As FOX’s powerhouse reality singing competition, ‘American Idol,’ has been making headlines in recent months for the antics of two of its new judges, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, the current 12th season of the show is getting back to its true intention: finding the next musical superstar. As the competition moved onto its top seven performers, singer Burnell Taylor was the fourth contestant to be voted out of the top 10. After singing a solo rendition of ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ by Bon Jovi, and a duet of ‘The Letter’ by The Box Tops with fellow contestant Candice Glover, on Wednesday, April 3, Taylor was voted off the following night.
Taylor generously took the time recently to participate in a press conference call to talk about his elimination from ‘American Idol.’ Among other things, the singer discussed how he would be interested in collaborating with such singers as Frank Ocean and Rhianna in the future, and how John Legend is an inspiration for his singing; how Carey offered him support after his elimination and encouraged him to continue singing; and how he wouldn’t change any of his song choices, because things happen for a reason.
Question (Q): What do you have planned moving forward? What will your album sound like?
Burnell Taylor (BT): With my album, I want to make captivating music. Since there are only a few albums that you can play from the beginning to the end without any skips, I just want my album to be a storyteller and I want to be as personal as I can get. I feel the industry is missing honesty today. I want to create that link for other people to feel comfortable with doing.
Q: ‘American Idol’ has been a really good stepping stone for your career, so what do you think your next step might be?
BT: When I get home, actually, I’m going to the gym, because I gained 10 pounds. I’m going to start running, because I want to lose some more weight. Music wise, I’m going to start back writing, because I did a lot of writing in my younger days, but I stopped. I’m going to start back writing and just taking the time out to do the things that I need to do, so when it’s time for me to be free, I can just start putting everything out.
Q: Is there any particular musician that you hope one day to work with?
BT: Well, I can sit here and name a whole list, and hopefully, they’re listening. I would love working with Frank Ocean, Rhianna, even Chris Brown and Miguel. I’d like to work with everybody, like Brandy and India.Arie. I just want to be heard, and I want to be appreciated.
Q: You sound a little bit like John Legend. Has he been an inspiration at all? Do you have any plans to make music in that style, or do you want to do something different?
BT: John Legend is definitely one of my inspirations. As far as me making the same type of music, I feel like there’s already a John. I try to be as original as I can get, so I just want to do something that nobody ever heard before. I love John. John is a big inspiration in my life, and I know I get a comparison with the voice. That’s a good thing, because he can sing.
Q: You ended your save song by kissing Amber on the cheek; did she know that was coming, and how would you describe your relationship with her?
BT: I don’t think she knew that was coming; I don’t think anybody knew that was coming. But I really like Amber, and she really likes me. We like each other. We’re just learning more about each other right now. We’re not taking anything too fast, because we’re both still young. We’re just taking our time. As far as us liking each other, we really like each other.
Q: Candice ended up weeping in your arms after you sang, and Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey wer crying. How did you keep your composure through all of that, and was there a time off camera that you ended up crying, too?
BT: Actually, I was telling them, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, because this is not the end.” Some people started crying before I even started singing, and I was like, “Don’t cry.” The reason why I cried, I never knew how much they really cared. We’re all cool and close. We’re like a family, but I never knew how much they cared about me. Just to see that they were extra genuine, it just touched me, so I had to show love and break down, too.
Q: The judges all obviously seem to be fans of yours, particularly Mariah, who you made cry on more than one occasion. Did she offer you any words of support after your elimination?
BT: Yes, she was just telling me, “This is not the end. Take this and run with it.” That’s what I’m going to do, because I just feel like it’s about what you do after the show. So, that’s my focus.
Q: If you counted Jimmy Iovine as one of the judges, which two judges provided you with the most helpful guidance for your career and what was the best piece of advice they gave you?
BT: Anybody that had anything to do with me being on this show had—Jimmy, Nicki, Keith, Mariah and Randy-all of them are good mentors. That’s what they’re there for, and I appreciate all them equally. There are no favorites, because all of them have a part in my life. You know a reason why my life will never be the same.
Q: How did you think the mentoring sessions you had with Jimmy went, and what did you think of his critiques of your performances?
BT: The first time I saw Jimmy Iovine, and we had our first interview, honestly, I was terrified. I have tough skin, but I was terrified. He’s like another Nicki. When you’re looking for pure honesty, he’s who you can go to. I appreciate what he’s talking about. There’s a difference between somebody who’s honest and knows what they’re talking about, and those who are just talking. He knows what he’s talking about, and it’s just taking the advice that he gives you and learn from it and do your homework. That’s what I’m going to do.
Q: If you could pick one piece of memorable advice that someone gave you, what would it be?
BT: Well, basically in Hollywood week, it was rough for me. They were telling me that I was pitchy and things like that. I took what they told me and did my homework and I got a new vocal coach; I spent all the money that I had for a vocal coach. So when it was time for them to see me again, I knew it was going to be like, “This is the different, you’ve got it together.” When I performed the first time in Vegas, that’s the reaction I got from them, so it was amazing.
Q: What are you most excited for about the upcoming tour?
BT: I think I’m most excited about seeing things that I never saw before, like different cities. For the most part, I’ve stayed in New Orleans all my life. L.A. is the furthest I ever went, so I want to see everybody’s home towns. Not only that, I feel like the tour gives us an extra foundation on top of the foundation that we already have, to build that fan base and get personal with our fans. So I’m looking forward to everything on the tour.
