(PCM) The lights were dimmed for a final time and host Ryan Seacrest made one last dream come true, as Trent Harmon, 25, from Amory, MS, was named the 15th and final American Idol in the history-making series finale live from Dolby Theatre.
Harmon is the 15th Idol hopeful to win the prestigious American Idol title, joining the ranks of Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scott McCreery, Phillip Phillips, Candace Glover, Caleb Johnson and Nick Fradiani.
President Barack Obama kicked off the finale with a videotaped statement that paid tribute to the series and its impact on the nation. During the show, Season Four winner Carrie Underwood and Idol judge Keith Urban sang “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”; judge Harry Connick, Jr. sang “What A Wonderful World” with New Orleans student Marley Fletcher; judge Jennifer Lopez performed her new single, “Ain’t Your Mama”; fan-favorite contestant William Hung sang the chorus of “She Bangs”; and in a surprise appearance, former judge Simon Cowell returned to join Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson in paying tribute to host Ryan Seacrest.
The finale also saw epic performances by the Top 10 finalists alongside Idol alumni superstars, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson plus Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery, Phillip Phillips, Candice Glover, Caleb Johnson, Nick Fradiani, Ace Young, Allison Iraheta, Amber Holcomb, Blake Lewis, Bo Bice, Brandon Rogers, Bucky Covington, Carly Smithson, Casey James, Chris Daughtry, Clark Beckham, Clay Aiken, Colton Dixon, Constantine Maroulis, Danny Gokey, Diana DeGarmo, Elliott Yamin, George Huff, James Durbin, Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Justin Guarini, Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Kimberley Locke, Kree Harrison, LaToya London, Lauren Alaina, Melinda Doolittle, Pia Toscano, Sanjaya, Skylar Laine, Tamyra Gray and more as they returned to the stage that started it all to celebrate the Grand Finale.
We caught up with newly crowned American Idol Trent Harmon the morning after his big win to discuss his time on the show, the competition and just what he plans on doing next!
On who he would have loved to sing with on the finale
TRENT HARMON: Elton John
On what his plans are for his upcoming album
TH: I sing blue-eyed soul. I talked it over with Mr. Scott, and he said Justin Timberlake is thinking about making a country album. So, define country in 2016. I think it could be whatever you want it to be, so we’re going to try to make an album that country supporters would pick up. Country supporters, they go to shows, they go to festivals, they buy CDs, they download stuff. If you can make it in country, you can have a career.
On how he is feeling after the big win and it being such a highly emotional moment
TH: Well, I’ve got sleep scheduled for next Friday at 2:00, but I really feel like it hasn’t sunk in yet. It hasn’t really sunk in because this morning when I hopped out of bed, I jumped in the shower, I started doing my warm ups and started practicing my song, and I realized that today I don’t have to do that anymore.
I’m kind of realizing that I can decompress a little bit at a time, and I don’t know how long it’ll take. It may take a week or a month before I really come down out of, I hate to say, like a PTSD, but I’m still kind of in that mode where I feel like at any moment I could get cut, but I can’t get cut anymore.
On if he were surprised by his win and what he said to La’Porsha during their final hug on the finale stage
TH: When I auditioned in July, I didn’t expect to win, but I prepared to win at every facet of this competition.
I told La’Porsha no matter what name comes out of Ryan’s mouth, we’re going to hug until they separate us. I don’t care whose name gets called, Porsha, we just won a car, and you don’t win cars every day, so we’re going to be okay, Porsha.
On the hard work that went into being an American Idol contestant
TH: I wake up, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night. If I am awake or asleep I am rehearsing. If I have two minutes to myself to do anything, I am in rehearsal mode. I didn’t know what I was doing, but that’s what it took. I was too dumb to know that I was in go mode all the time. But it paid off.
On when he found out he could do falsetto with his voice and old classic singers he is influenced by
TH: I just really learned that I could do things with my voice that I didn’t know I could do, probably, middle to the last few years of my college experience, so just in the last two to four years. I think I always heard the notes in my head while I’d be listening to Smokey Robinson and The Miracles or I’d be listening to The Temptations.
My grandma always played a lot of Temptations and a lot of Michael Jackson, Jackson 5, back in the day when I’d be at her house and we’d be cooking, and I would hear those notes in my head that I would want to sing, but I never tried to sing them, and one day they just jumped out of my mouth.
On what the song “Amazing Grace” means to him
TH: I keep “Amazing Grace” in my back pocket no matter where I go, whether it’s a Christian event that I’m at or if it’s not. If it’s just a secular event. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just because I know the words to it or because the words mean something to just about anybody whether you have any religious beliefs or not. That song means something.
There’s a reason it’s called a classic. There’s a reason that all these songs that we do are called classics. I would consider that one a classic, too, and I’ve just sung it at so many different things that have meant so much to me; that one’s just special to me.
That was the first one that my mom said, “Hey Trent, sing this part right here.” And I sang it, and she said, “Well, can you switch over and sing this part right here?” And that was when she realized that I could sing harmony. When I was four or five years old, and she realized something that I didn’t even realize at that early of an age.
