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Interview: Andrew Garcia from American Idol

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Andrew Garcia made a name for himself on season nine of American Idol after his stunning cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” during Hollywood week. Although he struggled to live up to that early peak, he made his way into the top ten finalists. Garcia has spent the summer touring the U.S. with American Idols LIVE!. I spoke with him before he performed at Seattle’s Key Arena.

How’s the tour going?

Amazing. I’ve been doing music for awhile now, and everyday it’s been an honor to be on tour.

Been getting good reactions from the crowds?

Crowds have been amazing. That’s where I get my energy from, I feed off the crowd.

Do you have a favorite city you’ve played in so far?

I’ll say Texas – a lot. They brought the energy, the craziness.

What songs do you perform?

“Straight Up” by Paula Abdul and “Sunday Morning” Maroon 5. And there’s a first act finale and second act finale I’m part of.

What are your immediate career goals?

I’m going to be doing this forever, period. After I’m done with the tour I’m going to make my own album. I’ve received great feedback on a lot of my originals and on my style. I’m so focused right now – there’s no breaks. I’m going to be working on my album, getting it out as fast as I can without rushing it.

What experiences have been highlights after your time on Idol?

I went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she’s an amazing person. I was also on The Wendy Williams Show. And me and Katie [Stevens] where on David Letterman together. It was fun man; crazy experience. Never travelled in my life. My first time flying was on a private jet sent by MGM Grand for Elvis week. It was nuts. Gave me a lot of opportunities, opened a lot of doors for me. You’ll see me.

What was your best week on Idol?

I’d have to say top ten week. I did a Chris Brown song, “Forever.” That’s the type of music I like to play. The type of music where you can make a full production and then do what I just did: made it acoustic, add violins, upright bass. I already knew, “This song’s me.” It’s my style – R&B/pop – that’s what I do. I met Usher, he was our mentor for that week. He gave me a lot of insight and knowledge.

Was Usher favorite mentor?

Yeah, because I always looked up to him. I always listened to his music when I was growing up. Right before you go out on stage, performance night, you don’t know what the mentor is going to say about you in the video they show. And Usher said, “I love Chris Brown’s song ‘Forever,’ but Andrew made me love it more.” So I thought, “Okay I know I’m going to rip this song up.” I had a good night. That’s my style.

Did you have much, if any, interaction with judges outside of hearing their comments after performances?

Not really, just “Hi” or “How you doing?” But after the finale there was an afterparty. I talked to Simon [Cowell] for a good while. Amazing guy, down to earth. Talked to Randy. Everyone’s cool. They’re real people. I don’t blame them for judging me, that’s their job. After I talked to them, I had a little more understanding of their job.

I imagine the finale, getting back together with everyone, was a great experience.

Amazing. Then the tour started, so I’m out their with ten friends. We’re like a family. Lee [DeWyze] is my best friend. Never competitive – it was always like, “We’re in this thing, we know what we’re going through.” We were just competing with ourselves on the show, how much better we could do the next week.

When did you first start performing in front of audience?

I’m 24 now and started getting into music when I got out of high school at 18. I didn’t sing at all, didn’t play guitar, I wasn’t into it. My dad was. After high school I got into more music, more rock. My dad always had a guitar laying around, so I was like “Why not?” A little while later I joined a band. I wasn’t the singer. We had a lead singer but he left the first day I practiced with him.

One day we were jamming, I started singing. They were like, “Why don’t you sing for us?” I said, “No I don’t do that, I’m not gonna get on a stage an embarrass myself.” But they said I have a good voice. Before you know it, I started performing our songs at high schools, benefit shows. Here I am now.

Have you always been a fan of American Idol?

Not a crazy fan, but I would watch it. I kind of started out with Kelly Clarkson.

Well, good place to start I guess – right at the beginning!

I watched it but not the whole way through. After that I didn’t really keep up with it. But the last season with Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, I was like, “I wanna see what these guy have to bring!” They’re all amazing.

So would you say last season was kind of what spurred you to audition?

Yeah, because I did some YouTube videos and we were getting a lot of views. Before I covered a song with my friend [Cathy Nguyen]. It got a million views, now it’s over three million views. So I was like, why don’t I try this on a bigger platform. I went into it not knowing a lot about American Idol, so in the beginning I was like, “This is easy! I love pop, love singing R&B, so mix the two together and make it acoustic.” But then we got the top twelve and, “Okay guys, we’ve got themes each week!” I was like, “Oh, God!”

Throughout your time on the show, the judges seemed to compare everything you did to “Straight Up.” Did that hurt or help?

It’s no question: everyone knows my talent. I loved Elvis week, Rolling Stones week – I love that music. But I grew up listening to hip-hop, rap, R&B, pop. I consider myself an R&B/pop musician. That’s the kind of artist I want to be. I did good when it came to up to date stuff. I don’t like to touch classic songs, because they’re classics for a reason. The only way to cover them… I could switch them up, but I didn’t want to.

But I have to say, I really liked what you did with “Can’t Buy Me Love.” The judges weren’t so fond of it though.

Yeah, Lee loves that song. I know it wasn’t bad. I know the songs I picked weren’t bad. It’s just how the people react to the judges. They’re celebrities, they’re going to sway some votes. It really kind of bothered me. Every time I performed on that stage, the crowd would react amazingly. Then right when we would get to the judges, it would be: the people loved it and now look what the judges are doing. It was their plan, it’s what they wanted. They were rough on me, but I don’t care. I’m going to still be doing music. It’s just their views on me, a little harsh sometimes.

I grew up in a rough family, so they can’t touch me. You’re going to see me and that’s the end of it. There’s nothing else I can do, right? And I’m a father so I have the best drive I can have. I have a beautiful son, so many things to write about, so much to appreciate. At this point I’m untouchable, and I can’t wait to get home and start writing my album and come out with some good songs for you guys.

So you’re thinking mostly original songs?

Oh yeah. But of course I’m going to cover “Straight Up!” People loved it, I love it too! So when people are like, “Don’t be mad for me bringing that song up,” I don’t get mad. That’s something I did and people really liked it.

It helped give you an identity.

Yeah! I’m glad to have one of the biggest songs on the show this season. So when everybody brings it up, I’m flattered. It’s totally cool.

Thanks a lot for talking with me Andrew. Enjoy the rest of the tour.

Thanks! This tour has been a dream come true.

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Hi, I'm Chaz Lipp. An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."