getting voted off at all.
Will you return to your band that you were playing with before you joined Idol?
C. Sligh: Yes. When I get back to South Carolina, I’m going to hook back up with my band. They had put out a CD that we recorded before I tried out for American Idol. The name of the band is Half Past Forever for those of you that don’t know. Half Past Forever is planning on getting back together. We’ll see what happens. We were getting record label interest before American Idol, so I think doors should open up for us. It will be great.
I’m going to ask you some local questions here. As far as coming back to your church and spending time at home, are you going to be happy to be back? I guess you’re going to have a hectic schedule, though. How much time are you going to be spending here, and are you going to make any appearances here, or that kind of stuff?
C. Sligh: When I get back to Greenville, my plan is definitely to be involved with the church as much as possible. I think that I probably will not be home a ton. Obviously, I’ve got the tour coming up this summer. I think my wife and I are going to take a much needed vacation. So I should be home for three or four weeks, I think, and then I have to be back out a week before the finale to start working on stuff for the finale, and start working on the tour, and everything like that. Yes, I definitely am looking forward to getting back home, and having a normal life for a few weeks.
I had written a little bit of something about the Bob Jones’ comments. Any response to that about them being pointed in your direction?
C. Sligh: I specifically kept my comments about Bob Jones to myself just for personal reasons. I don’t want to throw them underneath the bus. I respect what they do. It’s just not their sect of Christianity is not really what I want to be associated with.
Was a large part of the reason for your song choices each week your wanting to please the judges, or was it mostly for the viewers?
C. Sligh: I would say a mixture of neither. Honestly, I wanted to go away with – for me, I had the standards of what I wanted to do and stuff that I didn’t want to do. So a lot of times the choices were more for me than for anybody else. I wanted to go away and be able to say, “This is the kind of record that I would make.” I feel like all of the songs that I did, the six songs that I did, are songs that I would not mind making a record with.
It was one of those things where, like I said before, I think that a lot of my songs were risky choices, and it’s unfortunate for me that the choices didn’t pay off. But at the same time, this is the most exposure that I could have ever imagined. I tried out on a whim for American Idol back six or seven months ago, and here I am number ten out of a hundred something thousand people that tried out. That’s an amazing, amazing accomplishment that I feel like I should be very, very proud of.
Do you have any words to the judges?
C. Sligh: It was really cool. Simon came up last night afterwards and he said to me, “Chris, the reason why you’re gone is that you lost your sparkle. In the next 24 hours, get your sparkle back because I really think you’re a star.” So that was really, really nice of him to say to me. Randy came up and agreed with Simon and gave me a big hug. So I have a lot of respect and a lot of love for those guys.
One of the things that got you early fans is the way you seemed to poke fun at some of the cheesier conventions of the show, Hasselhoff and what not. Do you think that there’s room in this competition for a contestant to do well, while also subverting the show from within?
C. Sligh: I wondered that myself. Here’s the thing with American Idol. I have figured this out because of the unique position that I was in, it’s funny because I love the show, but at the same time there are some cheesy aspects that I poked fun at. There are people who love the show so much that anything that is bad said about the show, or especially if you say something bad about Simon, for instance as I did and got screwed for it.
There are people who will literally write you hate mail. I have a blog. There are posts that I had up that was just basically saying, “My blog will be back someday soon and you can leave comments on there.” Literally, I would get for weeks after that comment with Simon would get hate mail from people. People were telling me that they hoped that I would die because I told Simon I didn’t sound like Teletubbies.
So it kind of freaked me out because people take American Idol very, very seriously. I don’t know. I would hope that people would realize that me joking around about the show is very, very tongue and cheek because if I’m joking around about the show, it’s something that I’m in, and taking part of and I can’t be too upset with American Idol if they’re making me famous.
Did you intentionally tone down on the clowning at a certain point because you were afraid of that kind of response?
C. Sligh: I did. Honestly, I think that it was when I started getting the hate mail from people that I went, “Whoa, what is this?” I think it kind of scared me, honestly. I had people who were telling me that they hoped I die, and that I hope that I would get my rear end voted off the show tomorrow. It was just horrible, horrible things that people wrote to me. I think it kind of scared me a little bit. So I think for a couple of weeks, I kept my mouth shut for three weeks.
