By Gerrad Hall
April 20, 2020 at 07:56 PM EDT
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Eric McCandless/ABC

American Idol

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She was this close.

American Idol turned things over to America a little earlier than usual this season, asking viewers two weeks ago to decide if Lauren Mascitti or Grace Leer would fill the final spot in the Top 20. On Sunday night, host Ryan Seacrest revealed the results of the vote, and Leer moved on. But Mascitti isn't going anywhere anytime soon — she has already released a single, "God Made a Woman," which she performed during Hollywood Week (the song has amassed more than 4 million views on Facebook, and another 750,000 on YouTube) that's available on Spotify and iTunes. And she's putting her talent to work on May 7, participating in a Martin Guitar livestream on Facebook to benefit the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.

Mascitti — who's also an RN in Nashville — talked to EW about her time on the show, her next steps and that single, and getting back to work in a hospital during a pandemic.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, I know that in addition to singing you're also a nurse. How are you? Have you been working in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?

LAUREN MASCITTI: Since I came back from L.A. is when the quarantine started. I've been wanting to go back to work, but they have been cutting down on some of our hours just due to our census being so low because of elective surgeries not happening and people are afraid to come to the hospital for more minor things and fear of being infected. I was kind of waiting to see [how things ended up on the show], so I will be going back to work here pretty soon.

How long ago did you tape that reveal with Ryan? How long did you have to keep this secret? Because you couldn’t tell work you were able to come back until last night, right?

It was actually close to two weeks. It was just a couple days after the vote. I mean, thank god they let us know so it wasn't like we were pacing. I've been kind of taking it in stride and I'm just super grateful for the journey.

It was a very unique experience for you and Grace. So the time in between Hawaii and finding out who moved on, were you in contact and trying to help each other maintain some sanity while waiting for the news?

Oh, yeah. They made us roommates that week. We got to know each other really well and become friends. We both live in Nashville, but we didn't know each other prior to coming on the show, and it made it actually a lot easier for me to be able to walk up on that stage with somebody that I considered a friend and just have that support, whether I went through or was going to go home. We had no idea what they were going to do in that moment. But just being able to say that I had a friend there with me rather than somebody I didn't know very well to have to go through that with..it was a comfort. We've maintained a friendship throughout this whole experience and I'm just really happy for her and completely supporting her. It's all in God's plan, so I am trusting Him with my future; this is my path, and this is her path.

A lot of people who come on the show have never performed in front of audiences, sometimes not even their families. You have performed, but how does that compare to singing in front of everyone else for Hollywood Week or that concert in Hawaii?

I would say that I was a lot more nervous for Hollywood Week than in Hawaii just because you were performing in front of your peers, and the judges were directly in front of you, and it was just such high pressure. You're running on very little sleep and emotions are running wild that week. It was very overwhelming and by the end of the week, I was just really surprised and proud of myself that I got through it by the grace of God. And so in Hawaii, my fiancé got to go with me and my nan for the first time. We had eight days of pretty much free time in the Aulani resort — it was just a beautiful, relaxing week that we had together. And then I got to go on that stage in front of all those people and it was more of my comfort zone because I'm used to performing in front of people I don't know. I'm less nervous when there's more people because I feel like there's less pressure — they were just there to have a good time and that energy bounces from them to me. I was proud of my performance and I wouldn't have done anything differently.

An original song that you performed during Hollywood Week is now a single. Tell me about the path to that happening so quickly.

I'm an independent artist and I recorded a record that I released back in January. I hadn't really promoted it just because of what was going on with American Idol, and I didn't know what I wasn't allowed to do, so I just put it out there. I paid for it myself, off of my nurse's salary. “God Made a Woman” was on that — it’s actually the title of the album — and so I thought, with what's going on right now, why not? People responded to that song just so overwhelmingly well, and the love that I got from that song alone, it was so powerful to me. It's going to country and Americana radio stations this week, so if anybody wants to call in and request it from their station, that would be awesome! [Laughs]

Is there one note from the judges that has stuck with you and replays over and over in your head?

Oh, yeah. Lionel Richie calling me a storyteller. He said that in my audition and it was so overwhelming. I had to like tell myself, “Wow, the guy that co-wrote ‘We Are the World’ with Michael Jackson just called me a storyteller.” That was a huge honor, to be a fan of his and his writing — that’s something I really pride myself in is being a songwriter. I consider myself as much of a songwriter as I am a singer, and so that stuck with me so much, and watching my “God Made a Woman” moment on TV and the judges’ reaction to that all together. But Lionel saying over and over again, “Good song, good song, strong song,” like that, I cried. I cried like a baby. That was really powerful to me. And I'm just so humbled by it.

So the show carries on. I assume that if you're not at the hospital on duty, you will be watching. If you had moved on, were you already thinking about the upcoming episodes and what you wanted to perform as part of the Top 20?

Yeah, I had actually planned on doing a couple cover songs that showed my range a little more, showed a little bit more of my rockin’ side. Then there were a few other songs that I was planning on doing by some of my favorite songwriters that are more like singer-songwriter ballad type stuff. But things work out the way they do for a reason, and so I'm just gonna trust that. I don't know, maybe I'll play them on my Instagram later. Since the quarantine started, I've been doing this thing on my Instagram with classic country covers and I've been having people request traditional country songs they would like to hear and I've been posting them as I go along and kind of peppering in songs I've written in between all of that, so it's been a good time. I am just so grateful to American Idol for giving me the chance to share myself with the world.

American Idol's Top 20 performance shows kick off Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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