We had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Kristy Lee Cook, who, in spite of Simonís prediction she would only get as far as top 10, made as far as the top 7. Kristy graciously spoke about her Idol experience, her ongoing ďfeudĒ with Simon Cowell, and her surprise engagement.
Kristy, I wanted to ask you about the emotional wear and tear of having been in the bottom three so many times. It seemed like it was maybe getting to you. And particularly, I wanted to ask you about the last one because it looked like you and Brooke were relaxed when you were alongside of David Cook there. And when David Cook moved to the other side, it seemed like you two kind of sensed doom coming up. Could you kind of take us through that a little bit?
K. Cook: Yes. Itís been kind of tough being in the bottom three, but the first few times, I kind of built up a stamina for it and kind of got a little tougher each time, and finally, kind of learned how to control the emotions that were coming from the whole situation.
But specifically, for this last time, it was definitely nerve-wracking because none of us knew what was going on and how they were separating the groups and kind of sending us over to different sides of the stage. And standing with David Cook, we didnít know if we were safe, or if we werenít safe. And we knew David Archuleta was still in the back, and it was just like a whole whirlwind of things going on, and we really didnít know. But it was definitely a shock for me to go home. I wish I wouldnít have left so soon. I wanted to make top five, but I am happy that Brookeís still in the competition because sheís one of my best friends.
When you were with David Cook, though, you seemed more relaxed. Didnít you at that point think, ďOh, this is probably the surviving groupĒ?
K. Cook: Actually, I think Carly and them were like, ďOh, no, theyíre the safe group over there.Ē And they were saying that over at their side that they were in the bottom three. And I was telling them, ďYou know what? Theyíre going to do something just so off the wall thatís going to just throw us off, and weíre not going to know whatís going to happen.Ē So I was just trying to be relaxed as possible and just kind of play it by ear and see what was going to happen.
How do you feel about the judges arguing with each other while the contestants wait for their critiques?
K. Cook: Itís kind of hard to tell you if theyíre talking about us, or if theyíre talking about the songs. Itís kind of hard to make a judgment of what theyíre doing I canít really tell you for sure what exactly theyíre doing. Sometimes, theyíre talking amongst themselves, and you kind of wonder if theyíre already critiquing the song, or if theyíre saying good things about the song. And it just kind of like Ė I think they sometimes do it just to kind of get our minds working.
After last nightís show, did Simon give you any reaction to your performing right to him?
K. Cook: Yes, he did. He said, ďWell, you made it awkward for me.Ē And I said, ďWell, now, you know what itís like to feel like us singing in front of you all the time.Ē And he just started laughing. It was kind of funny.
One of the things you pointed out last night was that you did indeed prove Simon wrong by lasting longer on the show than he had anticipated. Why do you think he was sort of being skeptical about at first, and why do you think you lasted longer than he had guessed?
K. Cook: I believe that he was just being skeptical because I started out kind of weak. I was struggling the first three weeks on being sick, and recovering took awhile. I think I outlasted what he thought because I started getting stronger towards the end, and I was getting in the comfort zone of some of the songs that Iíve been used to and that Iíve done for awhile. So I was starting to come out of the shell and sing the songs that Iím comfortable with and the ones that I knew that I could sing well. And he saw that a couple times, and unfortunately, it ended when I had to leave, but I thought my performance was pretty strong this past week, so Iím happy I went out on that note.
It felt like you had been really making big improvements over the last several weeks. I think this week, you were probably one of the two best performers. Did it make it a little tougher, because you had been sort of consistently improving, to go this week?
K. Cook: It definitely did. I was kind of upset that I went just because I thought that I had been getting stronger and stronger, and I thought this was my best performance, and it was vocally more than what Iíve given in the show so far, and I connected emotionally with the song. And so I thought it was my best performance so far, so I was a little disappointed to go this soon because I thought I at least had another week in me.
How do you deal with sometimes when you do get the negative critiques, be it from Simon, or Paula or Randy? How do you process all that?
K. Cook: Itís kind of funny because I try to listen, but thereís so much going on at the time that right when I walk off stage, Iím asking people what they said because Iíd already forgot because I just donít want it to get me down. I tend to not hang onto the negative comments, just because we have so much going on, and we already have a lot of pressure. And so the negative comments donít help, so I just try to let go of them, and itís just Ė itís an opinion, so everyone has the right to an opinion. And most of the time, if I agree with it, Iíll take the advice and try to do better. But if I donít, or if itís just not very nice, then Iíll just tend to drop it and move on.
