You looked like you were in such pain when you found out that you were going home. What exactly was going through your head in that very moment?
Ashton Jones: You know what, it really was not pain. It was moreso leaving the stage and the friends that I had made, and I just had to let it out. I always hold stuff in. I’m a very, very strong person. Over the years the things that I’ve been through have made me strong, so sometimes you have to let it out. You’ve got to show your emotion. I’m a real person just like America. I’m just Ashton, and I’m from Nashville, and sometimes you can’t hold back. But I cried because of all of the things that I went through on the show—the experiences. I couldn’t believe that I had made it so far.
Do you think there is any stigma to being the first person voted off?
You know what? I think it’s not always a bad thing to be the first person. It could be a good thing because everything that I went through on the show—now I’m going to take it and put it toward my career. And I don’t think anything is going to stop me, and I feel like it was all in God’s timing. And he has something better for me. I’m not saying AMERICAN IDOL was not. But something great is what I feel in my spirit right now, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.
What do you think America was missing about you during that Top 24 round?
I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I just wanted people to see my personality, and I don’t really think that the show showed my personality as much as I wanted to. But it was okay because everything happens for a reason. But I’m kind of glad that the judges saw that personality of a diva, but I didn’t want the world to see me as diva—like I think I’m all that. I wanted them to see the confidence that I have came from God, and that’s it. I have faith and confidence in myself, and I was never timid on stage. I’ve been performing before, even back home. And I’ve always liked to engage in the crowd and dance with them and have confidence. So now I feel like America is going to see that now that I’ve moved on. And I can’t wait to perform again.
What was the best piece of advice that you received from one of the judges?
Oh man. I want to say it was from Jennifer Lopez. Now Steven and Randy told me some great things, but Jennifer always had something real to say that came straight from her spirit. And I knew it was from her spirit. She always told me that, “You’re amazing. You’re going to go far. Don’t stop. I know you got something. I see it.” She said, “I see it. I see it. I see it’s coming.” And then last she told me, she said, “You know, it’s all about the songs in the music business.” She said, “Even when you get that first record, make sure it’s a hit before you put it out because that’s what America is going to notice. They’re going to remember those great songs and they’re never going to go away.” So it was the best advice that she could give.
If you could describe Steven Tyler in one word, what would it be?
Oh, my goodness. Fabulous. He was fabulous, from his clothes, to his shoes, from—everything. And what he said, he did not care. He didn’t care what people thought. He said exactly what he felt, and for the most part everything was true and he was just amazing. And behind the scenes he was the most humble and sweet person. Humble.
Moving forward, are there any specific producers or artists out there that you’d like to work with on some music?
You know, I actually enjoyed working with Rodney Jerkins and Jimmy Iovine. I really, really enjoyed it. They brought me into a place that I’d never known that I could go to. They had me singing notes that I couldn’t even hit before. And when you’re bringing the best out of someone—I just think that they would be great, great producers that I could work with. And I also followed Monica, of course. I sang her on the show. I would love to meet Diana Ross. Barry Gordy was there, and if he has anything for me to do, I don’t care what it is, I would do it, and I would be happy to.
As everybody knows, being a finalist, or even winning AMERICAN IDOL, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a flourishing career. What do you think it takes to find that success post the show?
That’s an interesting question because I say that all the time. And when I got on the show I always had to remind myself that some of the greatest that didn’t even win are doing well, and very comfortable in their careers, and millionaires—doing great, awesome. And I constantly had to remind myself of that, and I still believe that. And that’s also kept me sane and kept me driven. Right now, as I’m not on the show anymore, but I’m still driven because I know that. And, like said before, I have a wonderful feeling that there’s something. And I don’t care if it’s one thing or ten things, there’s going to be an opportunity there for me that I can do. And I’m going to be able to do exactly what my goal was. I want to buy my mom a house; I want my family to never have to worry about anything. And I just want to have an amazing career in music because I love to do it. I don’t want to go back to working jobs that I don’t want to work. I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t want to feel pain anymore. I just want to show the world who I am and spread the love, spread the faith, and let everybody know, “Don’t stop.” I want people to see me and say, “Hey, she’s my idol anyway.” And that’s the biggest thing. It’s not about winning. You have to feel like you’re already a winner.
A lot has been made over Casey Abrams hospitalization. Just how stressful is it being on a show like AMERICAN IDOL?
It can be stressful if you make it stressful. You have to stay grounded, and that’s why I believe in God and believe in faith so much because if it wasn’t for Him, I would have been crushed as far as I probably wouldn’t have been able to talk to you right now. And with that being said, you have to whatever you do—your meditation, whatever you do to continue—you have to do it because it can stress you out. It really can stress you out. But you’re constantly moving. It’s fast paced, fast paced, and sometimes you don’t have time to think. But even when you have those down times, you have to go to a place in your spiritual world, your meditation, and you have to stop and think about what you’ve accomplished already. So when elimination comes, nothing can stop you from being the best that you can be.
What was your most memorable or special moment over the whole journey of AMERICAN IDOL?
There are so many moments. But I must say every contestant, of course, all of the contestants. But the most part that stuck out to me was every time I got on the stage. It was something about the stage. For some reason every time I got on the stage I felt like I can conquer the world. I just got on there and the confidence and everything just came out. And I didn’t want America to take that in a weird way. But that’s who I am. I’m really this sweet person, humble backstage, goofy, corny, have fun, kick it. But when I get on the stage, it’s something else. And that was the thing that stuck out to me was the lights, the cameras, the 30 million people watching, the audience, the judges, and the stage. And it was just an amazing experience, and I hope that I can continue to do that for the people that are my fans.
What are you going to tell your grandkids about this whole experience when you reflect back on it?
Man, that’s so funny you asked about that because last night I was telling one of the other contestants how we can tell whoever—our kids, our grandkids—they’re going to look back and say, “Oh my gosh. My grandmother did this—accomplished this” because really, honestly, this is not the end. Some people, they end right here, and there is no way that I can end right here. And that’s what I’m going to tell them, “I couldn’t end right there.” It’s only the beginning of something great, and you have to continue to go on. You can’t live off of, “I was AMERICAN IDOL and Top 13.” You can’t live off that for the rest of your life. You have to go further, and you constantly have to be driven. And I just thank God for even allowing me to be there because it made me stronger than I already thought I was. I wasn’t even as strong as I thought I was. And now there’s an inner strength that’s come and burst out of me, and just happiness, and a glow that I’m so thankful for.