"[My family and friends] were all really disappointed that America didn't really get a chance to get any kind of background story or interviews to really get to know me as a person, to really get the opportunity to really get behind me and to -- the way [judge Simon Cowell] put it -- 'stand out,'" Yeager told reporters during a Friday conference call.
"He complained that I didn't stand out and all I could do was laugh at that moment and just say, 'It's out of my hands.' I don't want to be sour about it. I'm just kind of disappointed that I felt like I had a lot of offer to the show. I think my fans out there, people who know me, who know my voice would attest to that."
The 28-year-old from Branson, MO was one of four semifinalists eliminated from Idol 7 during last Thursday night's live results show broadcast and after 10 years in the music industry, he was hoping the Fox mega-hit would have provided more of a platform than it did.
"I've been at this a very, very long time and I wish that I had gotten more of an opportunity to just show my personality because I'm a nice guy," he said. "I'm a very easygoing guy. I think I would have represented everything that American Idol should stand for. I'm the all-American type of guy. I felt like I had a lot to bring to the table and just was disappointed that America didn't get to see that."
Yeager sang The Doobie Brothers' "Long Train Runnin'" during Tuesday night's performance episode. Idol judge Randy Jackson thought Yeager didn't do himself "justice" by picking the song and Paula Abdul agreed, telling Yeager the tune didn't show his "vocal range" and suggested he "pick singer's songs." Cowell added it was like Yeager was "drunk at a party or something" during the performance.
"I know that definitely speaking for myself, that was hard to take because it was on a public platform like that in front of so many people," said Yeager about the criticism. "During Hollywood Week, I had really great auditions and I got nothing but rave reviews. Even back in Dallas when I originally auditioned, [Simon] really seemed to like me. I never actually got a no from him before Top 24, so it was kind of a night and day difference all of a sudden. I felt like he just wasn't into me anymore."
The criticism created stress that Yeager said was difficult to deal with when added to all the other items on his plate as an Idol contestant.
"It's a big, emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. I don't think I was really prepared to deal with all of the stress of it all, especially the criticism, being on national TV like that," he said. "I hope that that's not what I'm remembered for, because I took everything with a grain of salt and just tried to be myself and be content with the fact that I am Top 20 out of 102,000 people that auditioned. I think that it's a huge accomplishment."
While Yeager said he tried to "learn to deal with criticism," it never really happened, especially when it came to what the judges were dishing out.
"I think in the music business -- if I really want to get a record deal -- I'm going to have to face a lot of that," he said. "I'm just really going to have to deal with people's opinions and not let that get to me, because I think subconsciously, I was more worried about what the judges were thinking about me and trying to please them, rather than just really trying to focus on the people who were voting out there."
Yeager fully believes paying too much attention to the judges and not focusing on the correct aspects of the competition is what led to his downfall.
"That's where my flaw was, was that I tried to make it about trying to please them and you just can't do that. You just have to worry about your fans out there and who are voting," he explained. "[I felt] disappointed, I was just kind of let down. I think it's just really hard, because just a lot of things were going through my head, song choice-wise. I think of all the judges' criticism and just felt like the odds were really against me."
Despite being disappointed about his ouster, Yeager was immediately reunited with his No. 1 fan -- his 10-year-old son.
"He called me right after I got off the stage. He was the first person I talked to," said Yeager. "He was just kind of quiet and didn't really know what to say. I can't imagine at his age, I think he was just really trying, he was just feeling the same things I was feeling. He just really didn't know what to say, but he just said, 'I love you, dad. I'm proud of you.' That meant a lot to me."
Yeager said he doesn't think his son will hold a grudge against the judges for criticizing dad.
"Being a kid, I think you stand up for your parent as any kid would," he said. "I hope that he knows that this is a television show and that Simon is playing a part in this television show. He kind of has the reputation for being the mean guy, so I'll make sure that I relay that to him. That it's nothing personal, so."
A self-trained musician, Yeager competed in local talent competitions and appeared as one of the Top 25 finalists for ABC's Making the Band before auditioning for Idol's second season. He didn't make it past the producers. With his twenty-eighth birthday looming last year -- meaning he'd soon be unable to audition for Idol again -- Yeager said he decided to give it one last try.
"I'd kind of given up on everything. I had lost my show in Brandon that I was starring in out there, so I was just waiting tables," he explained. "I just wanted to give it one last go-round. Now I made Top 20 on American Idol. It was a great experience. Hopefully, this will be something on this level, even though I didn't win, I still think that I'm a winner. I still think that something great is going to come out of this. I'm looking forward to whatever that opportunity that arises out of it."
While Yeager was quick to add, "music is my life and I will always be singing," he's also excited at the opportunity to spend time with his son.
"That's what I'm looking forward to now is just being able to have that time to really just get to hang out and talk about the whole experience because I know that he's been going to school, getting to ride along on the same deal," explained Yeager. "It's been exciting for him and it's been exciting for me, too."