Were you surprised by your elimination?
"I had expected it, not because of my bottom three positions in the past but because of the judges' feedback of my performance. I was the only one who wasn't in my element this week and I picked songs that weren't really in my genre, that weren't really my thing in trying to do something different. I feel that's why I was voted off, not because I was horrible or people didn't like me. Those four that are there were amazing and they were in their element on Wednesday and I wasn't."
There have been lots of different genres on the show this year. Do you think America understood where you were coming from?
"I think sometimes America didn't know what to do with me, but I think much of America got that I was the R&B crooner, soulful gospel guy. And a lot of the times those lines blur. A lot of great R&B artists like Luther Vandross, Patty LaBelle [and] Whitney Houston got their start in the church. Even Mariah Carey has a lot of gospel roots. I think they got it, I just think that I wasn't really in my element on Wednesday and that's part of the reason that I was sent home."
Jimmy Iovine made a lot of negative comments about your performances. How difficult was that to hear?
"It definitely hurts a lot to have someone who's supposed to be mentoring you tear - what feels like - tearing you down every time you turn around. But you have to remember that you're not doing it for him, you're doing it for the people in America 'cos they're the ones voting. But it definitely hurts to have someone beat you over the head with a baseball bat and then tell you to go and sing for your life. But what I will definitely continue to do now that the show is over for me is to really give my all and show my heart and touch people, because that's what it's all about - touching people with music. It's not about how good I can sing or how many riffs I can do or how good Jimmy thinks I am. It's about me really putting out great music that America loves."
You gave such a relaxed farewell performance. Was the pressure of the competition getting to you?
"I won't say that the pressure was getting to me, but I will say that I was getting a bit tired probably. I was really just trying to do different things that [Jimmy Iovine] would like and that America might like. But I really went out there and tried to give it my all."
What did your family have to say to you following your elimination?
"I think my grandmother was proud and happy. I have been wanting to do this for such a long time and I wanted her to see me 'make it' and she did."
You've alluded to going through a difficult past. What sort of things did you have to deal with?
"My mother and father divorced and my father, as you know, died when I was 12 years old so I've been through a lot... I was picked on badly when I was younger, getting beat up and stomped on in the playground and been through bad grades and good grades. I moved out on my own and, being a prideful person, have been homeless. I've gone without. There have been times when I didn't have any money and didn't know what I was going to do, so just moments like that when you want to give up. It's so hard not to have support sometimes. You kinda do it by yourself, times when I just didn't think I was going to make it. But I kept going and I'm here."
How does your gospel background affect your musical leanings now?
"You can't take gospel singing out of a person. Some of the greatest soul singers in the world - Chaka Khan, Patty LaBelle, Whitney Houston - they all do a lot of church, gospel inspired riffs. So it's all in there... It's something that you can't run from. It's a soul thing, it's not even necessarily a church or a gospel thing. It just sort of oozes out!"
You got a lot of praise for your performance of 'God Bless The Child' during Hollywood Week. What was going through your mind during that time?
"Before the performance, I was tired and I was drained. The person who went up before me sang [the song] and killed it and I was scared. I was shaking in my boots! I don't know if anyone noticed but I changed the final lyric of the song when I ended and added 'I need my own'. That's really where I sang it from. I was tired and didn't want to go back home to my normal life and I needed my own... I didn't want to struggle anymore or wonder where my next bills were going to come from or if I could pay my rent."
You've done some acting in the past. Do you plan on pursuing that more in the future?
"My primary focus is obviously recording an album... but I definitely want to look into doing some theater and some Broadway and maybe some film. I haven't done any films, but I definitely want to look into doing all of those things, for sure."
What sort of album will you make?
"You're going to hear some traditional R&B - there aren't any Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass type singers out there right now. There's a lot of bubblegum pop but there's not a lot of that, so that's what I desire to bring to the table. But I don't think I try, I think that just comes naturally for me. This music is also going to be music that encourages people to keep living and keep fighting, as well."
American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox