Today, I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Michael Johns. I was so sad that he was the one to go this week, since he was a favorite. I wish him the best of luck with his future music career.
I thought that your performance after you found out about the vote last night was your best ever. What was going through your head when you were performing? Maybe if that could have been your Tuesday night performance, I think youíd still be there. What were your thoughts during that performance?
M. Johns: Thatís just it, I wasnít thinking; I was feeling. Iím glad that came across.
I just want to get your thoughts on being voted off. You said you were surprised. What was going through your head then when you found out?
M. Johns: I mean, of course. I would be lying to say that I wasnít shocked. I hadnít been in the bottom three and I thought the last two or three weeks had been my strongest. Weíre in this competition and stuff can happen, and it did.
When you saw that everybody else, for song of inspiration week, were singing similar ballads with very heavy themes, did you think that singing a rock song was going to be an advantage or did you stop and go, ďMaybe I should be doing what theyíre doing, too?Ē
M. Johns: No, Iíve never chosen a song based on what the competition is doing, do you know what Iím saying? I think I pick songs that mean something to me lyrically and emotionally. Singing ďDream OnĒ by Aerosmith with a 20-piece orchestra, Iíve said it on the show, thatís amazing.
No regrets on the song choice even though Simon Ö last night?
M. Johns: Absolutely no regrets at all, mate.
Did you feel you always had to perform an original take on each song or just a very good one?
M. Johns: Some weeks itís easier to do an original take, like when I did Dolly week and some of the other weeks. Just go out there, be yourself and do your best. Thatís all you can ask, you know?
Which performance turned out the most like youíd planned?
M. Johns: ďItís All Wrong, But Itís All Right,Ē the Dolly week, turning a country song into a soul song. Thatís my niche. Iím just sad Iím not going to do any more of it.
I wanted to reexamine that question for a minute about the song choice this week. Given the whole broad category of inspiration, a lot of people went for things which had a very strong specific emotion. They were talking about things like God, equality, freedom or something like that. ďDream OnĒ is a more general tune. In a way, do you think, in retrospect, that maybe it wasnít able to evoke as much emotion as some of the other songs?
M. Johns: No, because, as I said, Iím living my dream. That song is all about how they can struggle and overcome things, and Iíve done that for the last ten years. Living in America, this is my dream. Dream on until the dreams come true, and theyíre coming true right now. Thatís why I chose that song for sure.
They said that you have this really goofy, fun persona off stage, but you seem so serious and earnest on stage. How come you didnít show more of the goofy side of yourself on stage while you were performing?
M. Johns: When I perform I go into a zone. Even like when we were in dress rehearsals and stuff, I go up another notch from there. I donít know what comes out of me sometimes. Off stage, thatís a whole different person. Iím just Michael, like to have fun and cut it up. On stage is when I go to work, you know?
What song were you planning to do next week for Mariah Carey week if you had stuck around?
M. John: A really cool soul version, blues soul version again of ďVision of LoveĒ.
Wow. Her first hit. Thatís great.
M. Johns: It was hot, too, so Iím a little bummed.
I was reading your bio on the Fox Web site this morning and I saw that it said you had the Wiggles CD in your collection, and I needed to know more about it. Can you elaborate on it a little bit?
M. Johns: Once youíre in your late 20ís you start getting nephews and nieces and everything, cousins and whatnot, and yes, theyíre one of the biggest acts coming out of Australia. You pretty much canít escape them.
How was it for you working with Dolly Parton? I know she was one of your inspirations musically and one of your first concerts.
M. Johns: Absolutely. Absolutely amazing. I even got to speak to her this morning. She was just saying what a fan of mine she was. Thatís just so surreal, to hear Dolly Parton saying, ďI canít wait to sing a duet with you one day.Ē Thatís awesome.
What did you really think about Simonís comment?
M. Johns: Sometimes Simon is off the mark, to be honest. Most times heís on, and I respect his opinion a lot, but he wanted me to sing that soul blues stuff every week. Iím a rock soul singer. Do you know what I mean? I like to do both genres, so I wasnít necessarily going to always hand it to what the judges said every week. Do you know what I mean? You have to go out there and say this is the kind of record I am going to make and this is the sound I do. Some weeks they loved it, some weeks they didnít.
Ryan gave a little cruel twist in a way where he said, ďLast year no one got kicked off, but this year Michael Johns is going home.Ē How did you feel about that? Whatís up next for you?
M. Johns: Look, I get the television aspect of this competition, but it was tough. I thought okay, Iím going home and then he did that and I was, ďWait a second, maybe Iím not going home. Maybe theyíre just having a good laugh.Ē I hadnít been in the bottom three before, so I was thinking that was a possibility. When reality set in and Ryan gave me a look as if to say, ďLook, I am so sorry I had to do that,Ē but you get it. I donít hold it against Ryan or anything. After this Iím hopefully going to make a great record. It wonít be the last you see of me.
