Saturday, August 27, 2011

It’s always such a whirlwind for “American Idol’’ winners. Do you even remember winning at this point?
A. I remember back to it. It’s all still a blur. It was definitely an intense moment, that pause that [host] Ryan [Seacrest] makes before he announces it.

Q. ABC followed you and runner-up and fellow country singer Lauren Alaina around as you all participated at the recent CMA Fest. Do you feel like it’s been beneficial to navigate the post- “Idol’’ mania with someone else who understands what you’re going through?

A. It’s got its pros and its cons. We’re both country and we’re both doing this together, so it’s a cool little thing. But we both want to be looked at as individual artists, and we talked to our managers about not making us look like the next Conway [Twitty] and Loretta [Lynn]. But it is fun to get to do this together, so it’s all good.

Q. It seems like it’s all coming very naturally to you. Does it feel that way? Are you surprised that people commented that you made it seem effortless on the show?

A. Definitely. When I was growing up I was always the guy who played with his guitar and stood in one place and was scared to move anywhere else, so I think “American Idol’’ kind of broke me of that. As the weeks progressed, I got more comfortable moving around and acting a fool and entertaining the crowd, so it’s definitely something that I think I picked up the last few weeks of the show and doing more things like CMA Fest or live TV or the arena tour we’re doing right now. I’ve got a lot more to learn. I’m young.

Q. I’ll confess that I’m glad someone finally persuaded you to hold the microphone straight.

A. Oh, I know [laughs]. I don’t know what the heck that was. I think it’s just because I’m used to pitching, and that’s how I hold the ball in the glove with the limp wrist in the glove. I never held a mike before “American Idol.’’ I just had my mike stand with my guitar. So I think it naturally happened like that and then naturally changed back to normal to where I didn’t look like a fool.

Q. Are you doing any covers on the album, or is it all originals?

A. It’s going to be all originals. There’s technically going to be one cover. Keith Urban pitched a song my way, and it’s one he did way back when he was part of the band called the Ranch. He’s on tour right now so we don’t know, but he said he might play guitar on the track.

Q. The Nashville music community can be a little resistant to artists they perceive as not having paid their dues or taking a reality show “shortcut.’’ Some radio programmers said they wouldn’t be interested in playing your songs. How has the reception been since you won?

A. When I went to Nashville for CMA Fest, that was one of the things I was worried about, meeting those guys and knowing that I’m just 17 and I didn’t grow up playing honky tonks for 15 years and paying my dues. That’s something that I know I have to do now. I have to go out there and work hard and try to stick around. It’s not going to be handed to me. It’s definitely something I’ve got to work for, but they’ve been great to me.

Q. You’re a fan of classic country, so will “Clear as Day’’ be more like that or will it have a contemporary pop country bent?

A. It’s not going to be poppy. That’s one thing we stayed away from. I grew up with the old-school stuff, so I didn’t want to completely stray from that. We’ve got the rocker songs, the uptempo stuff. But when we slow it down, the songs get more intimate, and you can definitely hear some of the more classic elements.


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