'American Idol's Ben Briley: I still don't understand a lot of the criticism but I don't care, no one can outwork me now
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/19/2014
American Idol eliminated Ben Briley during Thursday night's live results show on Fox, determining the thirteenth season's Top 10 finalists and the singers who will be a part of Idol's summer tour this year. Ben, a 24-year-old from Gallatin, TN, became the third finalist sent home from American Idol's thirteenth season after he received the fewest home viewer votes cast following Wednesday night's performance show, which featured the Top 11 finalists performing songs from the cinema, paying a tribute to Hollywood. He tried to show a different side of his country self by singing "Bennie and the Jets" while playing the piano.
Idol judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban decided against using their one "The Judges' Save" of the season on him after he sang for survival. Ben landed in the bottom three alongside Majesty Rose and Sam Woolf.
To read what Ben had to say to Reality TV World during a Friday conference call with reporters, click here. Below is the concluding portion of his interview. Click here for more.
The judges felt this week that you stepped too far outside of what you've been known for in the competition. Do you feel like you should have done that later on down the road? Also, why was it so important for you to show another side?
Ben Briley: Well, the whole reason I picked that song was to show my diversity and to show that I can do something else besides country music. Now, I love country music, that's probably what I will make my career in, but I just wanted to show my diversity and show my versatility, and I wanted to break the piano out and show people I could play piano. I haven't done that on the show yet.
It was more of not making a change and not making a permanent change of my artistry and who I am as an artist, it wasn't about that at all. It was more about showing something different, showing a different side, and that's exactly what I wanted to do.
What's next for you?
Ben Briley: Well, really when I get back home, I'm going to take about a four-day nap, and somebody really needs to buy me a steak, because I think I deserve at least that. And then I'll probably figure out what's next.
I can't really do anything until after the show, for contractual reasons, but I'm going to go back to work. I live 30 minutes outside of Music City, so it's the best place in the world for music. So it shouldn't be too hard to book shows and start working on my own music and finding people who want to play it. And hopefully I'll have a single out on the radio by the end of the year. That's at least my goal.
What have you missed the most while being on Idol that you're looking forward to doing once you get back home?
Ben Briley: Well, definitely my bed, and my hometown, and my support, and all my family and my friends back home. I do miss them a lot. I also miss my big screen TV and my Xbox and my football games. That's something I haven't gotten to do in a long time. So, I'm probably going to spend all day Sunday doing that and eating a lot of pizza, because L.A. does not know what food is.
How about your most memorable moment?
Ben Briley: For me, it would either be when we did the impressions of each other -- that was pretty fun -- but performance-wise, I really had a lot of fun singing "Folsom Prison." That was probably the highlight of my career on the show.
There are YouTube videos of you out there in which you're singing an Elton John medley on the piano. Are you a fan of classic rock as well?
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Ben Briley: Oh, classic rock is one of my favorite styles of music. I'm all the time listening to people like Steppenwolf, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Allman Brothers, and Three Dog Night -- all the great '70s bands. I always kind of grew up with them, and of course Elton was another one that my mom really introduced me too.
She was always playing his music in the house and she played "Candle in the Wind" at her mom's funeral. Elton, I pretty much grew up with him, so the song choice was easy for me, because I knew that that was what I wanted to do. And I think the problem was, I just didn't get that across as much as how much I really wanted to do that, and the comments after the performance didn't help either.
Let's get specific on something that Keith said, about how the judges were looking for a growth in artistry and they weren't quite seeing that from you yet. I don't understand that because you showed that you can play the guitar and then you're playing piano and went with a completely different stylized look. I thought you were definitely showing something different with your growth, so did you understand what he was trying to say?
Ben Briley: Honestly, no. I did not, because I agree with everything you just said, because that's how I was feeling too. I really wanted to grow, and that was the purpose of doing the song, because I wanted to show people that I do have a lot of things up my sleeve and I want to break them out and show you these things. And I guess it was just too much.