It was tough because I felt like the last couple of weeks I was starting to get back in my groove, and then I go home. But it’s all good. I’m looking forward to seeing what doors open up from here on out.
Chris, you’re on the cover of People Magazine this week, so that’s a good thing.
C. Sligh: I heard about that. I haven’t gotten it yet. They didn’t have it down in the hotel that I’m in.
You shouted out, “Hi Dave,” last week, and presumably that was for founder of Votefortheworst.com.
C. Sligh: I don’t know if I should answer that question.
Do you think that kind of Web site is what did you in because maybe they were voting for vocalists who weren’t as strong as you?
C. Sligh: I’ll say this, Monica. I think that people underestimate Sanjaya. I think that Sanjaya is actually a very good vocalist. If you go to AmericanIdol.com and you download his songs, or even just listen to a preview, he has a good voice. He’s 17 years old. When I was 17 years old, I don’t think that I knew how to sing in a live situation. I think that he gets a bum rap. He’s a very, very sweet kid. You’ve met him. I have a lot of respect for him. I do not envy his position at all.
He’s got a good sense of humor about the ribbing that he gets.
C. Sligh: Yes. I think that that’s good. I think that most 17 year olds would be having an identity crisis right now. He’s doing a really, really great job of doing it. It comes down to this; I made the top ten, that was my goal. I wanted to make the tour. I wanted to be able to do making music for my living, so I don’t have to work at the marketing company that I was working at. I made the top ten and that was my goal. Ultimately, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter who is going to place ahead of me. What matters is the fact that I reached the goal that I really wanted to make.
You mentioned your blog earlier, and I was reading it before they took it down and was a big fan. Was it a bummer for you that you weren’t able to continue blogging?
C. Sligh: Yes, because there’s a couple of things that I wish that they would change about the show. Number one is, I wish that they would let songwriters sing their songs on the show. I had worked really hard to do one of my originals during the semifinals and it just didn’t work out. I wish that they would let people play instruments. I know Taylor has talked about this a little bit, too, and Chris Daughtry also. I wish they would let people play instruments.
The third thing is that I wish that those that enjoy blogging were able to blog about the experience. There are secret parts of the show that they don’t want to get out, and that’s the reason why they keep the blogs down. But I think it would be an interesting read to just see the day to day, what people go through. We work seven days a week and 10-15 hours a day, and not all of that is stuff that America doesn’t need to know about, and that it’s going to take away from the show. So I wish that they would allow us to blog. But at the same time, they’re trying to protect their interest, so I can kind of understand that.
Will you blog now about the experiences of the past couple of months that you weren’t able to?
C. Sligh: Yes. Obviously, they have some things that they don’t want me to talk about, but now that I’m able to blog again it will be very, very cool. I’m planning on blogging that my band has their album that came out a little bit ago. And I’m going to be blogging about that and how excited I am about the album and how excited I am to be back with Half Past Forever. Also, how excited I am to be back with my wife.
You mentioned that things didn’t work out when you tried to do your own song. Can you elaborate? Is it that they just wouldn’t let you or what ended up happening?
C. Sligh: It was one of those things where they were trying to figure out – Nigel and Ken are great at what they do. Like I said before, they have the number one show in the world for a reason, and I think that they felt like America just wasn’t ready for an original yet. That was the next step. I have my opinion on that. I thought that maybe America is not given enough credit. They just decided that they didn’t think America was ready for it yet.
I know that you were mentioning before your friendly bet that you had going on with Phil Stacey. You guys seem like you have pretty good senses of humor. So did you guys place any other bets on the show sometimes? Like how many commercial breaks Seacrest was going to take? Or what Sanjaya’s hair was going to look like when you guys saw him, or anything like that?
C. Sligh: No. It was one of those things that was just a spur of the moment bet. Honestly, the last couple of weeks, Stephanie and Brandon’s performances hadn’t been shown on TV. So I honestly did not know that they were still filming me. I thought I was just singing like Brandon and Stephanie. I had no idea that my shout out, “You owe me $50,” was going to 30 million people.
