America, there’s a new Idol in town.
Last night, Nick Fradiani beat out fellow finalist Clark Beckham to became the 14th American Idol, during a two-hour season finale that included performances by the New Kids on the Block, Pitbull, and all three judges.
“I’ve only slept about 40 minutes,” Fradiani tells EW of how he’s spent the time since winning the competition. “It was crazy. I’ve been in a state of disbelief, but it’s amazing.”
Fradiani, while always a consistent performer throughout season 14, was never considered a front-runner. He says he was shocked when he wound up taking the whole thing. “Everybody was saying I was kind of the underdog, and I think that’s true,” he says. “Nobody had me pegged as the winner. I wasn’t doing anything that was really impressing people. Then something clicked the last six weeks or so. I just got hot at the right time.”
The final moment came down to Fradiani and Clark Beckham, a multi-instrumentalist from Nashville who had been considered a top contender from the get-go. “I always thought it would be Clark or Jax. I never once thought it could be me, up until my last song two nights ago,” admits Fradiani. “Then I thought, ‘Wow, you might have a shot at this.’ It was the first time it came to me that I could possibly win.”
American Idol made huge headlines earlier this week when Fox announced the show would be going off the air after next year’s 15th and final season—which makes winning this year all the more special for Fradiani, who at 29 barely made the audition age cut-off, which is 30.
“I just made it,” he says. “If I’d gotten cut earlier, I could never have auditioned again.”
As for Idol going off the air, Fradiani says he’s just happy he was able to be a part of the show before it ends. “It’s had a hell of a run,” he says. “There will never be another American Idol , which produced so many credible superstars over the years. It was a phenomenon in pop culture. It changed music.”
Next up for Fradiani? First the American Idol tour, and then getting in the studio with Big Machine Records founder and producer Scott Borchetta, who was the show’s mentor this year.
“I’ll be putting out a solo record, and a band is needed, so I’m hoping to bring the Nick and Ryan with me,” he says, referring to bandmates from his former band, Beach Avenue. “They’ve been with me since the beginning. I wouldn’t be in this situation without them.”
Fradiani’s first single “Beautiful Life,” already available on iTunes, has also been tapped to be the theme song for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off on June 6. in Canada. “It’s so cool,” he says. “I saw the video for the first time last night, right before I got my 40 minutes of sleep in.” Check out the video below.