You made the Top 13 as a judges' wildcard pick rather than on the public vote. Were you concerned about that and did you suspect you'd be in the bottom three?
"It wasn't a surprise. I had a feeling… There are so many talented people on the show, and regardless of whether I had less votes or fans, I was still a part of those people. I was still there and the judges saw something in me that I didn't know I had, so it didn't crush me at all. It doesn't mean that I didn't have fans or don't have fans, it just means I had the least votes. I'm honoured to have been on the show with those other superstars; I look at them as stars and they said the same thing to me last night and that touched my heart. All of the fans that I have - my little fanbase! - will stick by my side through thick and thin, and that's all that matters. It's not about having the most fans or the competition or trying to be better than someone, it's about finding your lane and learning who you are."
You looked like you were in pain when you found out you were going home. What were you thinking at that time?
"It really wasn't pain, it was more so leaving the stage and the friends that I had made. I just had to let it out. I always hold stuff in because over the years the things that I have been through have made me strong. Sometimes you have to let it out and show your emotions. I'm a real person just like America. I'm just Ashthon from Nashville, and sometimes you can't hold back. I cried because of all the things I went through on the show and the experiences, and I couldn't believe I had made it so far."
What did America miss in your performances?
"I don't know! I just wanted people to see my personality and I don't really think the show showed that as much as I wanted it to, but that was okay because everything happened for a reason. 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 don't think I'm all that. I wanted them to see the confidence came from God. I was never timid on stage - I've been performing before, even back home - and I've always liked to engage the crowd and dance with them and have confidence. I feel like America will see that now that I've moved on and I can't wait to perform again."
Would you have chosen a different song in retrospect?
"As I look back now, at first I was like, 'I shouldn't have chosen that song' but I chose it for a reason. I listened to all of Diana Ross's songs and that one, for some reason, spoke to me in a way that I related it to my life, my experiences and my faith, and the love that I have around me. The lyrics spoke to me. I didn't understand why that song wasn't a big hit because it touched me. Jimmy Iovine and Rodney Jerkins turned it into such a current R&B song, and I thought it was amazing and couldn't wait to get on stage. America really didn't feel it like I did, but hopefully now it's on iTunes, it will begin to touch them like it touched me."
Had you thought about what you would have sung during next week's 'Songs From The Year You Were Born' theme if you had made it?
"Oh, man, there was Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson… I probably would have done a Diana Ross song that everyone knows, one that is a hit song. I would have chosen an absolute hit and I think that would have won the crowd over and kept me there. But it's okay. I don't want to look at the past and be depressed and think, 'I should have done this…' It's time to take everything I have learned and done, and move forward in my life and grow as an artist."
What is the best piece of advice you got from the judges?
"I'm going to say it was from Jennifer Lopez. Steven [Tyler] and Randy [Jackson] told me some great things, but Jennifer always had something real to say that came straight from her spirit. She always told me, 'You're amazing, you'll go far, don't stop. I see it coming'. Last night she said, 'It's all about the songs in the music business. Even when you get that first record, make sure it's a hit before you put it out, because that's what America will notice. They will remember those great songs and they will never go away'."
Can you describe Steven Tyler in one word?
"Fabulous! He was fabulous from his clothes to his shoes. He didn't care [what he said] or what people thought, he said exactly what he felt, and for the most part everything was true. Behind the scenes he was the most humble and sweet person."
Are you going back to your old store job?
"No, I'm not. I left it there. I've worked and worked and worked all my life and now it's time for me to be the artist and performer that God put in me a long time ago. I need to go further in my career and hopefully opportunities are there waiting for me. I'm very excited about what is to come. I have no idea what is going to happen but I feel it in my spirit that it is something great."
What does it take to find success after the show?
"That's an interesting question because when I got on the show I always had to remind myself that some of the people who didn't even win are doing well and very comfortable in their careers. That kept me sane and driven. Right now, I'm driven because I have a wonderful feeling that there is something that will be an opportunity for me that I can do. My goal is to buy my mum a house, for my family to never have to worry about everything, and have an amazing career in music. I don't want to go back to working a job that I don't want to work, and I don't want to struggle anymore or feel pain. I just want to show the world who I am and spread the love and faith. I want people to see me and say, 'Hey, she is my idol anyway'. That's the biggest thing - it's not about winning, you have to feel like you're already a winner."
Is there anyone that you would like to work with in your career?
"I actually enjoyed working with Rodney Jerkins and Jimmy Iovine. They brought me to a place that I never knew I could go to and had me singing notes I couldn't even hit before. When you are bringing the best out of someone... I just think they would be great producers to work with. I also follow Monica - I sang her on the show - and I would love to meet Diana Ross. Berry Gordy [was at the show this week] and if he had anything for me to do, I don't care what it is, I would do it and be happy to do it!"
Will you stay in contact with the other singers?
"Yes, I will - we were best friends. I never thought I could have so many best friends - literally best friends. We all talked to each other, I lifted them up, they lifted me up, I could cry on their shoulders, they could come cry on mine. That is what a best friend is; it's about having people around you that are positive. My advice to everyone who is trying to make it is to never look at the blogs or listen to or read negative comments about you, because it will discourage you. You have to stay focused and have people that are positive around you and constantly feeding great energy and faith into your spirit, because that is what will make you a great performer."
Who do you think will go far in the competition?
"Honestly, I'm going to speak outside the show and predict all of them will go far in their career."
What was your most memorable moment from the whole experience?
"Wow, there are so many moments, but it would be every time I got on stage. There was something about the stage. I felt like I could conquer the world! The confidence and everything just came out. I didn't want America to take that in a weird way but that's who I am. I'm a sweet person and humble backstage, but when I got on stage it's something else. That was the thing that stuck out to me… It was an amazing experience, and I hope I can continue to do that for the people that are my fans."
American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox