"I definitely got the boot, hard. But, hey, you know, the good thing about American Idol is you don't have to win it to do something with it. I think that's the biggest thing about the show is that a lot of people that don't win still end up [with entertainment] careers," Covington said during Thursday night's broadcast of CNN's Larry King Live.
"When it first happened, I just thought, you know, I'll go back to the house and I'll just, you know, practice my song and come back next week and sing Cher. But that didn't happen," Caldwell told King. "So, I mean, yes, it was sad at first. It really was. And then I realized, listen, I can take this opportunity and I can make it into something for myself or I can decide to go back to Katy, Texas and sit there and try to sing at like a local pub. And that's not what I wanted for myself. So I decided to take the bigger step and stay in Los Angeles and really pursue everything."
Caldwell said she's been "really lucky" since that day she left Idol, first landing a job on Fox Sports' 54321 television show and later as co-host of the TV Guide Channel's Idol Tonight. She's also working on a "country rock" album, just filmed a movie in Vancouver and is the new spokesmodel for Michael Antonio shoes, the catalogue of which just came out and was seen by original Idol runner-up Justin Guarini.
"It looks good. It looked very good," said Guarini about Caldwell's appearance in the catalogue. Replied Caldwell, "Cool."
Guarini said although he finished second to Kelly Clarkson during Idol's inaugural season, the experience was definitely worth it. He's currently working on his third album, just finished filming the movie Fast Girl and will be co-hosting the upcoming second season of Idol Tonight alongside Caldwell.
"Honestly, [Idol] gave all of us the keys to a career. I mean you can't buy the sort of exposure that we got on that show," Guarini told King. "And, I mean, the fact that this is a reality TV show that is based on talent, not about stabbing some teammate in the back...It's not about some wacky family versus some other wacky family. It's about talent and it's about America choosing who they want to hear and see on the radio."
According to Caldwell, even those who don't win Idol still become household names across America, which translates into more press coverage.
"It's a lot of press," added Guarini. "You know, it's just about taking as much advantage of the press as you can."
Idol 5 finalist Ace Young said the exposure he got from appearing on the Fox mega-hit was quickly noticeable. When he landed in New York to "do the press" following Idol's fifth season, he said a "big muscular gentleman... with tattoos up and down his arms" approached him on the street.
"He goes, 'Ace!' I thought he was coming to beat me up. But he came up to me and he gave me a big hug and he goes, 'You got screwed, man,'" Young told King. "And he gave me a big hug and he was the coolest guy ever. I was blown away. I've met such nice people."
Young agreed with Caldwell, Covington and Guarini that the Idol experience was worth it, and not only that, he described it as "incredible."
"I just can't even explain how amazing it was. I got to hang out with fans that were from all over the country throughout the summer tour and I started my own charity for a children's hospital in my hometown of Denver," Young told King. "I got to write the very first song on [fellow Idol 5 finalist] Chris Daughtry's first album with him. I wrote the chorus to 'It's Not Over' and it's number one right now. And on top of that, I get to write my album with some of the best songwriters in the world. So it's definitely worth it."
Covington went so far as to give Idol a "big thank you" for what the show did for his career.
"American Idol does for you what nobody else can do for you in that amount of time," Covington told King. "My single just come out and it's doing really good on the radios and everything. And I just got back from L.A. shooting a video. So I don't know if any of that would have been possible without American Idol."