The incredibly talented HunterGirl is still basking in the glow of American Idol season 20. Even though she came in second place, she’s got nothing but love for winner Noah Thompson, who she calls one of her “best friends.” The future is bright for this rising country star, and HunterGirl is going to continue to chase her dreams.
HunterGirl spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife about everything from the finale to her music plans. The 24-year-old stressed that “new music” is definitely coming and “hopefully” there will be a duet with Noah. She also revealed exactly how she landed on the stage name HunterGirl and opened up about how her work with veterans has shaped her. Read our Q&A below:
It came down to you and Noah Thompson. What was it like sharing that moment with Noah?
HunterGirl: In that moment, honestly, I was so proud of everything that I’d done in this experience. This has been the craziest year of my life. It’s been a lot of hard work learning songs on the fly, trying to figure out what we’re doing. So, honestly, whichever way it went I was happy. I was happy with myself and getting to sing my original songs on TV. I never thought I’d get to do that. Just having that moment, just to get to be there, and enjoy the experience that I’ve had this past year, meant everything to me. It was a full-circle moment.
“Red Bird” is climbing the charts. How are you feeling about that?
HunterGirl: Whenever I woke up this morning and saw “Red Bird” on the charts and it was my birthday [May 24], I was like, “This is the best birthday ever!” It was just so cool because “Red Bird” was a really personal song that I wrote in my life. So many people just messaging me or talking about missing somebody that’s passed away and just having that song, that’s why I do music in the first place is to help other people. So just getting to have that song be at #6 right now and this happening on my birthday… I don’t know. I need to pinch myself a few more times because it’s just been a crazy ride and I can’t believe I’m living it right now.
You could tell that all the contestants became incredibly close. You were all genuinely happy for each other no matter how the results were fleshed out. Is there a group chat going on?
HunterGirl: We have a top 24 chat. We’re all so close. I was so excited when the top 10 got to come back for the finale. There were a lot of tears that day just because we’ve all become so close. I’ve found some best friends for life during this experience. It’s not the last time we’re all going to see each other. We’ll definitely see each other because I couldn’t imagine not.
You all were in a bubble for a couple of months as the competition continued. What was it like having that constant support system and all striving for the same goal in making music?
HunterGirl: I’m trying to find a word for it. We were all so happy for each other. Whenever we’d get through a song and somebody was worried about something, we’d cheer each other on. I remember one time I was losing my voice and like 4 or 5 of them were trying to nurse my voice back to health so I could sing the songs on the show. It definitely didn’t feel like a competition. Everybody was so supportive of each other. And in the finale, we were all just like, well, however it goes we are happy with whatever happens.
Throughout the season, you had such an incredible style. Are the sparkles and sequins here to stay?
HunterGirl: Oh, yeah, always. They’ll always be here. I’m definitely a sparkle person. I remember in Hollywood Week whenever I was figuring out if I was making the top 24, I wore this sparkly dress my mom bought me. I was like, “I wore this because whatever happens I wanted to go out sparkling.” All the sparkles and leather, it’s here to stay.
Could there be a collab between you and Noah? Is that something you’ve discussed at all?
HunterGirl: Hopefully. I hope there is a duet that comes out in the future. He’s one of my best friends, so it would be really cool to see someone come together between the two of us. Stay tuned.
You’ve released “Red Bird” and an EP. What’s next for you in terms of music?
HunterGirl: I think new music definitely after this. I have many songs to write after this year, but I also want to be playing shows, as many as possible. I’d love to be on tour just to say thank you to everybody. I think just exactly what you said, we were in a bubble for a while there and hometowns were when I finally got to physically see these people that had been voting and loving on me since the beginning. I definitely want to play shows and get to tell the people that have believed in me that I love them. I wouldn’t be talking to you if they hadn’t believed in me. I’d never be here. So I’m just saying thank you to those guys and everybody that supported me on my journey.
During this American Idol journey, were you writing ideas down for songs?
HunterGirl: I always write. I don’t think I’ll ever quit. Writing’s something that got me through so much of my life, and that’s what I love to share with other people because I think that’s what music’s for is to help each other. I think that definitely comes from me working with veterans and getting to tell their stories through song. There are so many songs that are going to come out after this, and I can’t wait for the world to hear them.
How did you decide on the name HunterGirl. It’s a perfect stage name.
HunterGirl: It kind of just happened. My last name is Wolkonowksi with 11 letters. It’s hard to pronounce. In my hometown, I was the only girl named Hunter in my school. The lady at the front office would always be like, “The girl Hunter. Hunter Girl, come to the office.” I laugh thinking back on it now. And in talent shows, there would be other guys named Hunter in the competition and “Wolkonowski” they couldn’t get it at all. They’d be like, “The girl Hunter. Hunter Girl.” So I was like, “Okay, I guess my name is HunterGirl,” It just stuck as a nickname, and my Pa calls me that. So that’s why I went by HunterGirl just because I felt like it kind of happened the way it should.
You do amazing work with veterans. In the midst of a growing music career, is that always something you’re going to be doing and making a part of your life?
HunterGirl: It’s going to be something I do for the rest of my life. I have a huge military family. Even throughout the competition up until we left for LA the last time, I was still doing classes online with my veterans and getting to write songs every week with them. During the finale, just watching the package back and them standing up and talking to me, it was just so emotional just because they have helped me through so many times in my life and just to hear them say that what I had done for them, I was trying not to cry before I had to sing “Red Bird.” They have totally changed my life and the way that I look at music and everything. As musicians, we’re like, are we singing this song right? Is this the right thing to say? It turned into what’s going to make somebody feel something for me. Working with veterans is something I will do for the rest of my life because they deserve it. They’ve sacrificed so much, and if I can help somebody through a hard time, that’s why I’m here anyway on this Earth.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself throughout this American Idol journey?
HunterGirl: I have grown a lot throughout this thing. It’s been the craziest year ever. But I think I’ve learned that just staying true to who I am as a person, writing the songs that I want to write, singing, it’s just been a lot. I’ve sung songs I never thought I’d sing. I’ve hit notes I never thought I would hit. I think that comes from not feeling confident sometimes and being the worst critic in your head and overthinking everything. I think just trying and taking a chance, that’s what I did with Idol. I was like, “I’m just gonna try out and see what happens.” I think life is so short. You should do what makes you happy, and I think that’s what Idol has definitely shown me is to go after it while you can because you never know what’s gonna happen.