Vazquez offers few clues about ''Idol'' departure. He denies rumors of health woes or skeletons in his closet and says he still has hopes for a music career

By Gary Susman
Updated March 15, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

For a guy who was so eager to be out of the American Idol spotlight, Mario Vazquez did an awful lot of interviews on Monday, talking to such outlets as MTV News, TV’s Extra, USA Today, The New York Times, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. In each interview, the former finalist was vague about his reasons for dropping out of the contest over the weekend, a move that shocked fans and forced producers to replace him with ousted semifinalist Nikko Smith. He was quick, however, to debunk some rumors and to say that he still hopes to have a music career.

Vazquez would only cite undisclosed personal reasons for his departure. He told USA Today he’d been struggling with the decision to leave ”throughout the competition,” saying, ”I knew I was going to disappoint a lot of people, but I always follow my gut.” He cited a ”gut feeling” in other interviews as well. ”It just isn’t the right time for me now. It was all with timing on my part and where I was with my head,” the Bronx-bred crooner told MTV. ”Us New Yorkers are crazy. It’s just unexplainable. I just follow my heart and intuition.”

Vazquez denied some rumors, including one that he quit because of a health scare. Did he leave because he feared revelation of any personal scandals of the sort that had led to the dismissal of some past Idol favorites? ”Not at all,” he told the Times. Did he leave because his connection to Michael Jackson (he sang backup on the singer’s 2001 song ”Whatever Happens”) meant he was going have to testify in Jackson’s trial? ”No, I’m not,” said the 27-year-old, talking to AP, adding that he was back home in New York, far from the trial in California. ”It was an amazing experience to work with Michael Jackson, who is a legend. It’s unfortunate what’s happening with that.”

Did he sign a record contract with someone other than the Idol bigwigs? He said he hadn’t, but he declined to discuss his status regarding the Idol contract, an agreement that industry insiders have criticized as unduly burdensome for Idol performers. ”In all honesty, I’m not able to talk about contracts,” he told AP, adding, ”It’s nothing with American Idol in particular, it’s just things I really need to take care of in my life.” Still, he said, he does hope to have a recording career, telling several outlets, ”This is not the last you’ve seen of Mario Vazquez.”