That was such a romantic gesture your boyfriend did last night. Can you talk a little bit about him? Tell us his name, what kind of cut is the ring? Do you have a date, any of that good stuff, how you guys met.
K. Cook: His nameís Andy. And we met at Rosos in Grants Pass. And the ring that he got me, it has a marquis cut on it, and it has quite a few diamonds on it. We kind of picked it out together a long time ago, just kind of for fun, shopping around for rings. And we went down to the local jewelry store, really nice people there. Theyíre called Chuck King Jewelers. And Andy Ė actually, his daughter worked with me at Rosos, and so we just went over there and looked at what they had, and we found the one that we really liked. And I had no clue he was going to pop the question, but he ended up doing that. We havenít set a date yet. Weíre planning maybe around next June sometime, but we donít have a for sure date.
You seemed to me that you started to really turn around the week that you sang the patriotic song. Was that something that was your choice, or did somebody make that suggestion to you?
K. Cook: That was actually my choice. My sister and I actually plotted (with) our heads together and came up with that song.
I was just wondering if there are any sort of backstage romances, or if anybody ever had a crush on anybody else, if thereís any sort of flirting backstage during the filming?
K. Cook: Thatís a good question. If there was, I was totally blind because I didnít see anything. Most of us all have boyfriends or fiancťs or married Ė David Archuleta's the only single one. None of the girls are single. There were a lot of people that were already taken.
Who would you say your top three will be in terms of who will make it to the top?
K. Cook: I kind of donít have a top three because the fact that it proved to me that anybody can go, and itís anybodyís playing field since Michael Johns last week. And so it just goes to show you that the people that you think will be safe arenít, and they can go at anytime. And so I really donít know. All of them have their own unique sound and tons of talent, and I donít know which one will be, but I know theyíll all have just great careers.
Whatís happening with getting your horse back anyway?
K. Cook: Iíve talked to (the new owner) a few times, and he doesnít want to sell. He doesnít want to sell him back. Heís really attached to him because heís such a good horse. But the least I could have asked for was a good home, and he got a really good home, so I am Ė Iím happy with that, but it does kind of suck that I wonít be able to get him back as my own horse.
Can you tell us a little bit more about Andyís proposal, just a few details on how he did it?
K. Cook: Yes. Itís kind of hard to get out without having to go with bodyguards and stuff, so (the first time) he came over and hung out at the apartment, and he just said, ďWell, letís go talk.Ē And so we looked around for a place to talk, and pretty much everywhere we went, there were people around. So we went into the weight room and were walking around there. And there was this sauna. And the sauna was turned off, but the light was on. So we decided to go in there and just talk, and he proposed to me in the sauna. And then he actually proposed to me last night on live television. And it was really cool.
The first time, we tried to keep everything on the down-low, just because I didnít want it to get in the way, or I didnít want to be thinking about everything. I just wanted to focus on music and American Idol, so he retracted the proposal and actually got down on his knee this time. The first time, he didnít, so he owed it to me.
I also wanted to ask you, if at ďIdol Gives BackĒ you had any great meetings with celebrities. Did you get to meet Brad Pitt? Did you meet anyone that youíre a big fan of?
K. Cook: Yes. I actually met Carrie Underwood, Gloria Estefan, and Robin Williams. Those three were my favorites that I met. I didnít get to meet Brad Pitt, however. But Carrie Underwood came all the way back to make sure that she got to meet us and say hi. And sheís so nice to take time out of her night to come out and see how we were enjoying everything. So I did enjoy meeting everybody.
What did you learn from your experience on Idol?
K. Cook: Oh, man, Iíve learned so much from my experience. Itís been an amazing experience. Iíve learned all different kinds of stress levels Iíve never known in my life, but I learned how to make friends and what singers go through to do Ė perform every week and learn songs every week and sing in front of thousands or millions of people. And I learned a lot about controlling your emotions and a lot about just having to handle pressure Ė but dealing with also having tons of stuff to do. Itís very, very fun. Even though youíre tired, you get to do so much stuff you never would Ė you never imagine youíd be able to do until you got on the show. So thereís so much to learn from it, and Iím just thankful for every moment of it. It was so much fun.
What would you like to say to everyone who was a fan and supporter of you while you were on the show?
