"I feel that I should be in contention now. I don't feel that I definitely didn't win the night, nor do I feel like maybe I was even in the Top 5. But out of the 12 acts, I felt like that -- honestly -- I didn't believe that I would be in the bottom two," Jenkins told Reality TV World during a Tuesday conference call.
Making the elimination even harder to swallow for the 29-year-old Murray, UT resident is that he was ousted from the competition by Nashville Star's sixth-season judging panel -- country singer, songwriter and producer John Rich; fifth-season host Jewel; and songwriter and producer Jeffrey Steele -- and not home viewer votes.
"I feel like I could've been around for a little while," Jenkins told Reality TV World when asked how he would have faired if fans had instead decided his fait.
"Eleven of those get America to decide on and one of them doesn't. And in reality you kind of feel like you just got cut from the final. And so it's kind of sad when you just don't get that opportunity -- what I feel like to get that opportunity for America to decide because I think it's a little easier when America decides versus three people's opinions or a network's opinion, I guess."
Jenkins performed Tim McGraw's "I Like It, I Love It" during Monday night's sixth-season debut.
"You have a minute and 15 seconds to show the world or to show those judges what you can do and so you have to make the best with the song -- the best that you possibly can. And so it's absolutely critical that the song matches you and that you can maybe even have a song that you could do something with. The song that I particularly had is pretty much mainstream country with a little staccato," Jenkins told reporters during the conference call.
"It could get a little more chopped up. But I don't think I brought anything really fresh and new to the song. I didn't know exactly what I could do with the song to make it more appealing than what I did."
However it wasn't Jenkins' vocal ability that was criticized by the judging panel -- as he was instead bashed for his performance, which included the crooner interacting with the audience.
"There's so much that you can control and there's so much you can't control -- meaning song selection and also often your staging and where you can and can't go on stage, and where you should go, and kind of your role within the competition as an overall look of the competition. In my situation I was criticized for the way that I went down into the audience and that was a big criticism that they gave to me," Jenkins told reporters. "That was beyond my control. That was part of something that I was suggested and kind of asked to do."
While Jenkins claims mingling with the studio audience was something that was suggested to him, he said it wasn't totally foreign to him as a performer.
"I do it quite a bit actually in a live show, but I usually do it later in the show. I don't usually come out and go right into the audience and do something like that," he explained.
Once Jenkins said he left the stage, he was performing sans monitors and had a hard time hearing what the band was playing via the speakers since they were now farther away.
"I wasn't in the pocket as well as I would like to be and I think I over sang the song a little bit," he added. "So that was one technical challenge that I had singing the song and I think I over sang it a little bit. So I was a little uncomfortable because of that. But other than that, I'm pretty comfortable being down in front of the audience."
Rich compared Jenkins' performance to a "Garth Brooks impersonator in Las Vegas" on Monday night, and the ousted Top 12 finalist called the judge "very opinionated."
"One of the things about this competition that's hard is that John is responsible for taking the winner in and producing their album, and also writing the song that they're going to sing," explained Jenkins. "And so if that one particular judge does not feel that you are the artist that he wants to work with, he could really sway the competition and take it away from somebody that he doesn't believe in - him personally."
Jenkins recalled one of the sixth-season tryouts when Rich criticized some contestants for being "more pop and kind of less mainstream country." Jenkins said he found the comment ironic when you look at the type of music Rich has produced.
"Now -- granted -- he's written some great country songs and I'm not going to take that away from him," said Jenkins. "But it's hard for me -- somebody who is a George Strait fan and straight up pretty much loves that type of country music -- to get lectured when somebody has got a rapper and more of a gimmick, even a midget in their band."
Jenkins quickly backtracked and said didn't want to sound "bigoting of anybody," but also stuck to his guns in criticizing Rich.
"I'm just saying, it's just a completely different style of country music than I'm used to," he said. "To be honest, I don't know exactly what he's looking for but it definitely sways -- and did last night -- swayed my involvement with the show because if he doesn't believe in me, if that one judge again does not believe in me, then I have no shot."
Jenkins added Nashville Star's judging panel has a "different dynamic" than that of AmericanIdol.
"I don't know if it's good or bad," he said. "Time will tell."
He explained that since both Jewel and Rich are current country artists who are trying to sell and promote their own albums, Nashville Star's eventual sixth-season winner will be competing with them.
"Because of that, the dynamics of judging changes and I don't know if it's good or bad. I haven't really had a chance to think about it. I'm starting to form an opinion in my mind whether that's good or not," he said. "But I think having another current artist judging you is even more critical. I think the judges in Nashville Star were more critical of us than I think you would get in American Idol."
Despite all that, Jenkins said he tried not to take the judges comments personally.
"I think that they were a little critical, maybe especially for the first show. I think they could've worked into it a little bit more. But they've also got very strong opinions, all of them, and at least they're willing to share them," said Jenkins. "I would never be arrogant enough to say that I would've won the competition. And to be honest, that wasn't my overall objective. I just wanted the opportunity for America to see me sing."
Jenkins said he's "extremely grateful" for that opportunity.
"Just because it was a platform to millions of people that I wouldn't have gotten at this quickly," he said. "Doing something like this does expose you to things that you can do better. And watching myself on TV and having that type of look and a real analytical look, there's certain holes in my game that I realize I could become better at. It drives me to say, 'I'm going to work on those.'"
Still, Jenkins was unable to say if his participation in Nashville Star would ultimately be a good thing.
"I just want to weather the storm and see what kind of reaction comes from this and then I'll probably be able to answer that question later on, when I see the result and also see how audiences in the future react to me, whether it was a positive or good thing," he explained.
While being cast as a sixth-season Top 12 finalist caused Jenkins to cancel some summer shows with his band -- his calendar is currently clear, and he's hoping to recoup what could have been lost.
"As I was eliminated we got on the phone and started to recover as many shows as we possibly could. I'm just back in the saddle again with what was going on prior to being on the show," he explained. "We have a pretty full summer of great shows lined out, mostly within the Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming region. I'll be going into the studio doing a new album which will be my fourth album."
(Photo credit NBC)
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