By CARY ASPINWALL
Every year when “American Idols Live” rolls through Tulsa, we get a chance to spend some time with a few of the top 10 finalists before the show.
Here are some fun tidbits about this year’s crew:
Aaron Kelly may be Rascal Flatts’ No. 1 fan. That’s who he would love to duet with, tour with, listens to on Pandora – and he even closes his set with the group’s hit “Fast Cars And Freedom.” He seems excited to be in the state where guitarist Joe Don Rooney grew up (in Picher).
“I’ve always wanted to visit Oklahoma, and I’m so excited to be here,” he said.
The 17-year-old called everyone ma’am and sir and gave hugs after interviews.
This was not Casey James‘ first time in Oklahoma or the Tulsa-area. The Texan played several gigs in area bars before his days on “American Idol,” he said.
His iPod features everything from Audioslave to Ricky Skaggs. Lately, he’s been getting into Merle Haggard, our Okie from Muskogee, he said.
James is from the Dallas area, and this week he’ll play the American Airlines Center in Big D – sort of surreal for someone who used to play right down the street at a much smaller venue. His worst pre-Idol gig involved playing in 6 inches of sewer water after the sewer system backed up at a club.
He’d really love to play Colorado’s legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater some day, he said.
He’s asked his fans not to bring him presents at tour stops, but they still do. His favorite includes some drawings a fan did of his dogs, Daisy May and Buster Douglas. And yes, ladies, he’s even better looking in person.
Tim Urban listens to everything from Dave Matthews and Coldplay to Eminem.
He may have struggled to win praise from Simon Cowell this season, but as long as he got to perform Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the show, that’s all that mattered, he said. Before “American Idol,” he had a regular gig at the Potbelly Sandwich shop in Arlington, Texas.
Fans have doted on him this summer with everything from personalized dog tag necklaces to scrapbooks.
The love can be overwhelming at times, he said.
“It’s bizarre – it feels very weird,” he said. “But I love it, and I think it’s slowly starting to sink in.”
Didi Benami worked as a waitress in Los Angeles, so she had plenty of practice trying not to act starstruck when waiting on celebs.
Then she met Sting recently after a show at the Hollywood Bowl and geeked out, she said.
Before “Idol,” she had a lot of unusual gigs – including a women’s boxing event where she played guitar with a steel drummer.
She’s hoping to make an album that’s sort of a fusion of singer-songwriter with a jazzy vibe, she said.
“Hopefully, it will be different from other stuff out there – I’d like to change things up a bit,” she said.
If she could build an “Idol” supergroup, it might look like the VH-1 Divas version of “American Idol.”
Brooke White, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, Katie Stevens, Melinda Doolittle, Fantasia … and maybe a few of the guys.
Crystal Bowersox‘s favorite stop on the tour so far was her 25th birthday in Florida.
Playing big arenas is great, but she doesn’t treat them any differently than she did her small coffee shop and bar gigs, she said.
“I still like that intimate connection with the audience,” she said. “I’m going to try to treat every show with that same energy.”
As far as the album she’s working on when the tour finishes, being on the road is helping her with material, she said.
“Our bus driver has been very inspirational to me,” she said. “She has great stories.”
via Cary Aspinwall | Tulsaworld.com | Photography by Jeremy Charles