K. Cook: Oh, all Iíve got to say is thank you so much for voting for me and keeping me on the show as long as you did, and I hope to see everybody on tour because Iíll put on a show, and Iím going to sing some music thatís going to really be good for my voice and that I absolutely love to perform. So I thank them very much.
You said last night that Simon can be kind of a butt, and I was wondering if you could expand on that.
K. Cook: Well, his remarks that are not very nice to people. After time, it kind of builds up. Like what he said to Brooke the other night. And so I was like saying a nice word but telling him thatís (heís) a little butt sometimes, a goofy little brat. I was debating between brat and butt, but I figured I would just say butt. I donít know why.
Some people called the choice of ďGod Bless the USAĒ a few weeks a back strategic and stuff like that. Can you just talk a little bit more about the choice to sing that song and how strategic it was?
K. Cook: Oh, you know, it wasnít like a huge thought process for me. It was the year I was born. It came out again, and my dad was in Vietnam, and he absolutely loved that song, and I just love that song, and Iíve sang it for a long time. And it just kind of hit me when I saw that. And my sister called me, and she was like, ďWell, you should do ĎGod Bless the USA.í It was done in that year.Ē And then I was already thinking about it. And I was like, ďThatís the one.Ē And so we kind of just stuck with that one. It was kind of an instant yes in my mind.
Letís rewind a couple weeks earlier to ďEight Days a Week.Ē That one got probably the most interesting reaction from the judges and from the audience. Are you proud of what you did in that one? Do you feel like it was actually a good performance and were you surprised that people took it the way they did?
K. Cook: Well, I kind of have mixed feelings on it because a lot of people actually liked it. A lot of people that I worked with on the stage and the band and everything, they absolutely loved the version. And I thought it was kind of cool and deserved a little bit more praise because I did make it my own, and I made sure to add my own sound to it and stuff and do my own things with my voice in the song. But I know the judges have a lot of influence on the viewers.
So if it would have been different, and he would have said, ďThat was amazing. I loved how you changed it up,Ē it would have been a totally different story, and America would have kind of agreed. You know what I mean? Because even me, being a viewer now, I used to listen to what they said about Carrie Underwood and stuff, and it does affect the way that you think about it. So I try to have a little bit better of an open mind now. And now, Iím not listening because Iíve actually been on the show. Now, Iím like, ďI know whoís good.Ē
What were you planning to sing next week for Andrew Lloyd Webber, if you had stuck around?
K. Cook: I was going to sing ďDonít Cry for Me Argentina.Ē
I understand that you knew Britney Spears back when you were the first artist on her production company. I was just wondering if you heard from her at all since you started on Idol. Or when was the last time you heard from her?
K. Cook: I actually havenít heard from her. Itís been a long time since Iíve been in contact with her, but maybe one of these days weíll catch up again.
I want to ask about that moment when you told Simon you were going to blow him out of his socks. How did you feel after that? Was that kind of embarrassing?
K. Cook: It really does take a lot to get me embarrassed. And I really wasnít embarrassed after it. Itís just my way of saying that Iím going to show you what I have. He didnít really get what I have, and I donít think he still does because I still have a lot more to give. But itís just my way of basically saying that Ė ďWatch out because Iím going to show you what I have.Ē
But you did kind of trip over your words, right? That wasnít what you meant to say.
K. Cook: Well, not really. I donít look at it as that was being something bad to say just because Iím not that kind of person, but I just was saying Iím going to blow you off your socks, so I just thought it was appropriate. And I thought it was kind of funny, got everybodyís attention.
Now since you guys had gotten Ė I guess weíll call it pre-engaged in the sauna, was that a surprise to you, or did you guys talk about Ė ďHey, letís do this on national TV tooĒ?
K. Cook: Actually, that was not planned. I had mentioned it to him a long time ago about how it would be cool if we ever got married, if he would propose to me on American Idol. And he was like, ďThere is no way I would ever get in front of that many people and do that.Ē And I was like, ďOkay.Ē But last night, it was kind of crazy because he got put on the spot, and he ended up pulling through. I donít think he wanted to pull out of it, so he did it.
When was that that you guys got engaged in the sauna?
K. Cook: March 15th. We just kept it on the down-low because I didnít want to have to deal with a lot of that kind of stress from everything. I just wanted to focus on American Idol, so we just kept it on the down-low.