They wanted to see a certain thing from me -- I never really knew what that was -- and I've definitely grown, I keep growing every day. Every time I pick up a guitar, I grow, because every time you practice you grow as a musician.
But the artistic growth comment, I still don't understand that. There are a lot of things about the past two weeks that I don't understand. I don't let it bother me, because I just honestly don't care, to be honest with you. I just do my thing and go home.
Was 27 Dresses actually on the song list for Wednesday night's performance show?
Ben Briley: Oh yes, that was on the list, and that song was from that movie. I've never seen that movie. I had no idea that that song was even in the movie. I really just did see the song, because we're not picking songs for the movie's sake, we're picking the songs for the song's sake.
Did you know former Idol finalist Haley Reinhart sang a rendition of that song, "Bennie and the Jets," before on the show?
Ben Briley: I did. She did a version of that song, and I didn't like hers. But I'm also not a Haley Reinhart fan and that's what I was sticking to.
I'd like to ask you about your wife Courtney. You said that a huge reason why you're doing Idol is to provide a future for her and your future children. How would you say being married affected your time on the show? Did you find yourself being motivated more because the stakes are higher for you?
Ben Briley: Yes, the entire reason I tried out for Idol in the first place was so I could be a supportive father and a supportive husband. And we don't have kids yet, we will one day, but it's definitely tough because I don't know too many newlyweds that have spent their first year of marriage like this.
And it was definitely hard being away, which is one good thing about going home now, in that now that I'm not going on the tour so I don't have to be away from her for an extended period of time anymore together.
In the future, if you could get to sing with your idol or whomever you could choose, who would you just love to be able to either do a duet with or make an album with?
Ben Briley: Well, I would love to sing with Vince Gill. He's the one that comes to mind. I've always admired his musicianship, and he's pretty much the boss in Nashville, I can tell you that. And also Ricky Skaggs is a big one I've always wanted to work with.
Eric Church is a big influence of mine. Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson are still around and I'd love to play with them some time, because they're really big influences of mine. Yes, those are some that come to mind, and Gregg Allman is another one.
Any final remarks, Ben?
Ben Briley: The main thing, and I've said this before, I just wanted to get across that I am not just a country singer. I can do all sorts of things. That was the goal of last night. The goal was to show people I can play piano and I have a number of instruments that I actually can play that I wanted to break out on the show.
I just didn't want to be that contestant that sings the same -- that same country contestant that sang the same music over and over again, and I didn't want to be consistent. I wanted to be unpredictable and I wanted to surprise people. And most importantly, I wanted to be unique. And that was my goal for the competition, and it was also my goal for last week.
I wanted to make it my own. I'm not Elton John. I'm not Haley Reinhart. I'm not going to sound like them, nor am I going to play like them. So, it was a big letdown because I thought it would go over better than it did, because I really wanted to get that point across.
But the experience on the show has taught me about professionalism in music and something I didn't really know much about, and now it's really going to help me in the future. Now, you have definitely, definitely not seen the last of me, because no one is going to outwork me. I have a goal. I have a mission. And I have this ambition, and it is to support my family playing music, and that has never changed since Day 1.
I don't care about the fame or the money. I was never in it for either one of those reasons. I was in it because I want to be a good father and a good husband, and that's my goal. And I can do that playing music because it's one of the few things that I'm good at, and that's what you're going to get out of me.
Hopefully you'll see me soon, in a year or so, in a different context, and we can do this conference call again. And maybe I'll have an album out by then, you never know. But just keep your eyes open, because I'm not laying down.
Whenever you hear about all these contestants that don't do anything [after Idol], it's because some people just don't work hard. And if anything, I am a hard worker, and I intend to prove that to people. But thank you for wanting to talk to me today. I really appreciate it.
Above is the concluding portion of Ben's Friday conference call with reporters. To read what he had to say to Reality TV World specifically, click here. For more from his interview, click here.