I recently participated in a conference call interview with Lacey Brown, the first of the Top 12 to be kicked off American Idol. Here's what she had to say:

I know thereís been so much talk this season about conflicting criticism from the judges. You know, no, make this your own. No, stick to the song. With all that going on, you know, also just the plain pressure of, you know, doing what you want to do, do you feel like people got a real sense of who you were as an artist? And if they didnít, would you tell us, you know, who do you see yourself as artistically? You know, what do you see yourself doing now?
Itís difficult with the criticism that you hear because it has been a little bit confusing and, therefore, I would change things week-to-week, which can leave the audience kind of questioning who I am.

I would say, Iím a very different artist. I have a very different voice thatís not suited for a lot of different genres, but I really see myself doing more of like a pop folk mix of an album. I definitely can see myself making an album soon. I would love to do that if I get the chance to. And, you know, I just want to give people the chance to hear something thatís fresh and new and different.

There are not a lot of voices like mine right now on the radio, so I kind of take pride in the fact that Iím a lot different. Iíve always been a little bit more unique and individual, and I just try to embrace that and try to show that in my performances. So hopefully people can get that, and hopefully they like it, and so Iím looking forward to writing some new music that fits my voice and that people really like.

And just really quickly, what do you miss most about Texas?
The thing I miss most about Texas is just my family and my friends. Theyíre wonderful people, and very solid and very supportive, and Iíve have to say all of them.

Sorry to hear the news last night, but wanted to ask you just quickly. Are you planning to return to Amarillo? And, if not, I guess, where Ė if so, when and will you stay here full time, or kind of along the lines, what are your plans for your hometown here?
You know, first of all, I would like to say to you that I was very sad when I said a lot of nice things about Amarillo in my package the other night before I sang Ruby Tuesday, and they kind of cut it up in the cutting room and didnít show any of that and made it look like I was not liking Amarillo, but I love Amarillo. I love that Iím from there, and Iím always going to be an Amarillo girl, so let me first put that out there for you.

Also, my next stop is New York. Iím going to be doing some shows there. And I should be back in Amarillo next week, midweek sometime, so Iím very excited to come back and see everybody, and meet some fans and, you know, hang out with my family and my friends. And Iím just, you know, Iím very chill, and I like to do things like go out and watch movies, so youíll probably see me at the UA this next weekend or something like that.

So Iím really looking forward to it, and Iím also looking forward to stopping by my favorite Starbucks and Roasters because I love them both, and so Iíll be around town next week, and hopefully people will come out or say something to me while Iím out there.

Who now, I guess, are you hoping will win the competition? Have you kind of pegged your hopes on someone else at this point?
You know, thatís a very hard question to answer because Iím a little bit too close to home to really answer that. Every one of the contestants that remain are very unique and are an artist in their own right. I can see any of them rising up to the occasion, any of them winning. Itís up for grabs. Somebody has got to win it, so weíll see who it is.

So after making it so far last season, and then not getting to that top 24, what made you want to come back this season and try again?
You know, Iím one of those people that gets very competitive, and I decided itís way too much fun of an experience to not try again, to try to get further if I would have made it into the top. Last year it was top 36 instead of 24. If I would have made it into that next round, I wouldnít have been able to come back this year, so Iím really glad that I got a second chance.

Iím really glad that I decided to come back because I needed to work on a couple things and come back and get further in, in the competition, and so Iím really glad that I decided to come back, but that wasnít a hard decision at all because just everybody thatís involved in the show and, you know, all the contestants, all the relationships, everything about this has just been a blast for me. So I just decided Iím going to do it twice.

Well, you took the news really well last night, and you had a look on your face almost like you had made peace with whatever the outcome was. Is that what you were feeling?
Yes. Itís really strange because I woke up yesterday morning and had the strangest feeling that I was going home. I hadnít been tipped off by anything, hadnít read anything, but really talked to a few of the other constants and just said, look. Iím going home, and they were like no, Lacey. Youíre crazy. Why would you go home? Out of everybody here, why would you go home? And they were really supportive and really sweet, but I Ė something about it was just something was off, and so it wasnít that I had made peace with it. I think I had just gotten used to it, you know.

