The bluesy Katelyn Epperly may have been skeptical of her chances on American Idol, but she continued to impress to judges up until her rendition of “I Feel the Earth Move,” which kept her from entering the Top 12. The 19-year-old Iowa native talked with us about her song choice, why she didn’t belong on the Idol stage and how being kicked off has given her some relief.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel this morning?
KATELYN EPPERLY: Honestly, I feel 10 times better than I thought I would. I was a little skeptical my whole life about trying out for this show. I was always urged to do it, but I always thought it was a little too mainstream for the kind of music I like to write. After last night, I was really super upset, but at the same time, after talking with the others that got cut — a lot of other extremely talented ridiculous people, especially Lilly. Lilly and I have been friends throughout this whole thing. We’ve gotten really close. We both are song writers and find each other to be credible musicians. We did a lot of talking. This is definitely just a platform for something else. It was an awesome experience and I learned more from this than I could sitting in a classroom learning stuff like I was before. I’m not upset, just motivated to go out and do more.
Since you were skeptical, were you surprised when they said your name?
I was surprised, I guess based on what I’ve delivered so far. I don’t think I’ve done anything that America tends to think is spectacular. But this is where I fall short with this audience. People, a lot of the time, want to hear super, epic, crazy notes and that’s not my style at all. I knew that going in and I was hoping that people would be interested in tone and originality, but it got me where I did to some extent. We didn’t make that top 12 cut and a lot of that sucks, but at the same time, now there’s not a label slapped on us as person from American Idol. After a while that will all fade off and hopefully I can just continue my career as me.
How would you define, if you can, your musical style?
That’s a hard thing to pinpoint. Kara had mentioned to me on the show, I have so many different things I like to do with my voice because of the different trainings I’ve gone through. I’ve done jazz, I did musical theater back in the day, I’ve done blues, I’ve been in several rock bands. So I can do a lot of stuff. I would say my roots and what I truly like to do is jazz, blues, and folk rock.
If you had consistently stuck to those genres, do you think you would’ve been sent home earlier?
Not necessarily. Being on the show, you have to pick songs that people will at least somewhat know. That’s why it was difficult for me. I know several other contestants this year, and we don’t listen to mainstream music at all really. It was a very big challenge, browsing through music and trying to find a selection of something that people would enjoy. I still stayed true to what I listen to. I listen to a a lot of classic rock so I tried to perform that in a minute-and-a-half the best way I could. That part was difficult. It’s bittersweet. It sucks to have it all when you’re so close to that cut but at that time, there’s an odd sense of relief and excitement for not being just tied to one show. The schedule is really grueling. It’s going to be nice to get some sleep tonight.
How did you feel about choosing “I Feel the Earth Move”?
My grandpa had always wanted me to perform that song. I had a lot of stuff that I wanted to — but I got worked up in not being sure and being last-minute and that probably came out in my performance. I wasn’t completely in it and when they said I looked like I didn’t care, I think, for whatever reason and it was the wrong time for me to do this, I zoned out and went into automatic performing. I’ve been doing it so long that my hands are just hitting the keys and I’m just singing the words and going through the motions. That can be my downfall, too. I’m not a diva. I don’t know how to stand on stage and just make everyone look at me. That part was difficult and it was kind of awkward playing without the keys for my last performance. But I definitely had fun and enjoyed the stage for the last time.
Do you have any regrets?
My only regret is to not get so caught up in the logistics of everything. I got really caught up in cameras. I have a very good sense of who I am, not in a cocky way. I know who I am as a person and artist. I think that this show was kind of so out of element that if felt at times that I was molding myself to be something I wasn’t during interviews, performances. Even my dad said, “I’ve noticed you’re making faces you’ve never made before,” and I’m like,”That’s because they’re telling me to look at a camera and I don’t know what to do!” That part of it is awkward and I wish I would’ve let go a little more and completely been myself, then maybe I would’ve felt a little better about it. Overall really, no regrets. I really enjoyed my time.
What can we expect from you now?
I’m not exactly sure where I’m gonna end up permanently. I’m going to stay [in L.A.] for another week; I got some friends out here. But I am going to have to go back to Iowa now because I am flat broke and need to stay with my parents. I’m definitely talking to several people that I’m friends with and other good musicians from around the United States that want to start writing and start a new project. My ultimate dream in life is to have several projects with several different musicians and to not just be Katelyn Epperly. I did [Idol] as a platform for something better. Maybe it was my time to get get cut. I’m definitely looking forward to going back in the studio, finally sitting down at a piano and writing a song. I’m excited to see whats going to come out of my writing now that I’m so inspired. It’s going to be fun. I’m kind of excited to somewhat have my life back.
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Photo: Frank Micelotta/Fox