Q: Why do you think that it’s such a year for the ladies? What are the guys doing wrong?
BT: Honestly, it’s nothing that we’re doing wrong; it’s just calling a spade a spade. It’s a girl year this year. I would love (that a) girl (will) win, because it’s been too long since one has won.
Q: Nicki Minaj was tweeting recently that she was not going to save any of the boys. How you felt about that? What your reaction to that was?
BT: Honestly, I didn’t hear about that, but everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. I love Nicki and Nicki loves me. None of that matters because she showed me that she really loves me. She showed me that she was genuine, so I don’t really let that get in between the relationship that I have with her.
Q: You have garnered a huge fan base who appreciates your voice, your style and your personality. What would you like to say to them as they kind of lament your departure from the show?
BT: I don’t call them fans; I call them family, because we’re a family. I love you all so much no matter what. We shall meet again, Team Burnell. We shall meet again, and it’s not going to be too long. Just know that I love you all.
Q: When you heard that your name was part of the bottom two, what was your overall reaction? Did you have any idea at all that you were going to be sent home?
BT: Well, honestly, I had a feeling in my stomach, in my bones the whole week. I guess it was just a sign from God, trying to prepare me for the situation, because it was a possibility that it could happen. I was just prepared and I know that I had to sing—it wasn’t about me getting saved, it was just about me leaving my mark regardless and performing my song. It wasn’t perfect, but I do feel like I dug deep in deep enough for somebody to reach out to.
Q: If you were able to go back and change any of your performances, would you make different decisions on which songs you did sing during your time on the show?
BT: Nope, I wouldn’t change anything, nothing that I’ve done, because I did it for a reason. Everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I wouldn’t have done the songs that I did. I appreciate all the songs that I did.
Q: Some of the judges seemed to think that the song that you sang (the night before you were eliminated) was not in your genre and that you looked uncomfortable. Did you feel that you were that uncomfortable singing that song? Why did you choose that song?
BT: Actually, I had the time of my life performing that song. If somebody would have told me that I would perform a rock song on live television, I never would have believed them. If nobody’s proud of me, I’m proud of myself. I knew what it took for me to overcome that performance and shine through it, even though it probably was difficult for me. I just got to roll with the punches and not make excuses for what it is.
Q: Were you surprised at all that the judges didn’t use the save?
BT: Honestly, it was already established. I knew I just had a feeling, honestly, and that’s why I sung my song the way I sung it. That’s why I walked over to the contestants, because I knew—I had a feeling that this was the end for that chapter, but this is not the end.
Q: When you were first on the stage with the huge audience, what was going through your head?
BT: Well, in Vegas, we had heard the audience. That was our first time doing it for a live audience, and it was like, this can be really good or this can be really bad. When I went on the stage and felt the energy from the audience, it just made me feel like I was alright. I enjoyed performing for so many people, because for me, the more people the better.
Q: What was your favorite part so this season?
BT: My favorite part of the season was the fact that it allowed me to grow. It really allowed me to lose the weight. There are things that I never would have done if I wasn’t on the show. The show motivated me to do a lot of things, and I’m thankful and blessed that I was even in this position.
Q: What parts did you find the most challenging?
BT: Well, of course, the themes are very challenging. Some of the times, we don’t know the songs. We always want to pick the best songs, so you know that could be a challenge. But it’s a good challenge.
Q: What was the most surprising thing to you about this whole experience being on ‘American Idol?’
BT: Well, honestly, two years ago, three years ago, I just found out that it’s themes, so being on the show and watching the show are two different things. It’s just so different. I always thought that, “We get to pick any song we want to sing.” We do get to pick out songs, but it has to fit in to the theme. I was under the impression that we pick out our own songs and we can sing whatever we want to sing, and it’s not like that. That was kind of surprising.
Q: Did you find the routine of the day different in some form than you expected?
BT: Yes, I believe when the grind is hard, that’s when you know you’re doing what you need to do. When it’s easy, it’s boring, so I appreciate the hard grind and waking up. It makes us feel like we’re doing something, instead of us being home not doing anything and not living our dream. It makes us feel like we’re living our dream.
Q: What you’d like to say to all of the kids at Sarah T. Reed High School and your teachers and friends there who watched you and were really rooting for you? What would you like them to know about how you’re doing right now?
BT: To my people at Sarah T. Reed, I love you all so much. The support that you all give is just amazing, and I cannot wait to come personally thank all of you all when I get back to New Orleans and just show my love, because the love that you all showed I just can’t even explain. I love you all and you all know I’m not going anywhere. The grind is about to get even harder.
Q: Do you think that you’ll be staying in New Orleans a lot in the future or do you think that maybe it’s going to be somewhere else for Burnell Taylor?
BT: It’s a possibility. Only time will tell.
Q: Do you have any final words for your fans?
BT: Thank you everybody who took the time out to support me. To all the people and all the audiences who are listening out right now, I just want them to know that in the future, I’m going to work with all of them. So get prepared, because I’m coming. I’m not giving up on what I started. I love you all so much. See you all.
Written by: Karen Benardello