Itís a hard thing to hear. But when youíre there in that moment, after you sing, youíre not in control of anything. And so itís been a shocker every week who goes home sometimes and who stays sometimes instead of another person. Thatís just the nature of the show. So it wasnít a shocker, but it also came as like a realization; the reality of the fact was just a little overwhelming.

Lacey, tell us a little bit about how that shaped you as a performer to grow up as a double preacherís kid in a church like that. And also, you started a little later than most people. A lot of kids who grow up in churches start singing real young, and you waited until you were 12 or 13. So what got you started kind of a little bit later, and how did that shape you to be growing up in a church?
You know, I loved growing up in the church. I got to be around the greatest people in the world every day of my life. I also went to school at that same church. They had a private school when I was younger. My parents worked there, obviously, so after school I was hanging out until they got off work. And, you know, then I was there on the weekends too, so I pretty much lived at the church my whole life.

I was very shy as a young girl, very timid, and afraid of people. And I decided one day, about 13 or 14, that I didnít want to be shy anymore. I decided that I had bigger things to do in life than just, you know, be in the background and be timid. So I had to really work at it. I had to go to a store and ask the clerk, where can I find such and such, even if I knew where it was at, just so I could grow a little bit in that area, and I worked on it for years, and still kind of struggle with it. Not so much on stage, but more on like a one-on-one type of thing.

And so, yes, but growing out of that, I think the church has really helped me because I automatically decided that I want to sing at that age. The first note I ever sang was about that time, 13 or 14. And then I just, you know, got really involved with the music department there at that church and sang, you know, three times a week ever since in the church.

Then, lately, within the last five years, I started doing gigs around town and things like that. So Iíve always been really involved, but I really do think, because I was so involved, that helped me, even though Iíd started, you know, later time in life singing. I really got that extra push from them, and theyíre really supportive, and theyíre my family forever. Yes, I mean, thereís nothing but good things that I have to say. You know, being a church girl is fun.

Because youíve been cut before, the top 24 before, was it harder to go this time? Did it make, you know, going further more or less gratifying?
You know, honestly it was hard both times because I wanted to get further last year, and I wanted to get further this year. They were equally hard. I will say hard is different from overwhelming. Iíve obviously gotten to the top 12. Iím in the number 12 spot in America right now as far as American Idol goes, and that is not a bad place to be in.

So was it hard? Yes. It was emotional, but Iím very happy with my spot. Iím very proud to be where Iím at. And I wish I could have gotten a little bit further, but as far as it being hard or easy, I donít think thatís a decision Iím trying to make right now. Itís just been a blast up to this point, and Iím just really excited to be where Iím at right now.

Do you think you can pinpoint what you think your downfall was?
You know, I would probably have to say energy. I think they kept asking for energy in my songs, and I kept trying to give it, and they kept trying to say, you know, it was a sleepy performance. They wanted to see a little bit more energy because Iím a happy and a lovely type of personality, and they just wanted to see that transferred into my music. The issue that I was having is, I really love to sing ballads. I love telling a story with a song. I love the emotion of the song. Iím very artsy, so that side of me comes out when I sing.

And so I think I kept picking songs that I really loved to sing and really felt, and maybe it didnít transfer as well stage wise. And so maybe that was it, but I wouldnít have changed any of it because that's who I am. Even though Iím a bubbly happy person, not every song that I sing is going to be up-tempo or, you know what I mean. If I could say anything, I would say possibly that. Iím not really sure, but even if it is, I wouldnít have changed a thing.

