I recently took part in a conference call interview with Paige Miles, the second member of the Top 12 voted off American Idol. Here's what she had to say about her experience:

A lot of people felt that Miley Cyrus was too young to be a mentor. How did you feel she did?
I felt Miley did a great job, actually. She has tons of experience in the business as far as touring, making albums, doing things that a lot of us in the competition are trying to do, so you know in that aspect she was a pretty good ... for that, her age really, because Iím 24, so Iím older than her, but talking with her, her age didnít come across at all. I was just speaking to her as someone else with experience, doing exactly what I would like to do, so she was great.

What do you think is next for you?
To continue moving forward with my singing and wherever else it may lead me. I love to perform, and this is obviously something I want to make a career out of, so definitely just continue to move forward and possibly to move out here to LA.

The judges were a little critical of you this week. How much power over the voting audience do you believe the judges have?
The judges, obviously they have a certain amount of power over the voting public, but it also comes down to the performer delivering a good, solid performance. Tuesday night definitely wasnít my best, and they ripped me for it. So, it really can go both ways because sometimes theyíll back up the person that the judges ripped apart if they feel that that person really delivered, but you never really know how America is going to vote.

Did you and any of your fellow contestants discuss how to please the judges? What they expect?
Yes. The best thing to do really is to just do yourself and do what makes you most comfortable because the judges can give mixed messages.

Paige, your voice sounds a lot worse today. Kind of tell us the transition of when did this start and did it get worse at certain points, and are you able to with laryngitis still Ö and sing because you actually sounded good last night, but you sound really bad this morning.
Yes. It was bad last night. It wasnít as bad as it is now of course. Iíve been struggling with laryngitis for over three weeks now. I have swollen vocal cords, and thereís a lot of inflammation and with us singing and rehearsing as much as we do, I had very little time for it to heal. So, it would basically get a little bit better, then I would have to sing again, and it would get worse again. So itís tough when youíre in a singing competition and you have no voice, so that was a bummer. And, that affected my song choice at times because I would kind of stay away from what I would typically do like big Ö tunes like ďAlright Now,Ē which I love and I am super comfortable at, and I would kind of shy away and try to do something smaller in efforts to not like overtax my cords or do something where I could possibly damage them.

And yet you sounded great last night, so were you just able to Ö it up for about a minute there and blast out?
Yes. I just got it together and just let it rip.

Well, there was a lot of talk about the judges being too harsh on you, but Iím wondering if you think the judges are being too harsh on everybody this season, and maybe on a bigger scale, if you think the media is being too harsh on everybody this season?
Yes. You know some of the things they say I agree with, and I totally understand where theyíre coming from, but in some ways the context of it can be a little hurtful. Sometimes, we think they could rephrase it or just say it in a better way because it does come across as pretty harsh, so yes.

You chose a song, ďAgainst All Odds,Ē that has been done a lot in the past by idols. I was wondering if you realized how many times itís been sung or if that had any effect on your decision to sing it?
Actually, I hadnít realized how many times it had been done. Actually, I was in rehearsals last week and was just trying to find a slower song that I wouldnít have to stress vocally too much over because my vocal cords were pretty much trashed, and I didnít want to do anything too up tempo and crazy. I was just trying to really take care of my vocal cords if I were to keep going, but I probably should have just picked something I was super comfortable with, which is something like ďAlright NowĒ and just gone for it. But you live and you learn, and I was trying to make a decision for me and my health.

I just was wondering you said you chose ďAgainst All OddsĒ because of your voice, but do you mind describing for us the process that goes into the song choice.
Yes. Itís actually quite difficult. The judges make it sound more easy than it really is. It has to meet certain criteria and we have to choose and we canít usually do the same artists, so itís way more difficult than people realize picking a song, so itís tough.

And do the judges ever have any input in it or no?
No, they donít. Actually I wish they knew more about the process that we go through to pick a song.

I noticed last night that when you were singing your final performance, Kara was going nuts. I donít know whether you could see her. She just was waving her arms around.

Yes. They were all kind of going nuts at the table, but I didnít Ė

Yes. She seemed upset because obviously your final performance was amazing, and I think she was kind of bummed out that you were going. So how did you feel, and what did she say to you?
Well, if they were bummed that I was going, I donít know if it was that because they did have the option to save and they exercised their decision before I even performed, so I donít know.

What did Simon say?
They thought it was a fantastic performance. They thought I did a great job, but that was a little too late.

Paige, do you feel that the lack of screen time hurt you?
Well, early on a lot of the contestants were able to build a fan base, whereas I wasnít able to. But what you come up there and do on the stage really sets it, set the tone, and if I would have delivered the way I know I could have maybe I would still be around, so yes and no.