Now that you’re planning on getting back with your band, I know it’s alternative and more Indy style than American Idol music. So did the guys give you a hard time for going on the show or anything like that?
C. Sligh: No. I think that they saw the opportunities that were good. We had actually gotten some record label interest before we came on the show. Actually two days after I made it through to Randy, Simon, and Paula, we got contacted by a very large player in the industry, who I’ll leave nameless for right now. But he contacted us and he was like, “Dude, drop out of American Idol. I can get your band signed within a month.” I was like, “I just don’t think I can take a chance on doing this.” Actually, the band was really supportive. They thought the same thing. If I make it on American Idol, it could be huge.
Really, ultimately, I’ve said all along in interviews that I wanted to go back to my band. So being in the top 10 is great because I get to get the financial reward of going on the tour, while at the same time being able to stay true to my roots and go back to my band and do the things that I really want to do.
Did you miss playing your guitar since the judges criticized a lot the musical arrangements? Sometimes did you wish you could play your own arrangement?
C. Sligh: Honestly, yes. That was the biggest thing for me that was really tough was not being able to play. I honestly have never had rhythmic difficulties in my whole life as a musician. I think a lot of it has to do with this is the first time I had ever sung without a guitar. I guess I didn’t realize how much my rhythm was tied in with my hands playing a guitar.
What are the secret things they don’t want us to know about the show?
C. Sligh: If I was allowed to talk about it, I would tell you.
Then they’d kill you. Going back a little bit, tell us why you decided to leave Bob Jones?
C. Sligh: I decided to leave Bob Jones, actually, not really through a choice of my own. I actually got kicked out from Bob Jones for going to a Christian Contemporary concert. It was a band called “For Him,” which would be like mid-90’s pop rock. Anyway, they kicked me out and it was actually good because I had been trying to figure out how to leave. My parents had given me the option to go to two colleges, and I chose the less crazy one, believe it or not.
It was just one of those situations where I was 18 when I went to college, and I didn’t have the money to pay for college, so I chose what I could. Then when I left, no disrespect to Bob Jones, because I have no disrespect for what they do, but it’s just not like I said before, sect of Christianity that I really want to be associated with.
What was the name of that band again?
C. Sligh: Half Past Forever.
You have said that you have studied previous seasons of American Idol. How did it measure it up to what you thought?
C. Sligh: Actually, when I looked back at old seasons, I really look at this year’s talent pool. I think that this year’s talent pool is getting a bum rap because there’s no number one person that you think is absolutely going to win, like there has been in the last few years. But when you look at this talent pool, if you look at taking me out of the equation and take the 11 people that are in this, almost every one of those people could have won any other season. I think that that’s tough for people because they attached to the Daughtry’s. They get attached to the Taylor’s. They get attached to the Fantasia’s, but this season you’re seeing some really, really great singers or really, really great performers. I just don’t think that there’s any comparison.
Then as far as the season and how the experience was, it was pretty close to what I thought. I had heard that it was seven days a week that you’re working long, long hours and a lot of waiting around. In the TV world, we call it hurry up and wait, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. We do a lot of hurry up and waiting, so it was very, very similar, I guess, to what I was expecting.
What do you think your best and worst experiences about being on American Idol were?
C. Sligh: I think that my best experience was the friendships that I made. Phil and I got really close, Blake and Chris and I got really close. Basically the four of us guys got very, very close. Gina and I were very, very close. So those friendships were rewarding, kind of unexpected, and really, really cool at the same time.
I think the worst part of the experience was maybe not realizing the potential that I think that I had in the competition. I’m very, very honored to come in 10th place, but ultimately I feel like I could have and probably should have done better. But at the same time, it is an honor. When I look at the singers who are going to sing before me for the most part, I have tons of respect for every singer who’s coming in nine through one this year.
I know on the show you had said that you lost 30 pounds, but then you also said that you were bringing chubby back. So I was wondering if you’re planning on losing more weight, or if you’re going to keep on with bringing the chubby back.
