Exclusive Interview: Melissa McGhee, Former American Idol Finalist
Exclusive Interview: Melissa McGhee, Former American Idol Finalist
With American Idol in full swing, it's always good to hear from the Idols of years past.  You remember Melissa McGhee from last season's American Idol top 12.  Not expected to be a finalist, Melissa fought her way all the way through to the final twelve, impressing millions of viewers along the way.  Melissa stopped by and talked to us today about what's going on in her career and her thoughts on this season's Idol hopefuls.

I read somewhere that you’ve been singing since you were 4 years old?  Is that true?

Yeah, actually, that’s the first recorded time, I should say.  That’s the first thing we have on a tape.

Can you tell us a little bit about life before American Idol?

Before American Idol, I was actually working at a law firm, actually hating it. (Laughs) I was in collections so I absolutely hated it, and I was going to go to school to be an elementary education teacher.  So that was all before that, and then my mom talked me into doing American Idol, which I kind of didn’t want to because I had already been rejected Season 2 and didn’t even make it through the first round.  But she talked me into it and then everything snowballed from there.

So your Season 2 auditions didn’t go too well?

Yeah, Season 2 kind of bummed me out because I was still doing a lot of music when I was younger, and I went down there and they rejected me.  It kind of bruised me a little bit…it bruised my ego.  So I didn’t do anything else after that… just local karaoke bars. 

How was the audition process different for you this time around?

I can say the biggest difference is that I am older and my voice has finally matured to what it should be. And I knew what I wanted and who I was within my music, so that really helped because they (the judges) could see that that’s what I wanted to do.

After the auditions and the Hollywood round, you were perceived as the “underdog” going into the top 24.  Were you aware of this at the time and, if so, how did it make you feel?

Yeah, I was definitely aware that I was the underdog.  What it really made me want to do is try to prove everyone wrong even more.  I mean, everybody kind of had it a shoo-in for Ayla Brown, so I think when I actually did make it in and she didn’t, it actually shocked me too.  But it paid off in the end.  It kind of put me down a little bit, but it made me want to strive harder.

After advancing to the top 12, how disappointing was it for you to get voted off and how far do you think you should have gone?

I was actually really happy just to make the 12 because, like I said, I was the underdog, so I wasn’t really expecting a lot.  But in the meantime, I was trying to at least make it on tour, and that didn’t happen.  But I wish I would have came in a little higher, but you know, everything is working out now. 

What are your feelings about Simon Cowell?  He was pretty tough on you throughout the entire competition. 

Simon...he is actually…on the show, I mean, he’s very brutally honest.  But off camera, he is very, very nice.  And he said to me the night of the finale – we had a VIP party afterwards – and he looked at me and walked up to me and said, “Why didn’t you do that on the show?  Why didn’t you sing like that on the show?”  And I just wanted to be like, “Oh, maybe it’s because I’m sitting in front of you three scared out of my mind!”  It’s a little different when the pressure’s off.

Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your season?

I do.  From my season, I really only keep in touch with…I keep in touch with Kevin and Ace.  Chris I just saw…and Paris and Lisa, I saw them a couple weeks ago, but what’s crazy is I ended up becoming friends with a lot more other people from other seasons as well.  I’ve been talking to Anthony Fedorov and Jim Verraros from Season 1.

What exactly transpired for you after American Idol?

After Idol was actually kind of a big vacation. (Laughs)  I had so many people throw free trips at me.  I went on a cruise to Mexico, I went to Aruba, and then I went to Key West for a week.  So I was nice and tanned for the finale.  And after that, I went on tour with Ruben Studdard, opened for him and Justin Guarini.  And then in October I had to have vocal chord surgery, so since October it’s been recovery.  And now, I finally have everything back underway and good to go. 

So what can fans expect from you this year?

This year is actually going to be a big year for me.  I’m going to be working on the album in March, and then we’re going to be shopping that to the labels and then I’ll be touring that around and pushing that trying to get signed, and get my career going.

Are you watching American Idol at all this season? 

Well, my mom and everybody have been TiVo-ing it, so I’ve been able to catch up on it back and forth.  But, I finally got to sit down and watch it last night.

What are your thoughts so far?

I think as far as the guy’s night, the guys kind of really need to step it up.  I mean, they’re good, it’s just…I mean, there was one kid…I can’t pronounce his name - he had a sister that tried out with him and they made it together – and he sang a song by Stevie Wonder, and I remember Elliot Yamin doing it last year, and Elliot just tore it up.  So it’s hard to really compare things like that.  But the guys need to step it up big time. 

Do you have any favorites?

I have a couple of favorites.  I love the guy Phil…I love the tone of his voice.  And Blake…Blake is very modern and he kind of has what’s out right now…the Gavin McGraw, or the Snow Patrol…that sound.  So I like him too.

Is it too early for any predictions from what you’ve seen so far?

Yeah.  I actually really don’t have any predictions.  I’m really waiting to see what happens with the girls tonight, you know, to see if anyone really blows me away.  Because I can say last year I got home from one of the days from Hollywood week and I said, “Mom, there’s this girl and she’s absolutely gorgeous and she seemed like she’s kind of in the show a little bit, but her voice is unbelievably beautiful…it’s gorgeous!”  And (it turns out) I was talking to Katherine McPhee.  And that was in Hollywood week.  She was the person who totally blew me away during the actual competition.  So right now, no one.  But I’m going to see if any of the girls do that for me this year.  

Do you have any final words for your fans out there?

I just want to let everybody know thank you so much for supporting me throughout my career.  I had so many prayers for me when I went through my surgery, so thank them for that.  And everyone, just look out for me.