On what he was surprised to learn about himself during his journey on American Idol
TH: I’ve always thought to myself that if I could ever get to the point, there’s so many intangibles that are encompassed within this reality singing competition. It’s not so much singing, there’s so much that goes into it. I would say singing would be less than 10% of it. But I knew that I could hang in the singing department, but I didn’t know that I could do interviews.
Nobody has really coached on how to talk to people in a public setting, and so sometimes, like right now, I’m talking to you having a conversation, and I’ve never done this before in my life. That has really surprised me, and it surprised my parents too. They said Trent, you’ve talked to more people through interviews than you’ve talked to us in your whole 25 years of life. Who taught you how to do that?
On the most surreal moment of the entire Idol experience
TH: I think whenever I turned around and I saw my mom and dad and my sister and my puppy dog walk out onto the stage two weeks ago, it was strange because it was like, I’m out here. I know that I’m out here doing this, but when they walked on the stage, I was like wow. We looked good as a collective unit; as a family. We looked like we were doing stuff in the Harmon collective unit. I’m doing something for my family. So that was pretty surreal.
On advice he has received from past Idol contestants and winners
TH: I guess, thankfully, most of the Idols that I got to talk to, they appreciated. They said, “Man, you seem pretty genuine. Don’t ever, ever quit that. Don’t ever get out of that head. Don’t ever, ever quit that.” And they didn’t give me very much advice in the moment.
I was lucky enough to exchange numbers with a lot of people that I never thought I’d have their name in my phone book, and they said look here, text me. And I could tell that they meant it. They said text me at any time of the day or night, ask me a question.
I got to exchange numbers with Jordin Sparks, and Ruben Studdard. It was just surreal for them to reach out and say, hey man, you’re the last one. We want to help you any way that we can. And I think they mean it.
On a possible move to Nashville
TH: I’m sure that I will float between Nashville and Mississippi and Arkansas for quite a while. I’ve been doing the float between two states for the last four or five years, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it if you manage your time wisely, but I’m down to live wherever I’m happy. If that happens to be in Nashville for the next few years, then I’ll live in Nashville. If that happens to be Belize, then I’ll live in Belize.
On his relationship to country music
TH: I was just telling Mr. Scott last night. I said, man I don’t think you fully realize how much country music I listen to because whenever I really got the opportunity to pick the song myself, 100% myself, I was doing country songs on the show.
Now that was only sprinkled in very, very rarely because we always get to pick our own songs, but there would be influence from other people as well, but I sang a couple Chris Stapletons, and at that point, I think it was fully realized that this guy is confusing enough as it is, he talks so country but then he sings like a soul singer, well now he’s actually singing country.
I’ve always enjoyed all the classics. I love Conway Twitty. I’ve always been a big Conway Twitty fan. I’m a big Elvis fan. Elvis did country. I’m a Ray Charles fan. Ray Charles made a country album. So that’s kind of a point in case right there.
Define what country is in 2016. I mean, Ray Charles kind of broke that statement a long time. Justin Timberlake’s working on a country album. So, I feel like with being able to sing multiple genres is going to help me moving forward to make a country album that would be palatable to a lot of different people.
On plans to co-write his album
TH: I am a songwriter, but that will be decided by the Powers That Be. I don’t always have to have the best idea coming from myself. I just want the best idea. So, we’ll have to see where it leads us.
On his redo performance of “Chandelier” and advice given to him by Sia
TH: Sia said that she wrote this song from a state of struggling with alcoholism and that if I had a family member that struggled with alcoholism that that would be a route that I could sing that song from. And while I did lose a family member this year that struggled with alcoholism, I tried to go down that path and it was just too morbid. It was too sad. I didn’t want to. I sang it from a happy state.
When I asked her, I said, can I do that, this is your song. She said this is your song. For 90 seconds, this is your song. You sing it however you want to sing it. And I don’t think she meant for that just to apply to “Chandelier.” I think she was telling me to take that forward for the rest of my life. Even though I might be doing a cover song at some point, don’t sing it just as from the same head that the person that wrote it or performed it and made it popular from. Pick something from it. Find a lyric in it.
My favorite lyric from the Parson James song that I sang last week was, “It’s enough of a fight just staying alive anyways,” and I told Parson that. I said, “Man, that’s my favorite line in the song,” and he said, “Really? That’s crazy.” You just find a line that pulls to you. Pulls on your heart strings, and you go with it.
On his love for God and his family and how it plays an emotional role in his performances
TH: First of all, if anyone has made it through what I consider, I’d say the only two jobs that I would consider to be tougher than making it through American Idol boot camp, which is what I have aptly named it after the show’s been over, would be a preacher and/or a soldier. That would be the only two jobs that I would consider to be harder than what we just completed.
But if you can go through what we just did and not believe in something—I happen to believe in God, and then I would pray. Had a really simple prayer, I would say, especially when I had mono because I was pretty quarantined from the rest of the cast. I would say well, it’s just me and you. It’s just me and you God, and I kept that on my brain at all times when I didn’t have anybody else.
I didn’t have my parents out here with me, and it was just me, so I feel like if you could make it through this competition without believing in something, I wouldn’t say I’m impressed, I would say I’m kind of scared because I don’t know what you are. You’re super human, because I couldn’t have done it without him. That’s for sure.