C. Sligh: Bringing chubby back was something I said back before I started to really, really lose weight. That was back at the final 24 when I made that, which was a long, long time ago. So I started losing weight pretty hard after that, and I’ve lost about 30 pounds, and I’m actually planning on losing some more weight. I think that when I get back to the finale, I’m hoping that everyone will be surprised that it’s the same Chris Sligh.
Much luck to you on that. It’s not easy, but it’s always fun to take a look at yourself when you get the chance to lose weight and see how you look afterwards.
C. Sligh: Definitely.
We know that Carrie Underwood has done country and Chris Daughtry is rock, and Taylor has the bluesy feel. You mentioned this Indy style to your music. Do you still feel like there was no place for that in there, even though Carrie had brought with country, and Taylor was with blues?
C. Sligh: I think that maybe Indy pop rock, which I don’t know that there’s no place for it, but I think that the judges had a hard time understanding it. I think that’s the thing with the judges is that they are really, really great when it comes to about 99% of music. But I think you saw it a little bit with Daughtry last year, where they just couldn’t wrap their minds around what Daughtry did. I think the same thing with some of the stuff that I did, that maybe they just don’t understand that kind of music.
The first performance that I did with doing the Mute Math song, it was, calling it a weird student gig as Simon did, I don’t know it’s just like they didn’t understand where I was coming from. I was okay with that, and it wasn’t like I begrudged them that. It’s just that I really wanted to be able to do what I wanted to do and, obviously, it got me to 10th place, so it didn’t work overly well.
When the guy said drop out of the competition, where were you at that point, were in the 24 or where were you?
C. Sligh: It was actually top 12 week. I was really frustrated with --
I got that part, but the other part where the record guy said, “If you drop out of the competition, I can get you a deal.”
C. Sligh: That was actually two days after I made it through to Randy, Simon, and Paula.
I don’t know what you mean by that. Does that mean out in L.A.?
C. Sligh: No. Like in the original auditions, you do the cattle call audition and then you make it through to sing for Randy, Simon, and Paula.
So that would have been a big risk to drop out then, and it wouldn’t have been as big a risk because you didn’t even know you were going to Hollywood at that point.
C. Sligh: Right.
The other thing is, and we asked the same question to Alaina Alexander a couple of weeks ago about why doesn’t anybody do their own songs. And she said that she thought she could, and she was thinking about if she hadn’t been voted out, she was going to do it next week. Now when you said you wanted to do your song, did they just out and out tell you that no you can’t do it, or did they say it’s just not a good idea?
C. Sligh: No. The way that they handled it was they just basically said, “We just don’t think that America is really for it. Why don’t you chose another song?”
Do you know what would have happened if you said, “No, I’m going to do a Chris Sligh song.”
C. Sligh: I’m not sure. The way that I think it works with song choice is, they are not allowed to help you choose a song. But Nigel and Ken can ichschne a choice. Like say that I chose a song that got cleared that they just thought was a bad song for the show, then they can ichschne that choice. I think that’s basically what happened with the original song was, Nigel just felt like it wasn’t a good choice, and so I ended up doing “We All Want To Be Loved” by DC Talk instead.
They didn’t define what this category was this week; they said it was songs that Gwen Stefani had done, or songs that she would have liked, or something?
C. Sligh: I think that it was songs by Gwen Stefani or artists who have inspired Gwen Stefani.
Was there a specific lists of those artists then?
C. Sligh: Basically her management sent over a list and we had to choose from a very, very short list of songs.
Just following up on a comment that you made before that you thought that maybe it wasn’t the competition for you, and you also said a little bit later that you understand it’s a TV show and maybe that played a part in why you had to go. Can you just elaborate on those two thoughts for me? If it wasn’t the type of competition for you, what type of competition do you think it is, and were you surprised to discover?
C. Sligh: I should clarify that. I don’t want to disrespect the show at all. I think that for me, I started to realize that in order to win this competition I think that I would have had to make song choices that I really didn’t want to make.
Didn’t you feel like you had already started to make song choices you didn’t want to make? It sounded like you were saying in the last couple of weeks, you’ve already had to do that.
