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'American Idol' Alums Discuss Season 10

From Season 1's Nikki McKibbin to Season 7's Jason Castro to Season 9's Andrew Garcia, 'Idol' grads offer their take on Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina and the Season 10 changes.

While the current crop of American Idol Contestants were basking in the limelight of this year’s Season 10 ceremony, the glory of Idol’s past was illuminated in the courtyard outside of the Nokia Theater where the AT&T Idol Celebration had gathered a few favorites from the past ten years.

In attendance: Kimberly Caldwell (Season 2), Blake Lewis (Season 6), Jason Castro (Season 7), Kimberley Locke (Season 2), Diana DeGarmo (Season 3), Nikki McKibbin (Season 1), Ace Young (Season 5), Elliott Yamin (Season 5),  Michael Johns (Season 7), Michael Sarver (Season 8), Andrew Garcia (Season 8), Scott MacIntyre (Season 8), Didi Benami (Season 9), Tim Urban (Season 9), Lakisha Jones (Season 6) and Terrel and Derrel Brittenum, otherwise known as the disqualified embittered twins from Season 7.

Idol Worship was there for all of the fun, and one fan even won $10,000 courtesy of AT&T (Andrew Garcia joked that he would have liked to play for that prize). We caught up with many of the former Idols to probe their thoughts about this season, and get a look into the psychology of being a contestant. Plus, we talked clothes with Didi and got serenaded by Scott Macintyre. How awesome is that?

Paige Miles

THR: What are your thoughts on this season?

Paige: There were a lot of changes this year and they were good changes. It was a complete shake up. It was a completely new dynamic to the show with the judges. It’s a little different without Simon there, but Steven and J. Lo have brought something completely unexpected to the show and the panel. The kids this year have been amazing. I was in support of Haley. I was bummed to see her go. I was at the result show last week. I definitely shed some tears for her but I’m so proud of Lauren and Scotty. Right now, I’m going for the girl. I’m hoping Lauren can pull it out.

THR: We haven’t had a girl win in a while...

Paige: Jordin! Yea, come on! America, what’s going on? I really think its way over due. I really have a strong feeling she’s going to win tomorrow night. I’m not worried about her.

THR: What are your psychic impressions?

Paige: I just really feel like it's time. It makes sense. She’s great and she’s a fantastic talent. Just come on. Scotty’s great too. I’m a chick so I want a girl to win.

THR: Tell us what you’re up to now. 

Paige: I actually just got back to LA. I lmoved out here right after the finale last year and started recording with Mac Mckiney. We finished up the project in March and then I took on a show that I had contracted to last year. I just finished Beehive, a 60s musical. It was so much fun, I got to sing Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle. We ran for about a month. Now my single will be out on iTunes soon. It’s called “Definition of Me.” I’m super excited. I keep working. I stay busy, all the time. After Idol, I would feel awkward if I didn’t.

THR: Is that your advice for the contestants this season?

Paige: Definitely. When it's over, don’t sit down. As much as they might want that break because it’s such a crazy ride, maybe take a week but keep going... because you’ve been given such a great platform and a great foundation -- take advantage of it right away. Take time and do your music. That’s what I did. I got great writers, a great team and I made sure it was a reflection of me and something I was proud to put out there and would have potential to do well.

Jason Castro

THR:  Have you been watching this season?

Jason Castro: I have been as much as I can. Early on I was on the road so I would catch a show here and there. This last few months I have been watching almost faithfully.

THR: What are your thoughts on this year’s changes?

Jason: I like the new set up. I like the new personalities on there. I think there’s a lot of great talent and that’s mostly what people want to see. I think it was a great season overall. I enjoyed it.

THR: Any surprises from this season?

Jason: I remember watching the episode where Casey got saved and I loved it. The element of surprise. We didn’t have saves from my season and I think it was really cool.

THR: From a musician’s perspective, that had to make you pretty happy.

Jason: Yeah, he was really great. I think he definitely deserved that second chance.

THR: What are your impressions of Tuesday night? What do they have to do to win?

Jason: Well I think they have to be the best. You know they’re going to be so stacked in they head with all the things they have to do, so whose going to perform it naturally, perform it good. I think the most natural performances are the best ones. They translate really well... I love Scotty. I remember watching his first audition at home with my wife and all her family. We’re big country fans and we just could not believe his voice. He’s really got a unique voice. Lauren’s been great too. It’s been cool to kind of see her develop. I think she’s really gotten stronger as the competitions went on and she’s got a great voice. It’s going to be a great show tonight.

THR: You said you’ve been touring and working on new things?

Jason: Yeah, mostly on the road. I’ve been on this tour “Winter/Winner Jam” and it took me through most of the winter. We did the whole US and now we’ve slowed it down a little, mostly one X throughout the summer. I’ve been doing a lot of writing and getting ready to launch a second single. We’ll be touring again this fall too. To check out that you can go to JasonCastroMusic.com.

Scott MacIntyre

THR: What are you thoughts about this season compared to last season?

Scott: I feel very good knowing I survived the unquenchable wrath of Simon Cowell. I think it’s good for the kids this season. The judges have become cheerleaders rather than coaches, which makes me wish I was on this season. They’re really getting to blossom and come into their own as musicians and not worry about everything at once. Simon would make a comment on the clothing or this or that. He’s one of my favorite people from the show but honestly I’ve never been so nervous in my life as when performing in front of Simon Cowell.

THR: What are Scotty and Lauren feeling right now?