Following up on the talk of your engagement, itís kind of an odd question, but who would your dream wedding singer be when you do get married?
K. Cook: Hmm. Thatís a very, very good question. Letís see here. Well, I would love to have Jason Aldean sing at the wedding, or I would say Celine Dion.
Would you consider inviting Simon, Randy and Paula?
K. Cook: Oh, yes. Of course, I would.
Would you sing at your own wedding?
K. Cook: Iíve always wanted to sing at my own wedding, since I was little. I donít know why. Iíve always had this thing about walking out singing, but I donít know if thatíll happen or not, but I probably would sing a number at the wedding.
You had success prior to the show. You had the record deal. And then you go on the show, and you get criticized almost week in and week out by Simon Cowell. You end up in the bottom three quite a bit. Did you ever wonder, why did I do this?
K. Cook: Actually, it was a great learning experience for me. And it was definitely a long time ago (when I was 17). And I needed this push to get my career back starting again because nobody knew who I was before American Idol.
So it was definitely the biggest push I could have ever done to get my career started. But all the criticism and everything - it made me a stronger person. And to be able to sing in front of that many people and in front of judges that you know are criticizing you, I think anybody that can sing in front of that, and to the remaining contestants, will be able to sing in front of anybody. Itís a pretty amazing feeling.
Does the fact that there was you and there were other people in the top 12 this year who had prior record deals and didnít become stars out of it - they needed the push - does that just illustrate just how tough the music business is? Is that the story? You can have the success, you have the deal, and yet you still need something else sometimes to get you over the hump.
K. Cook: Yes. I never got to release an album. I got most of the music done for my album, but I never got to release it. I just kind of did a little demo live at Cowboys that I could kind of sell when I was doing gigs around the area, but I did have the contract. And Carlyís had music, and David Cook. And Brooke, they all have CDís. And everybody has some sort of music background, so itís kind of like, we werenít discovered before this whole thing, so this is kind of like a second chance. And everybody, I believe, deserves a second chance, so it was a great opportunity for all of us.
Do you ever wonder why you were cast? Do you think they cast people sometimes, so Simon can pick on somebody?
K. Cook: Iím not too sure. I really donít know what goes on judges-wise. I just know that you have to try to go out there with the right songs. Thatís the number one thing to get good compliments. It really seems to be the number one thing. And obviously Ė to have the voice and the right song I think will do it, and youíll get good comments if you do that.
Kristy, you said that Simon doesnít really get what you have, and you donít think that he still does. Do you think that has to do with your style, specifically being a country and western style? And generally, do you think that singers with that style are given real opportunities by the judges to be who they are?
K. Cook: Yes, I know in the bottom of my heart, that I havenít shown America and Simon what I have, and itís basically because I havenít been able to do the kind of music, the country. I got to do ďGod Bless the USAĒ and ďAnyway,Ē and those are two of the songs that I really like, and I got praised on both of them. And thatís just what Iím comfortable with because Iíve never stepped out of that genre and done something else, so it was all new to me. But I know that once they see me singing country music, theyíll see a whole other side of me that they never got to see on the show, which is kind of unfortunate because I would have loved to have shown them my country side and just gone out there and shown America and everybody what I really have. But, luckily, I get to do that on tour.
As popular as country music is in this country, though, do you think your performance on the show reflects that?
K. Cook: I think I showed myself enough to where I can do something with my career in country music. The showís about being versatile and being able to do other things out of your element, and you have to be able to be versatile, and I thought I did a pretty good job considering I had never done that kind of stuff before, so I was really happy to have that kind of opportunity to be able to expand my genres and try different things. It was very fun and very interesting.
Iím just wondering if you could reflect a little bit on the experience of working with Mariah and Dolly. What did you learn from them and what will you take away and use later in your career?
K. Cook: Well, I definitely learned a lot. They are the sweetest people. Theyíre huge stars. And for them to just remain sweet and caring and supportive of everything that we were doing, thatís how I want to be if I become a famous singer. I want to be able to carry that and still be the genuine and humble girl. I donít want to ever come across as being a diva or something like that. But they both were just so nice, and they gave you advice. And they both had wonderful things to say to me, and I took that to heart, and Iíll never forget it. So that meant a lot to me to be able to hear that from them.
Kristy Lee, do you have any closing remarks?
K. Cook: Thank you, America.
Sorry about the horse, Kristy. Good luck in the future, and thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call!