Idol Worship: Today In 'AI' History - Michael Johns Edition
One year ago today, Michael Johns was eliminated from Idol’s Top 12. The Perth, Australia native was the oldest competitor of the season 7 bunch, and among the most beloved (to us, at least). The song that did him in? Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” which Johns chose for Inspirational Music night (a theme this week’s bottom dweller, Scott MacIntyre, would have appreciated). But despite being labeled a “rocker,” Johns says he’s rediscovered his true passion for soul music, as his forthcoming album, due out June 23, will demonstrate (check out a couple tunes on his Myspace). We got our hands on an early copy and were absolutely amazed by the Muscle Shoals ambition Johns (and several of the Idol band members he enlisted) poured into every track.
As Johns tells it, he finally found his voice — and a proper record deal with Downtown Records, home to an eclectic roster than includes Cold War Kids, Eagles of Death Metal and Art Brut (not to mention France’s First Lady, Carla Bruni). We caught up with MJ last week in Los Angeles and got to remind him that the one–year anniversary of his exit was right around the corner. In typical laid-back Aussie form, Johns laughed it off, insisting he’s glad he went home when he did. Here, more of our conversation, including his thoughts on Adam Lambert!
So here we are in the thick of season 8, have you been watching?
Michael Johns: I saw the country week performance show, but I haven’t really been watching. Not that I don’t want to, I’ve just been so busy. Plus, it’s really hard to watch. You get this sick feeling in your stomach, like being back in the competition again, and you’re just, like, “No!” I don’t want that again. I guess it’s too fresh one season after.
You and Carly Smithson appeared during the Top 36, did you meet any of the contestants?
MJ: Everyone I spoke to was eliminated that night. The groups were split up, and nine of the twelve were going home, but the other 12 were back at the house. Carly and I noticed that it was so dead backstage — and rightfully so. It’s brutal to think that out of the whole room only three were going through. Talk about a bloodbath. With us, only one was going home, and we were all having fun and playing board games.
You didn’t suffer the heat that Carly got for her previous major label deal, yet that came up again this year. Is there something to the argument that having had a major label experience is an unfair advantage?
MJ: I can’t speak for Carly, but it didn’t help or hinder me at all. If anything, I thought the Australian thing would hinder me. But nothing can prepare you for getting on stage and in front of those judges. It’s a whole new world. I’ve never done interviews or photo shoots like that. All my experience from being on a major label is nada. It doesn’t matter. I think that America just wants to see something real. They want talent, and at the end of the day, who cares where you get it from, or how it came to be? The reason Idol still is the biggest show in the world is because there aren’t any tricks — what you see is what you get. You don’t get help with anything. They can steer you, but you pick out the song, the clothes and everything in the end. That’s why it was so cool to see someone like David Cook. He walked through the door with, like, pink scarves, and then by the fifteenth week, he was a rock star.
Speaking of pink scarves, what are your thoughts on this year's favorite, Adam Lambert?
MJ: I think he’s great for the stage, and it might work for TV, but I’m not sure what he’s gonna do in the real world. I don’t get it yet. If he was on our season, I think Simon would have ripped him a new a-hole, but they’re praising him, so go figure?
What about the other finalists?
MJ: Danny Gokey is a good singer. Lil Rounds, I love all her urban stuff, but the one who I think is really true to herself is that little 16-year-old, Allison [Iraheta]. Brooke [White] and I actually met her at a charity function, where she was the one performing. I said, “You go for it, girl. You can sing!” I liked that Alexis [Grace] girl, too. She was more talented than she got to show. It sucks that she got voted off and can’t go on tour.
So what you’re saying is season 7 was the best…
MJ: Every season, I’ve found someone who really had that something, like Jordin Sparks or Bo Bice. This year, I’m not seeing anyone that’s a “star.” But out of any other season, I would want to be on our season, even with where I finished. It’s, like, who are you gonna pick on from our season? From Chikezie to Brooke, Jason Castro, Carly… we’ve all got something. I’m really proud to be a part of my season. We’re all friends and I talk to them all the time.
What do you make of the judges’ save?
MJ: I mean, I wouldn’t want to change anything about the way I was eliminated. What if you get kicked off the week after? Then you’re a double loser.
And the addition of Kara Dioguardi?
MJ: I like her. She’s really nice, and has worked with so many different people, but I think having four judges slows down the show. Everyone’s been saying that it seems longer this year, and that’s why.
How did your deal with Downtown come about?
MJ: Weirdly, it all comes back to my old label, Maverick Records. I kept in touch with one of the executives who ended up at Downtown. But it’s just a licensing deal. I own my record because I made it before anything was signed. Then Downtown heard it and said, “We’re in!” The best thing is Gnarls Barkley, Cold War Kids and Santigold are on the label as well and these are artists that I love! So we’re in a really good place.
When you were signed to Maverick as The Rising, the album never came out. But after you made it to the Top 24, they released it?
MJ: Yes. It was pretty upsetting to me. It was, like, all of a sudden I’m good enough? The Rising record can come out now that I’m on the American Idol machine? I was really pissed.
What were you going for with your new album?
MJ: I really wanted to do a Stax record. I went back and re-listened to music from my childhood — Sam Cooke, Otis Redding. Wilson Picket — and when I went to sing on the record, I didn’t even have to think. I was really comfortable. Simon wanted me to do more of that [soul] on the bloody show, but I didn’t get the chance.
How’s our favorite Idol David Cook doing? Talked to him lately?
MJ: He’s great. Such a nice dude and he hasn’t changed at all, to be honest. He wrote me a text the night after he appeared on the show, and I asked if he was in town for a couple days. He told me he was in Indiana and the performance was taped. So I wrote back, “Are you telling me not to believe everything I see on TV?” — Shirley Halperin
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Michael Johns is jealous of Adam Lambert' talent. What a tool.
