The Irish barmistress talks about taking lumps from Simon, whether Brooke really deserved to go home, and more
Carly Smithson
Credit: A Rapoport/Getty Images

Seems luck wasn’t on our Irish lass’ side: After a truly rousing performance of ”Superstar” Tuesday night, American Idol voters opted to send favorite Carly Smithson packing, weeks before her time (cue all our hearts breaking). No one could have anticipated the power vocalist’s early exit, except, of course, the contestant herself. A surprisingly upbeat Carly called to talk about those darned stubborn judges, where she’s headed next, and why her ouster wasn’t a shocker.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You were fantastic on Tuesday. What happened?
CARLY SMITHSON: I have no idea. Who knows? It’s American Idol, so I think I just have to kind of move on and have a good attitude about it. Everybody’s going to leave at any time.

You seem to be taking it really well. You appeared to be in high spirits last night after being eliminated.
Obviously, I would have loved to go further. People are thinking this morning that I’m stoked to go home. That’s not the case. I just feel like, what’s the point in going out all upset and pissed off? There’s no point. What happens happens. Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe when it’s your time, it’s your time, and I’m just excited now that I’m free to make a record. The show’s only got a few weeks left. It’s not like I went out top 100 or whatever. I made the top 6. That’s huge! I’m really, really pleased and very satisfied with that. I definitely think that’s a huge achievement, and it’s more than I ever thought I would get. So I’m stoked. I was stoked top 8, 7, whatever.

Were you surprised to go home before some others who didn’t really seem to fare nearly as well on Tuesday?
You know, I’ve been asked this question all morning. And I know what you’re talking about, and I’m sure she knows what [you’re] talking about. But I kind of sat down with everybody before I left, and I’m not surprised. Some people have bigger fanbases than I had, and that’s okay. My fans were very good to me, and they kept me in as long as they did. And I truly believe when you have a good night, it is maybe the kiss of death, because your fans don’t power-vote for you like if you had a bad night. And that’s just the way it goes. And I have no hard feelings. I love everyone on the show, and I wish them all the best. [Brooke] had a blunder, but I truly believe after the blunder, she gave a knockout performance. Cut the blunder out, and go from where she restarted her song, and I think it was great.

So do you think that Simon did give you the kiss of death by complimenting you?
Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe he did it on purpose. [Laughs]

But you were in the bottom three after your stunning performance of ”Blackbird,” which Simon was hard on as well.
Everyone kept saying, ”Don’t try to impress Simon,” and it was like, well, everyone’s clearly listening to what he’s saying, because every time that I’m in the bottom section, it’s because he was unpleased with anything that I did. But he set the bar very high for me early on. A lot higher than he did for any of the other contestants. Whether somebody else forgot their lyrics or whatever, I could go out and do something great and he still wasn’t going to like it. I felt satisfied with everything that I did. Words cannot describe what goes through the mind of Simon Cowell. You just don’t know what he’s going to say. So I went out there, gave it everything I had, enjoyed every moment of it. I have no regrets, and all I can do is move forward now. There’s no theme nights anymore, so I can be myself and make my record and be creative and not sing cover songs. American Idol is this huge pedestal, and they know their stuff, the people on that show. They’re amazing. They really are. They’ve helped me so much. And I owe them. I don’t think ”thank you” is enough.

You’ve acknowledged that the judges were particularly hard on you this season, even on the show. Besides singing while riding a unicycle and pouring a Guinness, what do you think you could have done to impress them?
Maybe I’d do that in the future. Sometimes it was a little bit [disconcerting], if you know what I mean. Simon said to me that he truly believes in me, and he truly wanted me to just be great, and I went out there and I tried every time, but there were a few nights that I was put off a little bit because, you know, he didn’t really give me the most encouraging support. But I don’t know. Maybe he thought that was the greatest way to do it, and that’s okay. I took everything that they said, and I’ve taken it in, and I will use every ounce of guidance that they gave me, because I don’t see it as criticism. I see it as guidance. It’s not meant to be just negative. They’re trying to tell you something. They’ve all been in the industry forever. And who am I to come out and say, ”You’re just being a jerk”? I believe they truly have an agenda behind what they’re saying, and they truly have a meaning behind what they’re saying, whether each contestant gets the meaning, or just gets upset by it.

What about the time he critiqued your look on Dolly Parton night? That couldn’t have felt good…
I understand what he meant by he wanted me to be a star. I think that I kind of upped my look a little bit [since]. I think I looked all right that night; I didn’t think I looked bad. But I understood what he meant by, Put on the glitz a little bit and look like a star. But I came from a bar. I don’t necessarily know what a star is supposed to be, how they’re supposed to act or whatever. You know, that’s just part of learning. And I think I learned a lot on the show, and I’m very, very grateful to the show.

NEXT: What Carly would have performed for Neil Diamond week

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You said you weren’t surprised to be leaving earlier, but you said last night that you were planning to have fun from here on out…
CARLY SMITHSON: I didn’t necessarily mean on the show. I just meant life in general, in every performance that I ever do from now on. Whether I’m on the show or not, I’m going to stay true to who I am, and just do music I really enjoy. I’ve always said that Heart has influenced me hugely. They are one of my favorite bands. I think their music is killer. That kind of pop-rock vibe, and just hitting those power ballads and stuff like that, it’s just all who I am. I listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd all day, and I drive a truck. I’m hardly going to go out and give a pop performance. That’s just not who I am. I always have a little bit of an edge to what I do.

That’s pretty clear based on your performances throughout the show.
”Here You Come Again,” the original — Dolly Parton is the most fun-spirited person that I’ve ever come across. She’s amazing. But for me, I prefer to strip it down to a guitar just to give it a little bit more of an edge. Make it a little bit more me.

After Ryan told Jason he was safe last night, what did Jason say to you?
I don’t remember. It was probably something very Jason Castro to say. He’s so funny. He comes out with the most bizarre things. He’s really come out of his shell as well. He was very shy before. We all were, and the last few weeks we’ve kind of loosened up a bit and realized how fun this all is. But he says the strangest things at the strangest moments, and it’s great. I think he truly believed he was in the bottom two, which was funny. Oh, I know what he was saying. He didn’t want to sing his song again, because I don’t think he remembered the words.

Ha! Well, at least he wouldn’t have been the only one. What were you talking about with Ryan when Syesha was performing her possible exit performance?
Ryan was asking about me and Syesha being roommates and that we’d picked the most up-tempo songs of the night, and it was funny that both of us ended up in the bottom two.

What were you going to sing next week?
I wanted to do ”Sweet Caroline,” and I wanted to do it with a cello and a piano.

Interesting! Too bad we won’t be able to see it. What’s next for you after the Idol tour?
Making a record. Being creative, writing songs, making a career for myself.

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American Idol

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