Scott: They’re feeling incredible pressure. In all the touring I’ve done since the show and my new album coming out, I’m doing a book now, with everything that’s going on, I’ve never been busier than when I was a contestant on American idol. I remember a huge lack of sleep, going with no rest. They are putting it out on the line at this moment. I’m excited for a country finale. All I can say is “baby lock the doors and put the lights down low” (singing).

THR: Who are you throwing your weight behind?

Scott: I don’t know. I think Scotty’s going to win. He’s has an unstoppable fan base. I don’t know if that’s for the present or long term but he has some crazy momentum.

Tim Urban

THR: What do you think about this season compared to when you were on?

Tim: It’s more based on encouragement than criticism. It’s a better environment for the contestants because they’re not as concerned when they go on stage. Last year when you got a little bit of criticism the week before, you were maybe a little bit scared to go on stage, a little bit worried about what you were doing. This year, you get on stage, you feel like you can do this.

THR: Contestants tonight are under a huge amount of pressure, what are Scotty and Lauren feeling right now?

Tim: What they’re going through no one else can understand. They don’t understand the pressure of being on this show. They don’t understand the pressure of being 17 and 16 on this show.  I cannot even imagine what they’re going through right now. I mean number 7 was intense enough and I was 20. To make it to 1 and 2 at 16 or 17, I don’t know.

THR:  Do you have any thoughts on the finale’s outcome?

Tim: Tough to call. Honestly, ask me after they perform and I’ll have a better idea. Somebody might just really nail it. They are both so good. They know who they are as artists. People love them and they appeal to the kind of same demographic. I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I don’t think it matters.

THR: Do you think the teen voting is driving the results?

Tim: Probably. Teenagers get a lot of bad press but they are the most excited, energetic fans you can have. Their the ones that will get on the phone and vote for the entire time that they have. They’ll do that. They fall in love with you and they feel an immediate personal connection with you. Yea teens are driving it but that’s whose also driving the music industry.

THR: How have you been since Idol?

Tim:  I’ve been busy. I released a little album to iTunes called “Heart of Me.” It’s six original songs. I moved out to LA. I’ve been in acting classes, doing auditions for TV shows and movies and I’m working on a new album right now.

Kim Caldwell

THR: So you’re pretty much the Idol expert?

Kim: Yeah, it was my job to watch Idol and correspond to idol for TV Guide network and MSNBC for so long. I definitely know all the ropes.

THR: Based on your expertise, whose going to take it?

Kim: I think Scotty’s going to take it. There’s a lot more males that win than females but I also think that Lauren Alania has the lovability factor. I met her before and I thought she was such a doll. She was really humble and down to earth and I think you can see that through the television as a viewer. I think its up in the air but I hope its Lauren. From one country girl to the next.

THR: Do you think its been too long since Idol’s had a girl winner?

Kim: I don’t think too long but a lot of the voters are little girls so most of the time it seems to be a guy. But the two or three that have won have had major success.

THR: Talk about the dynamics from your season and how things have changed.

Kim: It’s funny because we sang to tracks. We slept on the streets to get a spot in line, to get an audition. We did it original gangster style. Now, of course, they have these big time judges and rock stars judging and cool bands and back up singers and crazy lights. It’s evolved and needed to after a decade.

Kim: What about Randy? Do you think he's changed?

THR: I think Randy’s been the same from day one. He remains that way. He’s very opinionated. I think he’s got a cool way of going about it. He’s not as brutal as Simon but he’s still apart of the industry and he’s knows that its not BS. He’s in there giving you the truth.

Nikki McKibbin

THR: As the  representative from season 1, what do you think of the genesis of the show?

Nikki: I think in the beginning, they didn’t really know much about what was going on. For us it was difficult to get songs and stuff like that. We didn’t have the luxury of all the stylists and the making up the clothes and all that. That would have been really cool but I don’t think I would have given up being on the original season for anything in the entire world. Even though the perks weren’t really there because they weren’t sure how well the show was going to go. But I wouldn’t give it up for a million dollars.

THR:  You know the pressure that these kids are dealing with from getting to the Top 3. Explain the psychology of being an Idol contestant.

Nikki: There’s so much work and so much pressure behind it. By the time we got to the top 3, it was let’s just enjoy. There’s nothing you can do from there. People have their favorites. You’re going to get so much out of it either way that when you get down to the end, it’s “let’s just take a deep breath and enjoy it.”

THR: You’re a southern girl, what do you think of the all-country finale?

Nikki: I used to love country music and I used to sing it growing up. I think it’s going to be neat. I don’t think its something that’s ever happened before. It will be something new, something different, something unexpected and it will be fun.

THR: Who do you think has the most potential, Lauren or Scotty?

Nikki: They both have amazing, amazing potential. I like Scotty the best. That’s where I’m going with it.

THR: That's a playful little look right there...

Nikki:  He’s got something extra special. I really like his voice. I think he’s got “it” a little bit more.

Lakisha Jones

THR: What are your thoughts on this season?

Lakisha: It’s going to be very interesting. It’s interesting being down to the finales. You never know how America is voting but at the end of the day, idol’s always up for the a surprise. We’ll have to see tomorrow.

THR: How would you compare it to when you were on during season 6?

Lakisha: This season was really good. Our season was really great. I believe we had very talented people on our season, season 6 which is 2007 and sometimes we get overlooked. Our season really does get overlooked because you don’t really hear or see a lot about our season, but we had great, talented people and I was glad to be a part of it.

THR: What do you think of the new judges?

Lakisha: I’m glad I was on it, when I was on it. I’m glad Simon was there. Not to discredit anyone but I really liked, Simon, Paula and Randy as a team. I really think that that was a good fit.

THR: Do you think the dog is the same this season as it always was?

Lakisha: Absolutely. The dog never changes.

More interviews after the jump...