I know that there had been some comparisons between you and Chris Daughtry from a few seasons ago and how both of you were eliminated way before your time. I was wondering if you saw yourself at all like the Daughtry of this season.
M. Johns: Iíve been hearing that a bunch, actually, this morning. Not at all. Chris is an amazing artist and a great guy above that. Iíve gotten to meet him a few times and everyone has nothing but good things to say about him. If put in that category, I feel very fortunate.
I have a Chris Daughtry question. He once said that he thought that he got more credibility by not winning American Idol because he was rock-and-roll. How do you feel about that?
M. Johns: Iíve heard Chris say that as well. Look, winning the thing or not winning Idol, it really depends on the artist. It depends on what album you make afterwards. It depends whether or not on the show you were absolutely true to yourself and did not change. I think the people who have succeeded after Idol, from the Kimberly Lockeís to the Carrie Underwoodís, thatís the one common thing, that theyíre themselves and they stayed true to their hearts. Thatís pretty cool.
What are you looking forward to most about the tour?
M. Johns: Just getting out there. Most artists, the kind of career you have to have to have 10,000 plus people at a show, thatís pretty rare company. The fact that we get to do this from the show, what an honor. I just canít wait to get out there and rock.
What do Australians do to drown their sorrows?
M. Johns: Pick your poison. Beer or whatever. Weíre a pretty beer drinking country, so thatís probably what Iím going to do here in a little bit.
I wanted to know why you didnít try to make it on Ö?
M. Johns: No. Iím really happy to have been here in America and doing this. Iíve lived here for 10 years and Iím going to live here for the rest of my life probably. Iím not sure yet if Iíll be back in Australia, but Ö
I understand your wife is from Fort Worth. How much time do you plan to spend here in the future?
M. Johns: Apart from last Christmas, Iíve spent the last four Christmases there. I get to Dallas usually at Thanksgiving or Christmas, or at least one of them. Iím going to be there. My in-laws are there, my whole family. Iíll be there a lot. Youíll be seeing a bunch of me.
I hope you perform around here, by the way. You said that you had already heard from Dolly Parton this morning. Can you tell me if youíve heard from other people in terms of record deals?
M. Johns: I got a reach-out from Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman.
M. Johns: Yes, saying I was their favorite and they watched every week. Itís just amazing how far this show reaches, everyone from a Dolly Parton to Keith Urban. Itís insane.
Iím just obsessed with the medleys that you guys do on the show. It seems like with some of them, the dance movements, especially Jason and you, you really got into them, I guess I should say.
M. Johns: You know what? This year more than any other year, David Cook and I, I tried to bring as much light to it as I could. You canít take that stuff too seriously without looking like an idiot, you know? Ö try to have fun with it and just laugh. I actually really, really enjoyed Wednesday. Not Thursdays, but Wednesdays.
I just wanted to ask really quick; do you think your costume, what you wore, the ascot, had anything to do with it? You donít really see that in America.
M. Johns: No, I donít think so. I mean, the ascot that killed America. No. It was a fun outfit. It was time to step it up a little bit stylistically and I went for it. No regrets there.
You left a little bit earlier than most of us expected you to, but then there have been a lot of people in the past, like Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, those sorts of people who have done the same and left a little earlier than maybe they should have. That must give you a lot of hope.
M. Johns: Yes. Look, especially this year, it has been written in the press, and especially with all the Ö do with Idol, saying this is the best top 12 theyíve ever had, and the nicest top 12, which is another compliment. Of any season that I could have been on, to be a part of this one was just really special. The fact that there was no laughingstock, there were no jokers, do you know what I mean? I think we had a lot of respect in the public eye, and thatís something I can be very proud of.
Just quickly, you said about Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, what form was their message? Was it a phone call, e-mail? How did they get in touch?
M. Johns: It was a message passed on to me at an event we went to on Wednesday night after Idol Gives Back. It was the last thing I was expecting to hear, but any time you can get two great Australians saying that to you, I was very, very honored.
You had some of the more professional experiences of some of the competitors. Do you think that worked against you in terms of the voter at home who thinks you donít need the help, you already have been in the business?
M. Johns: I didnít know how that would work out for me. The thing about this season is a lot of us have made records, worked with producers, had deals or something cooking, do you know what I mean? I think thatís why youíre seeing such a strong top 12. Itís really refreshing for me to be on a show that had so much talent this year. No one was really necessarily competing against any one, like me and Dave Cook going for the rocker vote, or Brooke and Carly. It was really cool to be with ten individual artists. I thought it was really cool. Did it help me or hurt me? I donít know.
