When the age limit was lowered from 16 to 15 on this year’s “American Idol,” the producers probably had no idea the two finalists would be teenagers.
Winner Scotty McCreery turned 17 during the competition, while Lauren Alaina celebrated her 16th birthday, but both showed the poise of veterans in the heated competition as well as in separate day-after sessions with the media.
When McCreery first unveiled his low baritone voice, the judges were stunned when they found out how young he really was, prompting Steven Tyler’s infamous retort: “Well hellfire save matches, f**k a duck and see what hatches.” Alaina similarly seemed mature beyond her years, a 16-year-old going on 35, Tanya Tucker both as a teen and all grown up.
“This is a whole lot more than I bargained for coming into this. I wouldn’t have expected it,” admitted Scotty during Thursday’s press debriefing, where he maintained a steady stream of “yes sirs” and “yes ma’ams.” “But it’s what I asked for and this is my new life. It’s been a crazy ride so far.”
And that ride will eventually take both he and his co-finalist to Nashville.
“Lauren and I are going to try to get out to the CMA Fan Fest in June,” he said. “They’re trying to work out the specifics right now about where we’ll be playing, maybe the Grand Ole Opry.”
Although he never seemed to lose control, Scotty admitted Lauren’s performance on the show before the finale had him worried.
“She’s something else, an amazing young lady,” he claimed. “I don’t think I came myself a chance as a musician before the show. Now I’ve got that confidence. It’s weird. The nerves on the show are something else.”
He jokingly blamed Lauren for the romance rumors that seemed to flood cyberspace after their kiss on last night’s finale, with her hinting they were an item.
“Me and her… It’s more like the brother-sister thing. She told me before the show she was going to do that. She’s a character. She’s lovely. We’re really close friends. I met her day one of Hollywood Week and we were schoolmates through this whole experience. She’s great.”
McCreery has recorded two songs this week for his new album, including “I Love You This Big,” the song he sang after winning the title, now #1 on iTunes.
“It’s going to be a great album. I have to pick some good songs, because that’s what it’s all about after the show,” he said. “The fans got me to where I’m at now, so it’s my job to get them music they want to hear. My work here is done. It’s time for the real job to start. Hopefully, me and Lauren Alaina will get to do a duet sometime, if not on the first album.”
As for his “Idol” strategy, Casey explained: “Everyone had their own niche. Casey would sing his jazzy kinds rocker growler, Jacob sang his gospel music, James his rock music and I sang my country music. Country music is me. It’s what I grew up with. It’s what I do. I didn’t have any intentions of changing. It got me this far and it’s what I love to do.”
Scotty claimed, going into last night, he felt Lauren had won the show with her performance of “Like My Mother Does.” “That was one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I was more than nervous coming into it last night. It worked in my favor. We’ve been supporting each other through this whole process. We both came out winners last night.”
Despite her nose being stuffed and throat hurting, Lauren was in a chipper mood during her press conference.
“The show must go on always,” she said about recovering from vocal cord strain for the final two programs. “The doctor came in and took really good care of me. I had to go out there and do the best that I could.”
When a reporter from Chattanooga got on the line, Lauren was thrilled. “It’s so great to hear someone with my accent,” she chirped.
On changing her name from Suddeth to Alaina: “I knew Ryan Seacrest would have a terrible time trying to say my last name. I just went with Alaina because it was easier, and kind of rolls off the tongue. But I’ll always be Lauren Suddeth.”
Lauren admits she lost 16 pounds during the show, and intends to keep them off. “I haven’t been able to work out for the last several weeks, but I’m going to get to the point where I want to be. Not where everyone else wants me to be.”
About her youth, Lauren insists, “I feel like people misjudge young kids because they think they’re not ready. But if something’s your dream, and you know what you want, you should go for it. No matter what age you are.
“I had a lot of confidence before the show. Seeing myself on TV, I’m my own worst critic, it threw me back a couple of notches. But that was a good thing because I needed to realize there’s always something you can work on about yourself. The things I didn’t like I tried to improve during the course of the show. I grew both as a person and an artist I learned something new each week.”
Lauren says there are parts of her the public doesn’t know: “I am not really a dumb blonde. I’m actually smart. I like to go to school and my favorite subject is math.”
On Scotty’s victory: “I had a feeling, but I feel things happen for a reason and God has a different plan for me. I’m very fortunate to have made it to the point I did. I will be happy for Scotty forever. I said all along, if it came down to me and Scotty, I would be happy either way. We’re such great friends. He is so talented. He’s got the look. He sings the same kind of music I sing. And he loves Jesus. I couldn’t have picked a better person to finish second to.”
She was still thrilled by getting to perform with Carrie Underwood. “That set off the whole night. She’s amazing. Talking with her, she genuinely cared that I was there. It was amazing to see that someone I looked up to for so long was actually the person I thought they were. I want girls my age to feel that way about me. That I’m actually the way I’m portrayed on TV. I’m not fake. I don’t want to mislead people about who I am. I can be serious, too. Everyone knows I cry a lot. It’s just who I am. I plan on not changing who I am for anything. I want to be available for young girls to look up to me like I look up to Carrie. And I’m still a little girl myself, so I have plenty of time to make that a possibility.”