Ousted Carly Smithson dishes about her 'American Idol' experience
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/25/2008
Carly Smithson said she wasn't the only seventh-season finalist thinking Wednesday night would be the end of his or her American Idol journey.
"I think at this stage -- we're in the Top 6, and I feel that everybody was kind of thinking that they were going to go home. Not one person feels safe anymore," she told reporters during a Thursday conference call. "We're all just so grateful for the experience. I know I feel like American Idol has given me such a gift, such a platform to be able to launch myself off of. And no more theme songs."
"It was really cool, and I'm definitely I feel blessed to be a part of this year," Smithson gushed to reporters. "It definitely feels a lot greater going out sixth this year then it probably would have any other year. I feel really good about it."
Despite having "fun" during her Idol experience, Smithson said she had an epiphany about the competition that she wishes would have crossed her mind earlier.
"I think maybe it was too late, but I realized not to take everything so seriously," she explained. "You know early on in the show they had set the standard so high for me, and they were a lot harder on me than other contestants and I think it kind of got to me for a maybe a few weeks, and I think by the time I met Mariah Carey I had kind of changed my mind. She was just so cool and so normal and so nice. Because you know obviously we come into this and they want us to be a star, but like I come from a bar and I have no idea what a star really is supposed to act like. So I just thought it was really cool that when we met here I was just like, 'Well, you know I can just be normal and that's cool.'"
Smithson's first attempt at becoming a star happened when the Dublin, Ireland native released her debut album "Ultimate High" at 15-years-old. Although Vivendi Universal SA's MCA Records reportedly spent two years and around $2.2 million producing and promoting it, the album -- which was released under Smithson's maiden name of Carly Hennessy -- failed to sell more than 400 copies.
Smithson subsequently returned to Ireland before eventually coming stateside again, but said singing was the last thing she wanted to do.
"I moved to Georgia in, I believe, late 2003, and I just decided to be a waitress," she told reporters. "I had worked really hard to try and break the music industry, and I just wanted to kind of get away from it and love it again, because it started to kind of become something that was like so out of my reach for so long. And it started to become like something that was kind of, not negative to me, but just I needed to leave it to love it more."
Smithson described her initial attempt at becoming a star as "such a struggle and an effort" that she simply waited tables in Atlanta -- at the same bar fellow former Idol seventh-season finalist Michael Johns used to perform at.
"I guess it was funny for people that worked at Fado in Atlanta, because you know Michael Johns used to be the singing entertainment and I wasn't," she said. "You know I was just the waitress, and we didn't exactly work there at exactly the same time, but it was funny for them, I guess, to watch the show."
Smithson went from Atlanta to San Diego and began working at a bar in 2005, which is when she started to sing again -- however it wasn't exactly an opportunity she sought out.
"It was so funny because they had no act for New Year's, and you know I had had experience before, and it kind of was a weird experience for me. So I just decided to kind of put it in my past," she explained.
"I never told anyone that I worked with [at the bar] that I sang... I kept it so silent that I sang, until I got to San Diego and they needed an act for the New Year's, and I said that I knew a few people in L.A. I could put a small band together and see what happened."
Smithson said she had so much fun that she was once again smitten with singing.
"I was just like, 'I need to do this again. I miss music so much.' And I always wrote and I always sung at home, but you know I never did it in a professional way for many, many years, and I love it now. I have such a hunger and music is just it's such a gift, and I'm just so excited now to be creative... I just started to want it so bad again, and music to me it's just everything, so whether I'm singing in my living room or on a stage, like Idol, I just love every minute of it. It's just such a great gift that I've been given, and, I don't know, I think Idol has given me such a great gift to be able to show the world; it's just amazing."
It was shortly after her New Year's reawakening that Smithson auditioned for Idol's fifth-season in Las Vegas.
"I walked into the room and I'd never watched the show," said Smithson. "I walked into that audition and I was going to a Motley Crue concert that night, I wasn't necessarily in town to audition for Idol, so I don't feel that there was such pressure on myself from myself to do well. It was more of I didn't have time to think about the audition."
Smithson said it was a horse of a different color when she auditioned last summer for Idol's seventh season.
"Now when it came to San Diego you know I had time to think about it in the weeks running up to it, and you know it is nerve racking," she said.
Making matters worse was that Smithson did so well during her fifth-season audition that she made the Hollywood Round, but was subsequently disqualified due to her lack of work papers to perform in the U.S.
