Friday, May 18, 2007

Idol Spotlight - Heather Cox

(I would've brought this to you yesterday, but Blogger decided to vaporize my post. Hopefully, this time will work!)

Sometimes an interview is so nice, I have to do it twice. And very few Idol formers have been as great to pal around with as Heather Cox. Heather caught my attention--and every other red-blooded American male's eye--during Season 5. The self-proclaimed "Idol stalker" sang her way into the Top 24. Sadly, after a couple of performances that the judges didn't look too kindly upon, she didn't quite make it into the Top 12.

That hasn't stopped Heather, though, and she's busy working. I had a chance to listen to her new single, "Girl Most Likely To," and I have to take back a few things I said about her during the fifth season. The girl CAN sing! (If you're curious to hear her latest song, push play on the podcast on top of this page! You'll get to hear the latest Idol Waves Top 20 show featuring her.)

Heather and I have been discussing her appearance at the Reality TV Convention in Nashville on June 30th and July 1st. So we decided to sit down one night and interview about it. And while this is the second interview between myself and Heather, this was the first interview that Priscilla has ever sat in or done. (She did well, if I do say so myself.)

Here's what we talked about!

J.D.: We've interviewed before, and I just want to know what kind of projects that you've been working on since the last time we talked.

Heather: Well, actually, I'm recording my pop country album in Nashville right now. I'm going to be headed back to Nashville next week to cut two or three more songs. And we're still negotiating that major record deal. So it's all coming together!

J.D.: Last time there was a lot of feedback left, and people kind of criticized or blasted you for mentioning your faith in the interview. As a religious person, how do you respond when people attack you for your religious beliefs, or your expression of them?

Heather: Well, I mean, um, they rejected Jesus, so they're definitely gonna reject me too. I kind of just laugh it off. I know not everybody is going to agree or appreciate what I have to say. That's fine. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, like Simon Cowell. I just roll with the punches and move on.

Priscilla: Have you considered a career in contemporary Christian music?

Heather: I have considered that, actually. When I say "pop country," it's going to be faith-based pop country. There are some things that are being negotiated right now. And I'm hoping to actually get airplay on both Christian stations as well as secular, so in answer to your question, yes!

Priscilla: Well that's neat! Okay, I know you've been watching, so I have to ask. What do you think about American Idol this year?

Heather: I actually have been really impressed, especially when they started to show the top 24. Before that I was just like gosh, I don't know, there's no one, but once the top 24 hit, the girls were just pretty much phenomenal, and I fell in love with some of the guys too. All in all, I've been quite impressed, and I've been pulling for Melinda Doolittle.

J.D.: Do you think that the show itself should update itself or make changes for the next season to kind of improve on what they're doing?

Heather: Gosh, it seems to work so far. I mean, the fact that they just got 45 million votes the other night is just astounding. That's the most votes they've ever gotten in a single episode that's not the finale. So I think they're doing well. And this new thing in regards to people like sending in their songs or whatever for the winner to sing, I think that's a really neat idea. I think what has worked all along is still working.

J.D.: Did it cross your mind to enter a song into the song-writing competition?

Heather: Uh, that would be a no! (laughs) I wrote one song, and it's when I was upset--I don't know if I can say pissed off--kinda mad at an ex-boyfriend, and I wrote this song. But that's really the only writing I've done. I'm actually gonna try to get into some writing and see if I can co-write some songs for my album.

Priscilla: When you're watching the show, do you look at what the contestants are doing and feel like you understand them a little bit more?

Heather: Absolutely! You know, I understand the fatigue, and I understand just the GO GO GO mentality. And you really have like no time for anything else. The thing that I looked forward to the most was just sleeping, so I know that they're feeling that too, and the pressure is just so intense. I didn't make it that far, but I know it's crazy pressure. They're doing quite well under fire.

J.D.: It's been a year since you were in the competition. How different is life now?

Heather: Well, I'm making a lot of appearances and performing a lot more. I actually feel like I was ill-prepared in regards to when I was on the show. Looking back on it, I didn't pick songs that really showcased my voice. I'm doing pop country now, and so that totally fits me. I'm comfortable doing it. I have a lot of fun. I'm honing my talent more. I'm getting out there more. And like I said, I'm in the studio recording, so I really feel like my talent has improved tremendously. I'm very thankful for that.

J.D.: When you're out in the street in your home town, do people still stop you and say "hey, weren't you on that show?"