What was your thinking? What got you down to San Diego where you auditioned? Had the word gone out that hey, theyíre looking for more experienced people this year?
M. Johns: No. Iím sorry, no. As Simon says, the show is only as good as the talent that walks through the door. For some reason, the way that it worked this year was like they wanted it to be a singing competition rather than a TV show. Do you know what I mean? No controversy of Sanjaya or whoever else. They wanted to make it a really good singing competition, and I think thatís what they did. I applaud them for it.
I wanted to first ask, I know that a lot of times the judges, when they give you comments, made comments about song choice. I wanted to know how important song choice was and how you made your decisions on what songs to sing.
M. Johns: I think song choice is a very personal thing. Itís like if you canít go out and believe every lyric or it doesnít have an emotion or connection to you, then itís not going to work. So my whole experience on the show was Simon saying, ďI want you to sing more of the blues soul stuff and everything,Ē but not every theme week fit into that. What I chose throughout the entire competition was a representation of the kind of artist Iím going to be after I get voted off. Iím going to be a rock soul singer. Iím going to make that kind of record. Iím proud that I stayed true to that throughout the entire competition.
I wanted to ask about the song you guys sang to start the show off last night. It was a pretty overtly Christian religious song. I wondered if that was brought to you by the producers as an option, like if somebody isnít comfortable singing this or something like that, how did that work?
M. Johns: Religions are personal. I think thereís a big difference between spiritual and religion, you know what I mean? With Idol Gives Back itís a bigger picture out there. Just to be a part of something like that, itís just magic. I didnít expect that coming into the season. Youíre thinking about the singing in the competition, but then Sunday night happened and youíre just like oh, my goodness. Itís amazing to sit there and look at these artists giving back and doing such good. I was happy to sing it.
We have 1,000 readers who are just absolutely shocked that you were eliminated. How does that make you feel?
M. Johns: You know what? Nothing has sunken in just quite yet, but the backlash that Iím seeing in snippets of the press and in talking to you guys, that means a lot. It means that I struck a nerve somewhere. This year more than any other year I really believe, especially with this top eight, that you canít let the person thatís your favorite go, ďHe had a great week,Ē or, ďShe had a great week,Ē and Iím going to give him half of my votes and then Iím going to do the other one who didnít do so well. Do you know what I mean? A split vote like that can happen and unfortunately, the people that you thought were going to be safe go home.
Anything in particular that you want to say to those fans who have been supporting you throughout the competition?
M. Johns: Itís been overwhelming. Iíve been getting letters, flowers and all sorts of gifts. Thank you. Iíll see you on tour. Iím going to give you guys a good record to buy next year.
Iím just wondering, you went into the night in a really good place. You were right in front of the judges when you finished your song and I noticed that you hugged them all and they said a lot to you. What kind of stuff did they say to you after you finished singing?
M. Johns: I think Paula has been spot-on this year. I really do. Itís been kind of a weird judging year, you know? All the contestants kind of feel that. Paula grabbed me and said, ďLook, I have no doubt in my mind, Iíll bet my house on it, that Iím going to be sitting at a concert youíre doing one day very soon. Youíre super-talented.Ē Randy gave me that kind of advice, too, like, ďI canít wait to see what youíre going to do with your career.Ē The fact that Simon told America that he was going to miss me and Iím a good guy, hearing youíre a good guy from Simon, thatís really cool.
Who are you going to miss most of the people you got to hang out with?
M. Johns: You think that Wednesday nightís are put-ons and people are crying in front of the camera; itís not. Youíre with each other seriously 24/7 and get to know each other intimately, you know what I mean? You learn about peopleís husbands, wives and boyfriends; all that kind of stuff. Iím going to be sad to see them all go. I think theyíre really talented. There are a lot of people behind the scenes, too, that arenít the contestants that are just there to help your career, guide you and give you advice. Iím going to miss those people, too.
A couple of my other questions have been asked, but I did want to ask you a little bit about this mild backlash Iíve been seeing about people saying this is American Idol and an Australian and an Irish person shouldnít be up for this. I wanted to get your thoughts, obviously, on if youíve heard any of that and what you think about that.
M. Johns: Yes. If you look at all the contestants, itís a pretty amazing year. This really has been a melting pot Idol. Youíve had the whole array. You have David and Brooke that are there that are like fully American. Then you have David Archuleta. His mom is half Mexican or something; Iím not sure. Then you have Syesha who has, I think, some Cuban in here. Jason Castro, the same. Ramiele was born in Saudi Arabia. All these things have come together. The entire top 12 was that. Chikezie, Nigerian background and stuff. It was pretty cool to see that America didnít really care about that side of it as much. They cared about the fact that you were a real person and can you sing? I think thatís all that you can ask for out of this kind of competition.
