On the show, she hails from South Carolina. Fans know, however, that “American Idol” contestant Elise Testone was born and raised in North Jersey.
Testone made it to the top 6, surviving week after week as hopefuls got culled down from the tens of thousands who flocked to auditions across the country.
It wasn’t an easy road, particularly for Testone, who consistently found herself in “the bottom 3.” The bottom 3 are the weekly hot seats where contestants with the least votes from viewers sit and sweat it out.
Each time, however, Testone garnered enough votes to keep her in the competition and move on to the next round. But that wasn’t the case on April 26 when she found herself in the bottom 3 for the last time. She was finally sent home.
Her swan song was Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and she sang it with the same gusto that allowed her to make a name for herself during the 11th season of “American Idol.”
In the following interview, Testone ruminated on why she spent so much time in the hot seat, her childhood dreams, and what goes on behind the scenes at “American Idol.”
Q: What has this been like for you? Tell me about this whole experience.
A: This whole experience is just nonstop and so many things are happening at once. It’s hard to really digest all the amazing things that are happening.
Q: Do you think contestants will have any kind of connection with the judges after the season is over?
A: Oh, I don’t know. We don’t get to interact with them much. I think that there could be a possibility later to collaborate or do something.
Q: What are some of the things you’ve learned, either about music or show business?
A: The only thing you can rely on is that the schedule will be unreliable. I learned that in every- thing that is presented to you there’s an opportunity and you just have to work on it. This really has given me such a platform to work with as far as seeing your fan base, getting exposure. I’ve learned a lot. I feel I’m on a personal journey as well, and I think the biggest thing I’m learning is to try to find a bal- ance in everything that I do.
Q: You always seemed to be in the bottom 3. You had to keep fighting your way to the next show. What do you think that was about? Why were you often in the bottom 3?
A: I’m not really sure. Honestly, I must be missing something that I could be doing better and I’m just trying to figure that out because when I’m performing I’m feeling like I’m doing my all. But when I’m done and I watch it, I think I can do a little bit better. Before I’d gone on the show, I was singing in mul- tiple clubs. I was always good at conveying emotion and not think- ing and being real and just loving every second of singing. I think I was letting it get to my head a little bit, where I was thinking just a little too much about the performance.
Q: Do you think the judges understand who you are?
A: Not always, but I think that they’ve given some good critiques, but I don’t always agree.
Q: Could you compare the music scene in South Carolina to New Jersey?
A: No, because I wasn’t in Jer- sey enough to really live in the music scene, because I left when I was 18. I’d sing in Barnes and Noble and a couple of bars when I’d come home to visit. But I real- ly don’t know what it’s like right now, so I can’t really compare it. But in Charleston, it’s booming. There’s so much music in that town and so much soul and good-hearted people and we’re all friends. It’s just a huge community of musicians and I can tell you that. But, I’m not sure about Jersey.
Q: Do you have any idea what the show has lined up for you in the near future? [The top 10 “American Idol” contestants go on to do promotional events, such as a live show once the season ends.]
A: I think there are some major things in store for me, but I don’t know what they are.
Q: Looking back on this, is there anything that you would have done differently?
A: I think I can always try harder. I can always work a little bit harder and I think that’s the only thing I would change, you know? Always, in every single moment to do my best.