Everybodyís already talked about some of the tougher parts of the experience, but what was your favorite part about being on American Idol?
Being able to perform on a stage Ö sing, thatís just what I love to do. I would have done it in jeans and t-shirt or a pretty white dress, so I just love to sing.

Were there any other performers you were close to?
Yes, Katie and Lacey and Siobhan.

What did you mean when you told Ryan last night that you got lost in the song when you sang ďAgainst All OddsĒ?
I guess vocally when Iím not 100% with my vocals, it was tough to find my way around it, trying to be in a range where Iím usually not comfortable. Because my total range wasnít there, so just finding my place in the song, finding the meat in the song where I could really sink my teeth into it, I could never really grasp it, even in rehearsals. I just never was really able to grab it, in large part due to the fact of dealing with the laryngitis and it was just tough.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the criteria that are involved when youíre having to choose songs, what you have to think about.
A lot goes into it. We have to think about what the audience and fans will like, making sure youíre going to do what the judges are looking for you to do, which that I think always is very, very tough. It can sometimes not work, and then trying to be true to yourself as an artist, and then finding someone elseís material to make your own and hopefully not get compared to them because thatís something you always run the risk of. Thatís great but the original did it better, so, and usually itís not like weíre not trying to outdo the original, weíre just trying to showcase ourselves and show what weíve got, so itís tough. Itís tough making a decision with a song and sometimes you do a good job and sometimes it just doesnít work.

I know we already talked about your lack of screen time before the semifinals, but you kind of came out of the gate really good because Simon made mention that you were the most talented female voice that they had that year. What did you think when he made that comment right off the bat?
I thought it was a pretty awesome comment, so I was happy he said it. A lot of people didnít know anything about me, they hadnít heard me at all, not in the city, not in the Hollywood round, so it was nice to hear him say that.

We know now that next week is R&B and Soul week. Did you already have your song picked out for next week?
Yes. I was actually, it was a tossup between ďDonít Leave Me This WayĒ and ďI Canít Stand the RainĒ by Tina Turner.

Being the one that just missed getting on the top 10 and going on the tour, did that sting even more than if you had just been eliminated any other time, do you think?

Did it put a little more pressure preparing for this week knowing that that was going to be the case?

I was wondering how much time exactly did you get to spend with Miley Cyrus when she was mentoring?
Oh gosh, Iím not really sure. We got to run our songs with her and talk to her about it. Iím not really exactly sure the exact amount of time because we all met as a group first and talked and then had separate rehearsals, so we dedicated like a morning to it.

It seems like a few people in the competition this year are getting sick. Are the producers doing anything to prevent people from getting sick? Is there like hand sanitizer everywhere or anything like that?
Yes. They are doing as much as they can. So, itís just exhaustion being met with any kind of sickness just makes it that much harder to fight off and keep away.

Would it be helpful, especially in the early rounds if the judges actually suggested a song that you sing because then you would sort of maybe have an idea of what, where they think you fit vocally?
Yes. I think that would be a cool little twist to the process of picking songs because that is a really hard process and a really hard part of the show. Thatís kind of where we get nailed at more than anything, but yes, that would be interesting.

In the part where they keep harping on knowing who you are as an artist, the judges at least, and they praised some people for knowing and slammed a lot of people for not knowing, and I am wondering if you can tell us who you think you are as an artist, and if you could have shown the community watching on TV better who you were?
Yes. I know who I am as an artist. I know what I like to sing. My problem was finding the material that I felt fit me and that I could also work with with the laryngitis, so it was tough. As an artist, I really, I like the like rock, pop, soul. I love to kind of rock it out with a lot of soul/R&B twist to it. I like up-tempo music and when my Ö started failing me I just started trying to take it slower and that really didnít work for me.

Did you feel like you should have then pushed harder and voice be damned later on?
Yes, but I was concerned as well as the doctor of doing some permanent damage because the inflammation on my vocal cords was so enormous. There was a possibility of doing permanent damage, so I really did have to kind of take it easy, and unfortunately it was just really, really bad timing, awful timing. I wish I could have done more to kind of show, like the way I ended last night with high performances like that week to week, but a good song choice and all of that plays a big part into it.

I wanted to ask you about, because I know they spotlighted you a lot originally from Naples, obviously, but I wanted to ask you about your time in Houston/Cypress. Just how long have you been here and what sort of originally brought you here?
Yes, and people started getting confused, they were like whereís she from? They ask me where Iím from and then where I currently live. Where I currently live is Houston, Texas/Cypress. And I was from Naples, Florida. I was there 20 years, and I was in Houston for the last 4 years of my life. I actually came because I actually transferred to a school out there and decided that I wanted to try my hand in performing arts, and Houston has a great theater district, so I just kind of came out with that to do school and put my hand in theater and then I started teaching preschool and doing afterschool and then my mom moved out, and we love Houston.

