Credit: Michael Becker / FOX

Jessica Meuse won’t get to go home as part of the traditional local celebration that greets the final three contestants on American Idol, but she will go home a winner in the minds of many fans back in Alabama after making it to the final four. EW talked to Jessica about her emotional night and why last week’s twist was unproductive, and the real reason she wore a braid that night. (Watch out, Katniss!)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling?

JESSICA MEUSE: I did get emotional. I’m a big baby, and it meant a lot to me to get to top four. I mean, that’s Chris Daughtry status. I know I can do it, I know I can do anything, ’cause I never expected to even get that far. But I’m really happy I went out on a good note. I’m pretty happy with everything I’ve done at this point. I went out being me, like I sang an original and I did it. I felt really good about it.

How far did you think you were going to go?

When I first auditioned, I just wanted to get past Hollywood Week, and then the top 30. I just set out these little goals, but I never rally expected much, I had no idea. It was a random idea to audition in the first place, I had no clue. But once I got top 30, I thought, “I could actually do this, holy crap.” And then they whittled it down to the top 20 and then the top 10, and it was all live shows and I was like, “Holy crap, I made the top 10.” And I really wanted to make that tour, and I was like, “OK, let’s try for five” — and I did. So, you have to set little goals for yourself, and I was just amazed that I got this far.

Did the judges say anything to you after?

Keith came up to me and was talking to me about my songwriting and how some people in Nashville were talking about me, and I was like, “Ooh, that’s good!” It means a lot to write your own stuff and perform it in front of a national audience, that does mean a lot. Especially since my song is so personally to me, it’s like opening a diary and being like, “Here, this is me, I bleed red too.” Harry came up to me and said he was only harsh on me ’cause he believes in me as an artist. He’s like a dad. It’s kind of weird. But I responded by saying, “I’m going to write a CD now.” I was kind of stunned by everything going on, that’s all I could say. It was kind of cathartic.

Did you have a feeling it was your time?

I did have a feeling that it was probably going to be me. It’s very intuitive, you really can tell. It’s weird, I can’t really explain it. It’s just a thing that haunts you all day Thursday, especially when it’s only four people. That’s such a high chance for going home for anybody. But you can tell by the judges’ comments how people are going to react to that and social media. Honestly, I try and stay away from social media Wednesday night and Thursdays, but you can’t help but see a couple of things here and there, and it kind of sucks. But I believe it builds character and makes you who you are.

What has it been like being “famous” on social media now?

It’s gone crazy, it really has. A lot of careers are dependent on it now. Like, people want to see what you’re eating for lunch. It’s kind of weird, but it’s true. Like, if I take a picture of a sandwich, they’re like, “Oh, that looks so good!” But I try to be very personable with my fans and talk to them and hope to call them out by name on tour when they go. Fans are the ones who make artists; they are the ones buying your stuff. Why wouldn’t you be nice to them?

You performed Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and Lady Gaga all in one night. That’s big!

I was honestly honored. It’s so mind-boggling, there is so much happening at once, but it’s really an honor every week to be performing on that stage. Especially performing songs from other people who performed on that stage, like that Kelly Clarkson song, so I really wanted to make it my own.

What did you think of the themes this year?

I don’t really know sometimes what they put into the themes. They would randomly make themes up sometimes, it would feel like. But I would just go with the flow, which I feel like you have to sometimes. ‘Cause it’s a reality show like that. It’s like being in The Hunger Games, when they shut your light off like that. I mean, I’m not dead!

What did you think of the twist last week?

That twist was so unproductive, it wasn’t even funny. I mean, it was counterproductive. I wanted to give some nightlock berries to everyone. I had my braid on for a reason!

The Hunger Games
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