By Adam B. Vary
Updated March 05, 2010 at 06:50 PM EST
Patrick Ecclestein/Fox

Image Credit: Patrick Ecclestein/FoxHaeley Vaughn was nothing if not relentlessly cheerful during her tenure on American Idol, so it’s kinda bracing to hear her sound so hushed and droopy the day after she was eliminated from the show. Well, for the first 15 seconds, anyway — then it was back to the upbeat Haeley we all know and love.

Hi Haeley.

Hi Adam, how are you?

I’m okay — more importantly, how are you doing today?

Um, I’m doing okay, I guess. I’m a little disappointed.

It seemed like an emotional final performance for you.

Oh yeah, definitely it was. I was crying through my song, and then my friends and the contestants behind me were crying. It was definitely hard to do. I have a really good relationship with all of the contestants. They’re like family to me. It was really hard saying good-bye to everybody.

Is there anyone you’re going to miss in particular?

I’m going to miss everybody so much, equally. I love everybody. Everybody!

The lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” felt very connected to the moment you were in, too.

Yeah. [Chuckles] The criticism that I got from the night before was to connect to my songs, and after being eliminated, I really did connect with the song. I felt the lyrics. [Laughs] It kind of hit home for me.

What did you make of what Simon said right before you got eliminated, that it was obvious who between you and Lacey Brown was going home?

At that moment, I kind of thought it was going to be me, because I know the night before I hadn’t performed my strongest and wasn’t at my best. And Lacey had a stronger performance than I did, and she got better comments. So when Simon said that, I was like, “okay.” It was difficult hearing that. [Sighs] I don’t know.

Kara this week said you needed another year to develop your voice — was that frustrating to hear at all, like, well why did you put me through to the Top 24 then?

Not so much frustrating, but just disappointing to hear. Just because, I know that experience is good for everybody, so having a little more time to work on my technical issues and working on my voice will only make me better. I’m definitely going to work on it, and go far in what I want to do.

What did the judges say to you at the end of the show?

The judges told me to keep doing what I’m doing, keeping singing the genre of music that I like to sing, and know that I did not fail. Because that was my big thing; I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m a failure.” They told me, “You didn’t fail. You got so far.” They told me to keep going forward and keep doing what I love to do. Simon came up and gave me a hug. He said I was talented and that I need to keep working at it and keep getting better, because I’m so young, I have time to keep getting better. It was definitely helpful.

What do you think you want to do next?

I’m going to go back to high school, and definitely singing and keep making headbands [laughing] and doing what I like to do, having a good time. I’m hoping doors will open for me from Idol. It was an amazing platform to be on. You never know what will happen. The sky’s the limit.

Are you thinking you might want to follow in Miley’s footsteps and try acting?

Oh yeah. I’ve always had that dream to sing and perform and entertain and act and all that. Anything that happens will happen, and I know that God will bless me with anything that happens from here.