I saw the show that Simon went right up to you at the end, and I know you were a little bit emotional. What did he say? Did he say anything nice to you?
Yes. All the judges came up afterward. I think they genuinely care about the contestants. Sometimes itís hard to hear their critiques, but theyíre there to help you, and itís a fine line between taking what they say personally and taking what they say and applying it to yourself to fix yourself, you know, and work things out that you need to work out.

When they came up afterwards, they had nothing but nice things to say, things like, you know, this is just another step into your career. You have great vocals. Youíre very unique. Just, you know, theyíre just full of compliments because they want to see us succeed, and they donít want us to feel like all hope is lost because itís not. Iím in the top 12 right now, and even though I got voted off, this is not the end all for me. This is a great opportunity to jumpstart my career, so I think thatís the point they were trying to make when they got on the stage afterwards.

You kind of touched on this a little bit. What was your main decision to sing that great song, Ruby Tuesday?
You know, I honestly looked. We had a very limited list. But I love that song. I think itís a great thing for a girl like me to be signing on a big stage like that. It has a great message, and I connected with that song, so thatís why I picked it. And even after the 50/50 remarks that I was getting on how they werenít really sure what they liked about it. They liked this, but they didnít like this about it, and they were 50/50 on it. I loved doing it. I loved doing it. And I loved the arrangement, and some people, I mean, a lot of my fans were really digging it too. So, I mean, itís just a great song, and I was excited about Rolling Stones week coming up, and so that was just a song that I picked because I love it.

Just moving forward, who were some of your biggest influences, and are they the sort of people you would want to work with on, say, an album?
Yes. I have a lot of influences right now. One of my biggest influences is Patsy Cline. Unfortunately wonít be able to work with her, but Iíve learned a lot from her performance on how to just tell a story and a song on how to make you feel like youíve fallen in love again or make you feel like your heart is broken or, you know, things like that. She was a great performer. I learned a lot from here.

Also, I mean, thereís new and upcoming people that Iíve been following for a couple years like Pete Yorn, who is just an amazing musician and singer that has a great vibe and not a whole lot of people know who he is yet, but I think heís and upcoming, huge deal that I really like to follow.

I have a lot of Indy bands that I like, and Iíve got a couple country bands that I really am liking right now, so Iím finding influence from everywhere because Iím not, I mean, you can tell in my style. I like to clash things a lot, so sometimes I take an Imo song and make it really folksy, or take a pop song and make it country or whatever itís going to be. I want the styles to clash. Iím not comfortable with just singing a Rolling Stones song just like the Rolling Stones sang it. You understand what I mean? So itís just kind of cool, the opportunities that Iíve been given to be able to do that on stage, and I think itís been really fun.

Several singers praised your work on American Idol. I know, for example, Lee Nash was a big fan of your performance of Kiss Me. Did you see any of your press and any of the things that people posted about you, or did you kind of make a point of staying away from that?
You know, Iím an avid Twitter and Facebooker, and I tried to stay away from reading into it too much. If I knew a great comment had been written, the article or Lee Nash talked great things about me, I definitely read, and was super excited to hear from her because she is a great vocalist, and Iíve been a big fan for years, obviously. Yes, so some things I read if I knew they were going to be positive. I tried to keep the positivity around instead of anything negative, so thatís hard to do when youíre just reading through everything. I would make sure that I knew what I was going to read before I read it.

Last week, the people that got eliminated talked to us, and several of them said that not only did they not expect to go home; they expected other people to go home. One of them even said that they thought that four other people were going to go instead of the four that went. It almost painted a picture like there were some factions in the top 12. Did you sense that?
No, not at all. Thereís two different approaches that you can take to this being voted off. You can be happy with the situation and make the most of it, which is the route Iím trying to take. I havenít put my focus on anything negative going on. I donít sense that or do I think that anything, you know, anything like that was happening. This is a reality show, and this is a show that someone has to go home every week, and the fan base is very, very, very important. And I think it has been a shocker sometimes, but thatís just the nature, you know, of the beast that is American Idol. Itís how the show rolls. So, no, I think someone has got to go home every week, and if itís you, then itís you, and itís out of your hands at that moment.