"Coming in, I had such a great audition in Las Vegas -- they loved me," she said. "And then I come [to San Diego] and I just felt like it was like I had to beat myself almost. And I walked into the room and I gave it everything I had."
Smithson described her San Diego audition as "really amusing" since Idol judge Simon Cowell commented she wasn't as good as her first audition two years ago.
"You guys obviously haven't seen the footage of the Las Vegas audition, but I asked to see it because I was so confused as to what wasn't as good as two years ago," she explained. "And I watched it back and it's funny, everyone says it's like exactly the same. It was no different. It was the same song as well you know, because I walked in the room and I was about to sing something else and they said to sing the same song because they had liked it so much from before."
Regardless, Smithson made it up until she was ousted following her Tuesday night performance of "Superstar" from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar." She actually received positive comments from the judges for her rendition of the song, which was a "last minute" choice to sing.
"When I sang for Andrew Lloyd Weber I'd learned the other song -- 'All I Ask of You' -- and there's a lot of words in 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' so, yes, I fumbled on a few of the lyrics," she told reporters. "And I was coming up to the performance and I was talking to Andrew in the back. I knew all the words in the moment, but I knew as soon as I got on the stage I was going to fumble a few, and I was so irritated at myself when I got off the stage."
Cowell was one of Smithson's harshest critics throughout the season -- and it wasn't only her vocal abilities that he took aim at.
"Apparently Simon thinks I have bad fashion, but I really don't care. I loved everything that I wore, and I wouldn't change anything really that I wore through the whole thing," she said. "I kind of go out when I go shopping and I just look for something that's different. I don't want to look like everybody else. I am tattooed so I'm not dainty wear doesn't really go down a tree with me; sometimes it just looks kind of weird or awkward on me. So I don't know, every week I just wanted to look standout a little bit more."
If she has any regrets, Smithson said it actually has to do with her tattoo -- but it's not that she wishes she didn't have it.
"It's a geisha," said Smithson after a reporter asked why she had Amy Winehouse tattooed on her arm.
"It looks nothing like Amy Winehouse. It's just not colored in and everyone keeps asking me why I have Amy Winehouse on my arm, but it's actually been on my arm for two years before she even came out. So when it's colored in you guys will all understand, but it looks like she has big hair but she actually doesn't. It's just because it's like black and white and it's not, you know, a close-up photo, but I have the actual painting at home and it's actually a Japanese geisha."
"It's so funny, even Andrew Lloyd Weber said it. He's like, 'Oh, look you have Amy Winehouse on your arm.' I'm like, 'No.' It was funny, but I love my tattoo and that was one thing in the show that really bothered me that it wasn't finished and we never get any time. I really wanted to go and get it finished, but, yes, her face will be white and her lips will be red. She'll look nothing like Amy Winehouse by the time it's finished."
Smithson told reporters it's "definitely been a struggle" for the female finalists this year because "women vote for this show... and they vote for the boys." Still, Smithson sized-up the two remaining female finalists -- Syesha Mercado and Brooke White.
"I think they're so different from each other as artists," she explained. "Syesha's got the whole R&B thing going on and she's got this huge voice, and Brooke always says that she's not got that huge voice, but I think that there's something so special about her that she just stops you dead in your tracks when she opens her mouth. So they're so amazingly different from each other and so amazing in themselves."
In addition, Smithson said she's unsure who will take home the seventh-season title.
"I have no idea. It's kind of anyone's game," she said. "People have their favorites already... Jason Castro could look into the camera and bat his eyelids and go into his amazing falsetto voice; and Brooke could you know just melt someone's heart... They give these amazing performances every week, and everyone's so different that I honestly have no idea who it could be between. I mean nobody saw Michael Johns going home, nobody saw Alaina Whittaker going home... There was all these shocking eliminations -- there could be another shocker. You never know what lies up the sleeve of American Idol."
Smithson said her favorite has been eliminated for a few weeks now.
"My favorite went a long time ago. My favorite was Amanda Overmyer; she was fantastic, fantastic," she gushed.
As for what's next, Smithson said she's most excited to get back to her "everyday life."
"Everyone keeps saying, 'Oh, your life's going to change.' I'm just going to try and keep my life," she said. "I will work very hard and I will grab this opportunity by the horns, but me as a person, I'm not going to change. I've craved all the things that I used to do, the simple things in life that you miss."