Heather: (laughs) Um, well, since I come from a town of like 2,000 people, everybody, they just know. When I go to local restaurant, sometimes they'll give me free food, but most of the time people just wave, but they let me kinda do my own thing. But every now and then, I'll get a stalker who'll run up to me and it's "OH MY GOD!" Anyway. It's pretty cool.

Priscilla: Are you often in contact with your friends from the show?

Heather: Not so much now, and that's kind of sad because I did have great friendships. Today, I emailed a few of the contestants from last year, and I'm hoping to get emails back, because I would love for all of us to be able to be at the convention in Nashville. I'm crossing my fingers, hoping they can go, and I just think it would be great for us to meet up again and share stories of post-Idol.

J.D.: I'm crossing my fingers too. My finger's in that pie as well. Well, it seems like your season has the most successful group of Idols like Elliott Yamin, Chris Daughtry, Paris Bennett, Katharine McPhee, Taylor Hicks, and even Kellie Pickler. Not even all of those were the winners. Why do you think so many people from your season have done so phenomenally?

Heather: Gosh, dare I say I think that my year has the best talent? I hate saying that, but I really feel that. My season was just incredible, and everybody was so diverse and so different. They all brought different things to the table. They're doing well in their genres.

Priscilla: What's been the biggest obstacle that you've had to overcome as you look for work in the industry post-Idol?

Heather: Just knowing the fact that not everybody is going to believe in you or want to be on your team. I think that's the hard part. Y'know, rejection is a big part of this industry, and I hate rejection. I just have to know who I am, first and foremost in the Lord, and then know who I am with regard to my talent, and just know that and expect that and not let it get me down. Keep on keeping on!

J.D.: It was disheartening a couple of weeks ago to see Jessica Sierra get in trouble. Would you agree that sometimes there is sort of a darker underbelly to the A.I. experience or possibly even the entertainment business in general, and that sometimes if you're not careful the experience might be a bad thing?

Heather: Yes! I mean, you have these people, and they're just like kinda thrust into the limelight. After Idol, it's kind of like...I don't know...some people feel forgotten, and that could bring on depression. If you're not careful, that can be a downfall.

Priscilla: How have you managed to stay so cheerful and chipper in the days where it's really just hard to press on?

Heather: Because of who I am in the Lord. Yeah, I know this is going to bring more criticism. That's fine. My joy comes from the Lord, and He sustains me really, because I went through a time when I was depressed, and I would go on the message boards and read the things that people were saying that really were not nice. And that's very difficult, but again, you just have to brush it off your shoulder and just kinda move on, because you know who you are!

J.D.: A lot of times when people write things on message boards, it's easy to feel that the people who are on Idol aren't real people. Do you think that sometimes the show manages to objectify its contestants, and how would you suggest they overcome that?

Heather: We ARE real people, and we DO have feelings. Just like anybody else, if someone were to say something negative about you or something that's not even true, it is going to make the other person just feel awful. I suggest not even reading the boards. I don't read the boards now. I know it's like a year after the fact, but even so, I would just suggest not even going there.

J.D.: Speaking of how people think, a lot of people seem to think that if you're on American Idol that you're automatically going to get a record deal or a TV show or something like that. We both know that's not true. Exactly how hard have you found it to get the right gigs and the right kind of deals?

Heather: Actually, I kind of feel like--and this is going to sound so cliche--but God really is in control of what's been going on in my life, before Idol, during Idol, and post-Idol. He just gives us a light to take each individual step, and you go in that way. He will direct my path, so He has been, and there have been a couple of times when some people say they're going to do something, and it just turned out to be ridiculous, but for the most part, the path has been pretty clear. And I'm going along it.

Priscilla: Is Heather Cox in love?

Heather: No, if you look on my Myspace now, it does say single!

J.D.: Awww! Sorry!

Heather: I do know who you were thinking about though. Which is so funny, because at the time when that person and I were dating, I remember you, J.D., sent me a message saying "me and my girlfriend are as cute as you two" or something like that, and DUDE! Then I like went to your page this week, and it's like you're married, and I'm like HOLY COW! That didn't take long!

J.D.: Yeah, sorry, I'm off the market.

Heather: Yeah, that's fine. That's perfectly fine. When you know, you know, y'know?

J.D.: She was much too cute for me to resist.

Heather: Awww! Yes, yes, she definitely is. You got a winner. You BOTH got winners! No, I actually am single. I care very much about that person, but we were going in two different directions, so I had to let him go. I'm not going to cry. I'm strong!

J.D.: That's the way to be right there. Well, I see...switching topics (cough, cough)...