Posted by: Me | Apr 10, 2009 10:30:43 AM
Thank you for the great interview!
Posted by: Java | Apr 10, 2009 12:44:02 PM
Great article. Michael, you are a gem as usual! Can't wait for the single!!!!
Posted by: TinaWV | Apr 10, 2009 1:00:33 PM
Fantastic interview! I really appreciate Michael's honesty, and I wish him all the success and happiness that he's ever wanted. He deserves it.
Posted by: Pamela Johnson | Apr 10, 2009 1:03:26 PM
Enjoyed the interview..I do really love Michael's honesty. Really refeshing!
Posted by: heart2 | Apr 10, 2009 1:43:56 PM
Great Interview..I love to hear other Idols Opinions on things. As much as I love Adam..I have thought and said the very same things. Great read.
Posted by: Theresa | Apr 10, 2009 1:51:30 PM
Loved this interview!!! I wish Michael all the success in the world!!
Posted by: Jane K | Apr 10, 2009 2:05:11 PM
Great interview! I totally agree about Adam and having a fourth judge.
Can't wait for his CD!
Posted by: Dawn | Apr 10, 2009 4:30:55 PM
I praise Johns for being so honest. He's right about the save rule and this lack luster season in general. And I'm one who loves Adam Lambert! I appreciate his insight because he's right, Adam would not have fit into season 7. Can't wait for the album!
Posted by: Erika | Apr 10, 2009 4:42:25 PM
what a great interview. Michael Johns is so honest and fun. He's way more talented than some people give him credit for. This year's top 10 is horrible compared to last year. I wouldn't even consider going to the concert this year. I will probably not buy any of the albums from this year's contestants, and I've already bought one from last year's and waiting to buy Michael's in June.
Posted by: sarah | Apr 10, 2009 5:35:59 PM
I wasn't a big Johns fan but I always appreciated his wit and honesty. He hits right on about the talent this season and Lambert. He definitely wouldn't have fit in season 7.
Just too over the top. The contestants of season 7 seemed more real and you always felt they had a great time together. I wish Johns well.
Posted by: TessL | Apr 10, 2009 5:40:42 PM
I love this guy! Can't wait for his Cd!
Posted by: meni | Apr 10, 2009 7:38:15 PM
Great interview. Thank you for giving us your honest opinions. Can't wait for your CD!
Posted by: Me | Apr 10, 2009 8:19:29 PM
Ha! He said Danny Gokey's a good singer. He said Adam sucked. Ha!
Posted by: Sally Mae | Apr 10, 2009 8:24:56 PM
Michael Johns rocks! He can spot talent (Danny) and a freak (Adam). I love it!
Posted by: Victoria | Apr 10, 2009 8:26:39 PM
ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MJ doesn't like Adam? Priceless! Danny Gokey ftw!
Posted by: Ashley | Apr 10, 2009 8:46:30 PM
Why are all the negative Adam Lambert comments removed? Let the people speak. We don't like Adam either. This site sucks!!!
Posted by: That's weird | Apr 10, 2009 8:48:25 PM
I also noticed that anything negative about Adam is quickly removed. Are only fans of Adam's allowed to post?
Posted by: MJ's Interview | Apr 10, 2009 8:50:44 PM
I also noticed that anything negative about Adam is quickly removed. Are only fans of Adam's allowed to post?
Posted by: MJ's Interview | Apr 10, 2009 8:50:45 PM
If Michael John's didn't like Danny, MJ (the blogger) would allow the Danny bashing to go on forEVER. That's not fair, MJ.
Posted by: MJ's Interview | Apr 10, 2009 9:01:07 PM
I love this article. I am firmly in the David Cook camp, but after seeing Michael live on tour in Chicago and Kansas City, I became a fan. Regarding Idol, I am glad he has the guts to tell it like it is. His season was absolutley amazing. Almost every person from last year could have easily won this year's contestants. They were far superior in terms of raw talent. They were a classy group and brought many viewers like myself to a show that normally we would never watch. I am looking forward to his record. He has a very sexy voice and the guy is killer in a live performance. The crowd went nuts for him. Not only does he have a spectacular voice, he has a great personality, and is very easy on the eyes! I am so happy we finally get to hear some new material from this artist. Go Michael!
Posted by: Laurie | Apr 10, 2009 9:11:50 PM
I think MJ is still bitter over his eighth place finish last year. Looks like Adam has him beat already.
Posted by: Maria | Apr 10, 2009 9:38:57 PM
Thank God for some honesty! He's right, this season sucks and Adam Lambert, though a great performer, has yet to show anybody what he will do after Idol...it's all an act so far. I'm also happy that he likes Allison as she is in my opinion, head and shoulders, above the rest. Bring season 7 back! Good luck MJ!
Posted by: JJ | Apr 10, 2009 11:29:04 PM
i miss MJ!!!!!!! im just gonna go ahead and agree with pretty much everything he said. :) and i love what he said David! lol. im sure he (DC) appreciated it!
Posted by: Alex | Apr 10, 2009 11:39:02 PM
You gotta love mj's Aussie honesty, even if people take things the wrong way. I really didn't see where he dissed anyone from this year. Adam is a talent and would be awesome on stage but what kind of record would he make? I love me some Bo Bice (from season 4 ) who was wildy popular with the audience and fans, but his southern rocker vibe didn't fare as well as say David Cooke or Daughtery as far as translating to sales. Love ya Bo. Season 7 did have some incredible talent. I miss the artists from season 7. I love Mj, Cookie,Brooke, Carley, Jason and I will support them by buying their cds. So really everything MJ said was spot on, no direspect to anyone just Aussie honesty.
Posted by: jan | Apr 11, 2009 4:17:28 AM
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