C. Sligh: No. I think in the last couple of weeks I still stayed true. Like I said, all six songs that I’ve done so far on the show I would have no problem recording and making a record with those songs. I think that what happens is that we get a list of songs to choose from, and there’s the obvious choices that I could chose. There are those pop standards that would show off the fact that I have a big voice. I specifically stayed away from those songs. I think, honestly, that that’s kind of what hurt me. There was a song specifically that I could have done this last week that I think it would have been a totally different story as far as the competition.
What song was that?
C. Sligh: I don’t think we’re allowed to give away songs. Sorry about that. There was a song specifically that I had in mind, and I was thinking about it really, really hard, and I just thought, “If I do this, it just isn’t me.” I think that it would have gone really, really well with the competition, but it just wasn’t me. That’s what I mean by that.
Like I did “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” which is such a great song and I have so much respect for Sting and the Police. It’s a song that I wish that I had written. Whereas this other song is not one that I wish that I had written, but it would have gone really well with this competition.
When you say that you understand it’s a TV show, I’m just wondering what you meant by that when you said that.
C. Sligh: I understand it’s a TV show in that it’s a reality TV competition. Like people are voting on what they think is the best, and the segment of the population who would think that “Typical” by Mute Math is the best song of the night is not going to be the people who are voting the most. I think that’s what I was trying to say. It’s no disrespect for the show.
The shout out to Dave, I was just wondering if that was more just playing along with the crazy world of all things Idol, like just having fun with the whole thing. Or if you thought it was actually a strategy for trying to get votes because that thing does generate some votes.
C. Sligh: I think that I’ve shown all along that I joke around about different stuff. I think in retrospect, it was a poor choice because I think that certain people took it as disrespect towards the show. Sometimes with a snarky sense of humor, it can come across like that. I honestly did not mean it as disrespectful towards the show. I was just being stupid and silly, and it ended up not being a good choice.
You had mentioned that you’re going 24/7, always doing things. Do you feel, even though you’re disappointed to be leaving, a kind of a sense of relief?
C. Sligh: Yes. Honestly, actually it was kind of funny. Phil and Phil’s wife, Kendra, last night came over to my wife and I and gave us a round of applause. They were like, “You guys are so lucky.” It’s nice because I made the tour, but at the same time I get to go home and have a little bit of a vacation. Obviously, I would have loved to do better, but there is a little bit of a sense of relief because, honestly, I really did not enjoy taking pop songs that sound great at four minutes and trying to stuff them into a minute and a half.
You talk about your wife a lot, and how much you miss her. How did she handle seeing you get criticized on TV?
C. Sligh: She handled it really well. I think that she understands that it’s a TV show. Randy, Simon, and Paula are the main characters. They are the stars of this TV show, and they’re going to say things that are maybe a little bit more outrageous than what they should be. I think that she understood that. She did a really great job. There were times where she would get offended, I guess, for her man, but for the most part she did a really great job. Then whenever she would get upset, I’d say, “Look, it’s okay. They’re saying what they feel. Simon says what he says because he wants TV ratings.”
Touching on the judges, which you were just talking about, how serious did you take their commentary from week to week? And which judge’s words did you take to heart the most?
C. Sligh: I think that what I tried to do every week is, I would listen to what the judges say. I think that what most people don’t realize is that when you’re on stage, you cannot hear what the judges say. That’s why you see mystified looks on a lot of the contestants faces on TV is because they’re straining really, really hard to hear what the judges are saying. A lot of times, once you hear what the judges say, then you go back and watch the tape, if you can, to see what they’re saying.
Then what I would do is go home and watch the performance myself on YouTube or wherever, and try to figure out if what they’re saying is true. I don’t want to ever be one of those arrogant little jerks who thinks that they’re always right. What I wanted to do is figure out if what they’re saying is true. And if it’s not completely true, maybe it’s partly true, and this is what I need to fix next week when I go in.
I think that definitely Simon, even though he says the most outrageous things, usually he’s the most honest. Although, Randy has been pretty harsh this year, too. But Simon usually is the one who I value his opinion the most, even though I think that he was the one who was definitely the hardest on me this year.
Moderator: Chris, do you have any closing remarks?
C. Sligh: I would just like to say thanks to everybody. You guys are doing an incredible job at what you do. Thanks for taking the time to actually write words about me. It means a lot.
Thanks to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call.