A line of American Idol superfans snaked around the side of the Staples Center on Thursday waiting for a meet and greet with the top 10 finalists of season eight. On any other day, I would have been in that line, sporting a “Lambert Lover” t-shirt and fitting right in among the crowd of “Team Kris” pre-teens, and Danny Gokey devoted soccer moms; however, my job at the 2009 American Idol Summer Tour was to venture, yet again, into the world of journalism with my fellow GRAMMY Camp® Music Journalism track members.
After being escorted through Staples Center’s VIP entrance, my fellow campers and I hurriedly reviewed the questions we had prepared for the Idols, trying our best to keep our nervous excitement at bay. One by one, seven of the top 10 finalists were led into our own private press room and each of the campers got a chance to put our newfound professional reporter skills to work. One of the last Idols to make his way over to us was fifth-place finisher Matt Giraud - one of the few Idols to have previously released original material, two CDs, 2003's Perspective and 2006's Mind Body and Soul. The smiley singer offered a charming humility and self-effacing sense of humor during our interview that made it clear why even Simon Cowell was willing to make him the first Idol ever to be given a second chance on the show and “saved” from elimination in the top seven round and ultimately make it all the way into the top five.
A few hours after our interview, “piano man” Matt took the Staples Center stage and delighted the audience with his captivating energy and musicianship, which included a Black Crowes-inspired cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” and a duet of dueling pianos with Scott MacIntyre.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan: Has anything surprised you about this tour so far?
Matt Giraud: "So far everything’s been going pretty smoothly. [But] we’ve had a few big laughs -- my fly was down for ten minutes on stage, one night I forgot my microphone, so just a few embarrassing things. But you work it all out and everything’s coming together."
STK: In what ways is the experience of performing live as part of this huge tour different from the made for TV Idol performances, and what is it like to perform in front of the massive crowds every night?
MG: "The crowds have been amazing, really responsive; I’m actually way more comfortable now than I was before. You would think it would be more nerve-wracking, but I love it. This is the thing that I’m supposed to do, it’s what I’m meant to do, just giggin’. I was never the best TV star, I didn’t have like the sexy eyes, I tried to have Adam teach me, I just couldn’t get it. I love doing this every night, and not having judges or cameras is great."
STK: How does it inspire you as an artist to be able to work so closely with such a diverse group of talent?
MG: "It’s a very talented bunch, and we all want to have the good set, the set that moves you out of your seat. We’re not really competing, but you don’t want to be the weak link. We all just try to bring it. Personally I just try to think of interesting things I can put in my set to get a response out of people, and be entertaining, more than just a singer and a piano player. I try to put some comedy in there and try to connect with the audience."
STK: If you could create your own tour with anyone on it, who would you bring out and what would you call it?
MG: "I’d love to have One Republic, or the Fray, I’d love to play with one of those guys, I’d call it “The Piano Men Strike Back” and I’d wear a Darth Vader helmet on stage."