The other thing that I wanted to ask you is something that came up last night. Joe Jonas mentioned the Houston rodeo, and then Ryan made sort of a little dig about it. Was the rodeo anything that you sort of experienced because obviously Ė
I went to the rodeo last year, and I would have went this year, but I wasnít there, but my brother and his wife and their kids went, so the rodeoís awesome.

So, weíve spoken to some other contestants in the past who have said that they just kind of had a feeling the day that they were going to be eliminated, or they had absolutely no idea and were surprised. What were you feeling the day of? Did you have a feeling or was it a shock?
I knew I had a poor performance Tuesday night, but I really didnít think it was my time to go yet, so I was surprised.

Itís hard enough to sing after you get the news that youíre in the bottom three and all that other stuff, but how does it feel that you werenít even given the chance for them to use the save? Did that hurt?
Yes, it did. Yes, I initially thought the save was something that even if theyíre not going to use it, you get the opportunity to at least sing for it, and then they make their decision, but for the statement to be made before I opened my mouth, I was pretty bummed.

Ryan said that your students are looking forward to you when youíre getting back. Are you going to go back and do some more teaching and tell us what it is, is it a full-time job or a part-time job? Is it just after school or tell us a little more about that.
Yes. The preschool is every day. Afterschool is like an after school, like when the kids get done with school. I do that from 2:30 to 6:30 with elementary-aged kids, so yes, I love working with kids. Iíve worked with kids for years, so I wonít be going back to it right away. I want to continue trying to pursue my dream.

I want to know about the kids that you actually teach. Did they do a lot of voting? Did you get a lot of feedback from the parents or anything like that?
Yes. I have very little time to communicate with anybody really. Itís hard for me to even communicate with my family, but I would get e-mails, and they would send me cards that they made and packages, goody bags, and treats and things like that. And little things of inspiration, pictures they colored, coloring books, and things like that, so I know they supported me 100%.

I know early on you were telling people in one of your packages that coloring was one of the things that kind of relaxes you and stuff before a performance. Does that come from being around kids so much, do you think?
Yes. We would do it in class, and it was actually a way to kind of calm down the room, and so Idol is very high stress and a lot of tension and anxiety, so people usually canít find a way to kind of get their nerves down, and so you just open up a coloring book and start coloring and you end up being kind of focused on what youíre doing. And itís just a way to relax. Some people do yoga, some meditate, and I like to just whip out a box of crayons and color, so itís easy I know, but it works.

I just wanted to follow up about what your plans are going forward as far as continuing your music career?
I would definitely like to continue pursuing music and to continue following my dreams and see what happens. Idol is a big learning experience, and itís a major platform and Iíd just like to continue growing and learning as an artist and see where it takes me.

Are there any artists who either inspire you or you kind of like would mold your career after or you would like to collaborate with or anything like that?
I wouldnít necessarily say mold my career after because I think what makes an artist great and individual is like how their career has kind of molded itself and formed its own shape, which makes them stand out, but I really admire Christina Aguilera. Sheís an amazing woman, and she has an amazing voice, and sheís kind of followed her own drum, which I also really like. She doesnít throw out an album every year. She takes her time, and she makes artwork out of her albums, and I really admire that about her, but yes, sheís great. I mean if anybody who is out current right now, it would be her for sure.

I wanted to follow up with ďAgainst All Odds.Ē Was there a specific, you said that you had an interpersonal connection to the song. Was there a specific life experience or moment or memory that you had in your life that really made you identify with that song? If so, can you tell me a little bit about it?
ďAgainst All OddsĒ I chose because I was really picky and I was trying to find a ballad that would work with, that would work for me this week. Iíd been having some troubles, and I wanted to do a really big ballad, and that one initially worked vocally, and my voice just kept going in and out over the weekend and rehearsing it was difficult and it was against odds. I kind of, me being where I was, just everything I had going against me, I felt very in the moment of that song. It was a love song, but I had really kind of Ö it to my life and where I was right now.

I know friends and family are always the big thing that people miss when theyíre away from home, but what do you miss? Was there anything specific about Houston that you missed, maybe a restaurant or a place that you would always hang out or something that you just canít wait to go back to?
Man, well thereís a lot of places in Houston I miss. Wow! I would definitely have to say the kids at La Petite. The kids at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Cypress. And Aliciaís. Yes, Aliciaís and man, the hospitality, southern hospitality, thereís nothing like it. Nothing makes you feel more at home than just, thatís why Lacey and I bonded so much. Sheís the Amarillo girl. I was Houston, and we just enjoy good, kind people.

My thanks to Paige for taking the time to do the interview and to the people at FOX for setting it up.