"I love Big Mike and I was so happy that he got saved and all of us contestants were able to spend another week with him. It was weird because I had this feeling that it was going to be me when I was standing next to him," Stevens told reporters during a Thursday conference call.
"You've always got to be prepared to go home because everybody's got to go home except one."
"Obviously it's a little emotional, but I tried the best I could and that's not the last time America's going to see me," Stevens told reporters, adding her parents were very supportive when they could sense she was upset after her ouster.
"They basically told me how proud they are of me and how I should have no regrets about anything -- and I don't. I have no regrets and I'm so proud of myself that I was able to have strength enough to go through this at my age. I'm very proud of everything I accomplished."
One of the biggest criticisms the judges had of Stevens during the ninth season was that she needed to sing songs that were more suited for age -- something she said was "definitely difficult."
"I usually hung out with people that were older than me. So I think that's how I came to have a maturity level beyond my years. I think it was a little more difficult for me to be young and go towards that younger vibe because I do spend so much time with people who are older than me -- especially in this competition," she explained.
"But it's always good to be young and fresh."
In addition, Stevens said the fact that theme weeks included Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones made it even harder for her to be younger.
"It definitely was difficult getting the whole young comments and then having to do older songs. But I've never been afraid of a challenge and I was happy to sing those songs," she said.
"Obviously everybody wants to win, but I still had to keep myself in check and say, 'Don't forget where you came from.' It was definitely the experience of a lifetime."
Judges Kara DioGuardi and Simon Cowell also disagreed on the direction Stevens should go in with her song selections -- as DioGuardi saw her more as a pop singer and Cowell thought she should be more country.
"They all know what they're talking about, but ultimately I need to do what I love and I feel is best for me," she said. "I kind of side more with Kara -- pop with R&B leanings. In an album I would like to record things like Kelly Clarkson."
Stevens added that she feels she began to do better in the competition once she made the Top 12 and stopped trying to please the judges.
"I think that was when I was trying to please the judges and I wasn't pleasing myself and doing what I love. So I decided going into Top 12 that I was just going to be myself," she explained. "So everything I did at that point was what I loved to do. I think that showed off, so the judges started giving me better comments."
Still, Stevens said facing the judges on a weekly basis was the most difficult aspect of the competition.
"It's just very hard knowing that you're going to be judged afterwards because you don't know what to expect. You don't know if they're going to give you good comments or bad comments," she said.
"So you've just got to try to manage your nerves the best you can because I think the signing part was the easiest. But it was nerve-racking going into the judging part of it."
As for what's next, Stevens said she's looking forward to finishing school and heading out on the annual American Idol summer concert tour that follows each season.
"I actually don't think I'll be able to attend prom or our graduation because that's when tour rehearsals start. But I'm definitely going to go back home, hang out with my friends, keep up with school so that I can graduate and get my diploma," she told reporters.
"But I'm really looking forward to the tour and hopefully after that writing an album. I'm excited for what's to come."
(Photo credit Fox)
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