Iím going for a long shot on this, Lacey, but in your version of Ruby Tuesday, Iím hearing a great deal of influence in your voice from Melanie Safkaís version of Ruby Tuesday. By any chance, was she your influence on this performance? And if so, do you feel you should have changed the performance more to the Rolling Stone version, which most American people can identify with?
You know, I definitely listened to her version, and there was a little bit of her arrangement that we tried to mix into my arrangement, but I definitely tried also to put a new spin on the song, so I donít think my arrangement was exactly like anybody elseís. In fact, I know it wasnít like anybody elseís. But there were some melody lines that I liked that she did a whole lot, so yes and no at the same time.

And I donít think, if I had to do it over again, would I have done it more closer to the Rolling Stones side because I really loved the arrangement, and this is why I played violin for a long time growing up. And when I decided to put the quartet down on the stage with me and have that type of a symphony flow through the song, I was totally digging it and super happy with it. So thereís a lot that goes into arranging the song, and so I tried to make it as close to something that I would put on an album as possible. And so, if I had to do it again, I would do it the exact same way, but I definitely had a couple of different influences with the melody line.

You said that you thought that you were going home. You got this inner peace in yourself that you were going home. Do you think that every American Idol in the top 12 feels that way, just like you did?
I definitely donít think that. When Michael Johns got voted off, it was a huge shock to him and a huge shock to everyone else because he went early, so no. I donít think so. I think itís an individual feeling, and I canít even describe that feeling. It wasnít like a downer moment for me. I wasnít upset. It was just, okay. You know, it wasnít comfortable. It wasnít a bad feeling. It was just a feeling I had, so I wish I would have been wrong about that feeling, obviously, but nonetheless, I had it. And, no, I donít think everyone does.

A lot of the contestants that we talk to every week who get eliminated talk about their fans and their fan base. At this stage of the game, how do those people get in touch with you? How are you hearing from them?
You know, I have a lot of fans in a lot of different places because, before Idol, I had a lot of different connections in a whole lot of different states because of my family and because of just friends we had met. And so Iím really happy to have all the fan base that Iíve had. On how they can contact me, I do have Twitter and Facebook. I havenít been able to update those as much as Iíd like to normally, so now that Iím a little bit more in control of those, Iím going to have a great time conversing with them and thanking them for their support, and so that would be a great place to start, and probably soon Iíll have some other options for them to get in contact with me.

In one of your earlier answers, you talked about wanting to have come back to Idol this year because you had some things that you felt you needed to work on. What were those things?
There were a couple technical issues with my voice because itís a little bit different and there are not a lot of people that sound like me. I needed to go home and figure out what kind of songs worked for my voice because, you know, I tried out last year with a Patsy Cline song, and then I tried Joni Mitchellís Big Yellow Taxi, and different things like that, that seemed to work, but I needed to find more songs like those. I went home immediately afterwards and worked on learning as many songs that were great for my voice as possible, and singing them wherever I could, you know, as much as possible.

Also, I wanted to work on technical things like my falsetto and just different singer things, singer lingo that, you know, I think everyone should try to grow. Thereís big artists that you see and hear all the time on the radio or on TV that have vocal coaches, so I definitely know that even when you make it, youíve still got to grow, so I just made sure that I was doing that, working on my voice.

I just would like to say thank you all. I just want to say thanks to my fans. Theyíve been amazing and so supportive and kept me smiling all through the competition. Theyíve been so sweet, and Iím really, really looking forward to what comes up in the future. Iím open to anything and everything right now. Iím not throwing any ideas out the window. Iím just excited about the future, and Iím very appreciative. And thatís all I really wanted to say.

My thanks to Lacey for participating in the call and to the people at FOX for setting it up.