Heather: (laughs)

J.D.: I see you're as excited as I am about the upcoming Reality TV Convention. What about it made you really excited to be a part of it, because it seems like you sort of jumped at it?

Heather: I did! Because it's like...I don't know...a chance to... This is how I'm feeling about it, J.D. and Priscilla. It's like when I watched, before I auditioned, I would watch the show, and I would see Scott Savol, Jessica Sierra, Lindsey Cardinale and Mikalah Gordon and all the rest of them like Jon Peter Lewis, and it's so weird because those were like MY Idols. Those were the ones I watched. So even though I've done the show, and I'm part of the "alumni," I still see them as being the famous ones. It's kind of weird. I don't know if that makes any sense.

J.D.: Oh, absolutely!

Heather: The fact that I would get to meet them, and just hang out with them and share stories, and then perhaps have other people from my season on there, it's so exciting for me! I love that!

Priscilla: What do you hope that fans will see about you at the convention that they may not have known before?

Heather: That I am down to earth! I will talk to anybody. I've never met a stranger. Sometimes people get the impression, um, the way she looks or whatever, she's gonna be really stuck up, and I am not that way, and I want people to see that. I want to take pictures with the fans. I want them to feel like they can come up to me and talk to me, because they can. First and foremost, that I am down to earth, and I'm real. I'm a real person. I have real problems just like everybody else.

J.D.: I've mentioned to several people that you would be at the convention, and they remember you! They're excited to see you there. How does it feel that you've made such an impression that some fans are still anxious to meet you even one year later?

Heather: I think that that's great! Because I'm gonna have a career, y'know, and it's the fans that are going to buy my records and keep me going. I think that's awesome, and that actually just encouraged me. That was great! I'm glad that they remember me, and I'm excited about meeting them.

J.D.: Last year, I sat in on the American Idol Panel Discussion as one of the fans at the convention. This year I'm hosting it, which to me feels like I've come full circle. For you, now that you've been such a fan of American Idol, have been on the show, and now you're doing appearances for the fans, do you feel sort of like you've come full circle with American Idol?

Heather: Yeah! I do. I really do. I think it's wonderful. A year later, being kind of removed from it, I feel complete now. Again, I'm sooooooo excited. So excited!

Priscilla: What is the one question that you hope someone asks? Something you would like to talk about the most?

Heather: Ummm, probably... I know J.D.'s probably taking notes and is going to get someone to ask the question... um... who liked who?

Priscilla: Hmmmm!! (mischievous grin)

Heather: I think that's an interesting question!

J.D.: I think so too!

Heather: (laughs) Wouldn't you like to know?

J.D.: Who did you like? C'mon! Fess up!

Heather: Ahhh!!! Now you know, I'll save it for the panel discussion. (mischievous giggle)

Priscilla: Aww, gonna make us wait?

Heather: Yeah, the fans gotta come to find that out!

J.D.: Oh, alright! Well, where do you hope to grow from here, from this point in time?

Heather: Really just to remain grounded with however much more fame I get, or whatever. It isn't even about that for me. Stay grounded and to have a long lasting career sharing my music and touching people with my gifts.

Priscilla: If you could change one thing that you did on Idol, what would it be?

Heather: SONG. CHOICE. Oh my gosh. And another thing, during the two weeks, I really ruined my vocal cords during Hollywood week, because I would continually try to push singing when I had no voice. So it literally damaged my vocal cords. Even when I was on the show, I was not 100 percent at all. Some people say "she can't sing at all" or "she's tone deaf," and it's like noooo, I'm really really not! But y'know, what are you going to do about it now? But I would've picked songs that really would've showcased my voice better. I had a couple in mind, but then again you have to get clearance, and so those songs weren't cleared. The ones that the producers cleared were the ones that I had to sing, and they weren't the best.

J.D.: It looks like the convention is still growing. Since we started this interview, Will Makar has popped up on the convention page.

Heather: Yay!

J.D.: It looks like we're going to have quite a few of you guys there. We're looking forward to it an awful lot. It's going to be a great weekend in Nashville to get together with you there. Thank you so much for taking the time out to interview with us!

Heather: Absolutely! My pleasure!

Thanks again, Heather! (And yes, I take it back, you CAN sing.) If you want to check out her music, her new single has entered the rotation at Idol Waves Radio, where it can be heard along with many many other great songs written and recorded by your favorite American Idol formers.

We're looking forward to the convention, and we hope that many more of you fans out there can come be a part of it and hang out with us!

(photos courtesy of Atlas Photography and Heather Cox)