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'American Idol' Finalist Erika Van Pelt: 'I Knew I Was Going Home'

Fri, March 23, 2012 9:00am EDT by 7 Comments

Erika tells she regrets never getting her ‘moment’ in the competition.

American Idol viewers were stunned March 22 when Erika Van Pelt was eliminated, despite a beautiful performance of “New York State Of Mind” the night before. And even though she tried her best to sing for her life, the judges denied her their one save. was backstage after the show, when Erika revealed how she really felt about being voted out of the competition.

What’s the plan now?

“What’s the plan now? The plan is to get a ton of sleep, then get pumped to go on tour. Honestly, here’s the thing: I’m not gonna lie. It really stinks to be the first of the top ten to go home. I’m not gonna make any excuses for that. It really, really is crappy. But on the other side of the coin obviously, I am stoked for tour and it’s just going to be amazing. I am so excited to be on tour, especially with this group of people. We have a ton of fun together, and even through long rehearsal days and hell, we somehow have a good time every time we’re out there. It’s horrible. The stage managers want to kill us because we’re always having too much fun.”

The house was going nuts today, yelling  “save me, save me” so loudly. What was going through your head at that moment?

“Honestly, I blacked out a little, I feel like. I heard them. But at the same time, I knew I was going home. I knew in my gut that if it were Heejun and I in the bottom two that it would be me to go home. Just because of what has happened in the show thus far. It’s not me being cynical, I was just sort of being realistic about it. I’d been in the bottom for four weeks in a row. America never voted me into the top anything. I got saved once by Randy in the wild card, and every consecutive week after that I got sent to the bottom. I was getting horribly uncomfortable being in that chair every week. Those stools are so uncomfortable! It’s so bad. It’s so bad.”

Is that a little soul-destroying, knowing that you’re giving great performances each week, but its not resonating?

“That’s the really discouraging thing, you know what I mean? For me being so black-and-white, at the end of the day, it would be OK to be sitting in one of those stools had I been out of tune, had I screwed up the lyrics, had I fallen or something, or made an embarrassing fool out of myself. That has been the hardest thing for me because I feel proud of every performance that I have had on stage. I feel vocally that I have given 100 percent. Also, to have that criticism that I wasn’t giving enough, then when I gave a little more it’s too much. It wasn’t enough or too much. At the end of the day, I’m a grown woman who is turning 27 this year. I am not a 15-year-old girl anymore, I have been in the game for a long time. I have been a DJ, I have been touring, I have been around the block. I have seen a lot of the music industry, so I know at the end of the day, I am still going to have fans that are loyal to me — regardless of who America votes for, whatever the American Idol demographic is as a whole. I still have those fans and I hold them very close and dearly and they have been believing in me since the beginning and that won’t stop.”

Do you think the song selection, and being a part of Red Sox nation, thwarted some things?

“You know what? Here is another thing, and I will couple this with the makeover and all this other stuff: At the end of the day I am me. I don’t hate on other artists for being Yankees fans, you know what I’m saying? It’s about the music for me, so if people don’t want to like me because I’m obsessed with the Red Sox and I love Tom Brady and the Patriots and I go to Boston’s Bruins games all the time and I love to be front row at the Boston Celtics games at the TD Beck North, they can be mad about it. It’s all good, because it doesn’t matter what sports I’m cheering for when I get home. I go on stage and give my 100 percent every time, and that’s what it’s about for me. I’m a singer because I love music.”

Have they asked you sing the national anthem yet?

“No, I haven’t gotten the call yet. But I would jump at that opportunity, for sure.”

Yesterday you said you have something up his sleeve. Were those the maracas?

“Well, that was part of it. The funny thing is I had this fun hair-do planned, which I’m now going to have to save for the tour. Buy your tickets now as there are more hair surprises coming from EVP, if you can imagine that. But it wasn’t just maracas, either, it was these little hand clappers — we had kazoos! I said I knew that after last night … I would be in the bottom three. It’s not a cynical thing, because I know my fans voted their butts off for me and I’m so grateful, but I just knew; it was one of those things. I was in the bottom so many weeks. I would’ve had to have had a super stand-out crazy performance  to get really noticed enough to be saved by the voters. I didn’t. It was a good performance, and I felt great about it, it just wasn’t that over-the-top, and sometimes America needs to see that standing ovation from the judges.”

They need to say you had a moment?

“Yes, everyone has their moment. And I talked to Skyler about this every day. I never had my moment. It sounds sad almost, but I never got my moment. But the fun thing for me is that, and America will get to see this too, is when you see me on tour this summer, the person out there without the judges sitting in front, being able to do what I want, doing my hair and makeup myself and probably wearing what I want, they will get to see me — finally. You will have to wait till after the finale, and after the Idol tour, to see it, but it’s coming.”

Now you can see The Hunger Games?

“Now I can see The Hunger Games! I can go see whatever I want for the next couple of weeks, or maybe for not the next week because I’m going to be tied up — but after that, yes.”

Was it good having your boyfriend in the audience tonight to console you afterwards?

“Yes, and my best friend was here also, so having my two guys here was certainly important. I was missing my dad and my grandfather and my brother, but that’s OK because I know they were home cheering me on. It’s certainly helpful to have people that love me here to support me and give me a hug. I needed a little bit of that human connection afterwards. It’s sad, and as devastated and heartbroken as I am for this part of the journey to be cut short, I’m so freaked out with excitement over going on tour this summer. I’ve wanted to do that my whole life and it’s funny because Steven Tyler actually said to me as I was leaving the stage, “Now you get to do what I do.” I was like, “What’s that, Steven?” He’s like, ‘Going on tour, man!'”

Were you thinking, ‘Great, I get to judge people?’

“Yes! I get to judge people and crush their dreams! I’m just kidding. I know they all have such good hearts and [the judges] hate giving negative criticism, but it’s the game and they have to. I was pretty stoked about that.”

Watch Erika’s final performance, “New York State Of Mind,” below:

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— Reporting by Russ Weakland