By Jake Perlman
Updated May 16, 2014 at 10:07 PM EDT
Alex Preston 01
Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

After three months of competition and 75,000 hopefuls, Alex Preston was voted out of American Idol on Thursday night, ending in third place for the singing competition’s 13th season. Touted as “The Most Popular Thing in New Hampshire,” Preston got a hometown celebration fit for a rock star before his elimination. EW talked to Alex about his time on the show:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling?

ALEX PRESTON:I feel good. I kind of saw it coming. I was pretty confident that I was leaving. I had a decent night, but I think America has already picked their fans and who they want, and I was pretty confident that I was the underdog of the three.

You still have a lot of fans: You played to 6,800 people.

That was crazy. I was not expecting that many people at the concert at all. It was super awesome, and it got me super stoked for the future.

Where was that? Had you seen other performers there before?

It was at my college, the University of New Hampshire, the Whittemore Center, where the hockey games are. I saw Aviici there, David Guetta. Who else? Like, Kendrick Lamar and stuff.

Next week, you’ll get to perform with Jason Mraz.

It’s gonna be sweet. I think I’m meeting with him tomorrow in Burbank and rehearsing or something, and it’ll be him and his band, and his band is awesome too, so I’m really excited.

How did you go through the process of making each song your own musically?

I usually like to listen to the song first and kind of envision what I want to do with it and kind of the vibe that I want to give off. I’ve always been really into that, ’cause I’m into a lot of YouTube stuff, or at least I used to [be]. I love writing music, so this is the closest I’m going to get to that by doing cover songs. Then I would meet with the vocal coaches and go over the arrangements and they would show me what they had and I would show them my thoughts. It was cool, a great collaboration effort.

What’s the difference between performing in a coffeehouse and live television?

I don’t know, I feel like I still get just as nervous for a smaller show that I do for a big, live show. It’s a different vibe for sure. It gave me a whole new perspective on performance, this whole experience has. I never knew how much…stuff went on in a performance. All the people we had to meet with and all the production that goes behind it makes me admire these kinds of things a little bit more because of all the work that went into it.

Any particular song or arrangement you’re particularly proud of?

I liked the Willie Nelson arrangement, I thought that was fun. And also “Stay” was fun to do as well.

Was there extra pressure doing a judges’ pick this week?

I felt like they would be extra critical since they picked the song since it kind of shows if they know you too, so they were just as nervous to listen to the song as I was to play it, but they really enjoyed it. That song [Rihanna and Mikky Ekko’s “Stay”] has a lot of opportunity for a lot of different arrangements. When I first heard I was doing it, I was really excited. Actually, Mikky Ekko, who was on that, tweeted me, which was awesome.

What has social media been like for you now?

Social media is crucial in this industry because the only way you’re going to have a career as a performer is if you have fans to support you and go buy your records and go to your tours, and the only way that people would be interested in that is if you interact with them and make them feel as important as they actually are. They are the most important thing in a performer’s career.

What’s next?

I hope to record an album and write with as many artists as I can. I have a lot of artists that I want to work with, so hopefully I can work that out.

Any predictions for the finale?

[Laughs] I honestly have no idea, ’cause both Jena and Caleb are so different but are so powerful and have such big performances that I don’t know what’s going to happen.