Do you have any advice for any future contestants who want to try out for American Idol?
M. Johns: Absolutely. I think so highly of the show. I liked the show before just as a fan, but now I love being through it and come out the other side. Youíre in the best hands of people who really care about you. Just go in there and stay true to yourself and good things can happen.
What did you learn from your experience on Idol?
M. Johns: How to deal with no sleep. Iím very proud of the fact that my friends and family, from every interview theyíve seen or any quotes theyíve read or the pre-packages and such, theyíve seen that Iíve been me through the whole process. I havenít come in with an agenda, I didnít change. Thatís what Iím going to take away from this experience. Just because itís an enormous machine doesnít mean that you have to change with it, you know?
Could you tell me again, I sort of missed it earlier, which of the Mariah songs you were going to sing?
M. Johns: Yes, I was going to do a really cool blues soul version of ďVision of Love,Ē her first number one hit. It spoke to me. It was going to be hot, but oh, well.
Is your family, your wife, was she there the entire time during the show?
M. Johns: Yes, sheís been here. If you look back at last nightís footage, just before Iím about to sing, when it really started sinking in just after the Ö finish, actually, I look over at Erin and she mouthed, ďI love youĒ to me. You see me take this big breath and then I click into performance mode, sucked it up and tried to do my best. Sheís really special.
I just wanted to follow-up on something you said a little bit earlier, about how thereís sort of a consensus among the contestants that his has been, the way you put it, a weird judging year. Could you go into a little bit more depth on that?
M. Johns: Well, I mean, this year, because Iíve watched the show the last six years, sometimes the judges have it wrong this year. I thought Syeshaís performance Tuesday night was absolutely stellar, some of the notes she hits. She got bagged for it. Carly is the same way. Weíve all been there, you know what I mean? The one thing Iíve learned from Idol is you have to stay true to yourself. You canít go out there and go, ďI have to sing this song this week because itís going to impress Simon,Ē do you know what I mean? You canít plan those weeks when the judges are going to like it.
At the end of the day, how important do you think the judges actually are in terms of the voters at home?
M. Johns: I think Simonís very influential, they all are, but for me, what was more important was showing American what kind of record Iím going to make after the fact. I never wavered from the fact that I sang rock and soul. That was more important to me than getting the three thumbs up at the end of the day. Do you know what Iím saying?
When the results went out yesterday there was a lot of booing in the audience. Were you aware of that and how did it make you feel, if you were?
M. Johns: Yes, I definitely was aware of it. It was pretty loud, actually. I donít know how it came across on television. Look, it gave me solace in the fact that I stuck in there with a lot of people, and it made me feel really special, actually. Once again, it shows you that no one is safe. The public can think week-to-week they did a good performance, and theyíre coming off a good two or three week run, and theyíll be Ö and Iím going to vote for someone else who maybe didnít have as good a night, you know? You have to vote for your favorite.
Again, can you expand a little bit on the call from Dolly Parton? Did she just call out of the blue?
M. Johns: I was on the line with FOX and Friends, I think, this morning doing an interview and they were doing an interview with Dolly and Lily Tomlin, actually, talking about the Nine to Five musical. I donít know how she was made aware of it, but all of the sudden Dolly was talking to me, saying, ďMichael, I canít believe that you got voted off. It was really shocking to me,Ē and the fact that she loved what I did with her song, which was amazing to me. She said she would love to write and maybe sing a duet one of these days. That was pretty cool.
I just wanted to know, do you think you will continue a career here in the States or do you think youíll go back to Australia?
M. Johns: No, I live here in America now. Will I live in Australia again maybe when Iím older? I donít know. For me, my life and career are here. I love it here. Iíve been here ten years. My whole adult life has been here. Obviously, Iím not American, but I donít really feel Australian anymore so much. Itís weird. If you left America at 18 and your only memories are from high school, you know what Iím saying? Thatís how I feel. Iím going to be living here for the rest of my life.
Where did you get that Dolly Parton t-shirt from?
M. Johns: Iím glad someone recognized it. We were backstage getting dressed for the show. We were putting on our outfits and one of the stylists just hung up this vintage Dolly Parton t-shirt on the door for a gag. I said, ďWhat is that?Ē He said, ďWell, itís Dolly Parton.Ē I said, ďCan I wear it.Ē He goes, ďNo, no. Itís just a gag.Ē I said, ďNo, Iím going on TV and wearing thatĒ just to try to lighten it up a little bit. He gave me a look as if to say, ďMan, you are crazy.Ē It was all worth it.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call!