At age 17, Katie Stevens was the second-youngest finalist on season nine of American Idol. During her time on the show, the four Idol judges offered sometimes confusing and conflicting feedback to the young singer.
Simon Cowell wanted to see her add a country tinge to her style. Kara DioGuardi felt R&B was Stevens’ strong suit. In the end, her elimination came during the second Top 9 week. Michael Lynche had benefited from the judges’ “save” the prior week. As a result there needed to be two contestants cut from the show. Stevens got the axe despite a spirited rendition of “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” which she chose for Elvis Presley week.
I had a chance to catch up with Ms. Stevens prior to the American Idols LIVE! concert at Seattle’s Key Arena.
How does it feel to be touring the nation?
Wonderful. A year ago had anybody told me that I’d be on tour I would’ve told them they were nuts. I know it sounds cliched, but I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life. So to finally have this opportunity, it’s just incredible.
Any special highlights from the road?
Actually when I was on the show, I was contacted by someone from Fredericksburg, Texas who told me that I was a sign from God. A week prior to my audition, a 15 year old girl in their town named Katie Stevens had passed away in a car accident. So they said that I was kind of a sign, telling them that she was doing okay.
And when the tour went to Houston [August 7th, 2010] her family came to the show. I was able to meet them and hang out with them. It was really amazing to be in contact with them during the television show, then finally come face to face with them. Because they told me that I kind of helped them heal.
Talk about your short-term career plans.
I’ve already started writing songs. I’ve worked with some writers. I’ve also been writing on my own to be prepared for whatever’s to come after the tour. Because clearly I want to put out an album. Taking those initial steps is what I’m doing at the moment. The tour’s kind of our opportunity to show America once again what we’ve got. We kind of chose songs that are the genre we’d like to have on our albums. So I take every show as an audition, because you never know who’s watching; producers, managers, anything like that. So I try to put on the best performance that I can every night in hopes that after the tour I can get signed.
What’s the songwriting process been like for you?
I’ve been working a lot with David Hodges, who was a member of Evanescence. He’s a really great writer. It’s great to be able to work with somebody who knows the industry. To kind of have a mentor in that way, he can kind of teach me the ins and outs of the business, how to do things with contracts, how to write songs. I learn a lot from him.
I understand you’re a multi-instrumentalist, what do you play?
I taught myself to play piano and guitar. I played flute for five years and cello for three years. I never played on the show because I wanted to focus on my voice rather than make sure that I’m playing the instrument right. So I do play instruments, but I figured that on the show I should lean more toward focusing on my voice.
Do you hope to incorporate your own playing on a future album?
Yeah, I would definitely like to play [on the album] and be able to perform in concert playing piano or guitar. I think that would be fun and show my fans another side of me that they haven’t seen before.
Outside of the tour, what have been some highlights after you left the TV show?
Being on the David Letterman show was amazing. I remember before I was on Idol thinking how cool it would be to be on those kinds of shows, Ellen being one of them. I was so excited when I found out she was going to be a judge. I was like, okay, I kinda gotta make it to the top ten because then I’ll get to go on her show.
That was incredible, when Ellen introduced me on her show, I was like, “Am I really here?” Meeting these people that I watched on television for so many years was crazy that they were interviewing me now.
Describe how you’ve dealt with your nerves, from the audition to the current tour.
Definitely my nerves have calmed from my first audition until now. When I auditioned, I was literally shaking. My kneecaps were even shaking, which has never happened to me, so I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous as auditioning for the show. As you go along on the live TV show, the audience for the Top 24 is maybe 80 people so it’s not that bad. But then it goes to maybe 500 people with the Top 12. And you think about the millions of people that are watching, I mean it’s a little less nerve wracking since you don’t see all those people. You kind of get acclimated to it, in a way.
I’m not nervous anymore when I go out on the stage. Especially because the tour is less stressful. You’re not getting judged. You’re not worrying about getting votes or being eliminated. It’s just a very supportive environment coming out of the show into the tour, because now we’re performing for all of our fans that have come out to support us. But definitely in the beginning I got butterflies like crazy.
Week to week on the TV show, did you have a personal favorite?
Definitely my favorite performance of mine was when I sang “Let It Be.” It was one of those weeks that I chose a song I loved. It was raw emotion that came out of me, because I was singing from my heart. And it was definitely a big moment for me because I got good comments from the judges and I wasn’t in the bottom three!
What songs do you perform in the concert?
“Here We Go Again” by Demi Lovato and “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera. I’m leaning more toward an Aguilera route of music. So it’s kind of fun for me and my fans after the show when I meet them. They seem to really enjoy my performance so I’m excited. Hopefully I can put out an album for them.
You’ve been satisfied with the overall audience response so far?
Absolutely! I just remember the first show, walking out and seeing all those people. It kind of brought tears to my eyes to see all those people. My hometown concert in Connecticut, when I saw all my friends and family in the audience…that was probably my favorite moment. Going home and seeing them in the audience – those are the people I used to watch concerts with, now they were watching me in concert! It was in an arena that I’d seen all my concerts at [Arena at Harbor Yard]. When we were doing soundcheck, I was showing all the other contestants, “I sat over there for Backstreet Boys, and over there for Britney Spears, and up there for Keith Urban.” So it’s cool realizing that I used to sit there in the audience saying, “I hope to be up there someday,” then finally having that moment.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the tour.
It was so nice to meet you! Thank you.