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'American Idol' Tour: Jessica Sanchez and Colton Dixon Sound Off on Favorite Cities and Fandemonium

Plus, Erika Van Pelt on Elise Testone's loud sleeping habits: "We’re learning everyone’s little eccentricities."

American Idol season 11 tour preview top 10 L

By the time they get to Glendale, Arizona, they’ll be singing. The top 10 finalists from season 11 of American Idol are on the road for their summer tour. After stops in Los Angeles, Ontario and San Diego this week, they arrive at the Jobing.com Arena tonight, the 15th stop in their 45-date tour. Before they departed the Golden State, the Idols talked to THR about their experiences on the road.

On meeting fans at the live shows:

Heejun Han: When I think of the fans, I don’t think of them as humans because we only interacted with them on Facebook and Twitter. So I remember them as an ID on the monitor or the icon in their photo. When you meet them in person, they’re starstruck but I’m “fanstruck.” I’ve never seen them in person before but I know them because they’ve been tweeting me a lot. They’re surprised they’re seeing me in real life and I’m surprised they really exist.

Elise Testone: The fans bring presents, like necklaces and stuffed animals. My favorite moment is at the very end of the show when they’re waiting outside behind the barricades by the buses. Some people don’t have enough money to buy VIP passes and they’re really appreciative.

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Jessica Sanchez: Some of them are really shy and don’t know what to say, and they’ll shake. Then there are some that are really happy and energetic and they’re shouting.

DeAndre Brackensick: I’ll take pictures with them. It’s nice to know they meant what they said, that they’re going to come and support you. They’re real people you get to know instead of just knowing their Twitter name.

On playing to arena-sized audiences:

Erika Van Pelt: For some reason, it’s less nerve-wracking to play in front of the bigger audiences because the only faces you can see are in the first few rows. Because of the lights and the size of the arena most nights, all you can see is little flashes of cameras and you just feel everyone’s energy. I get more nervous in front of five people in a small room because I feel like everyone’s staring into my soul.

On how they spend their time off:

Colton Dixon: I normally find the mall and walk around. Either that or sleep. Sometimes we’ll gang up and catch a movie. Some of us just saw the new Batman movie and we saw The Amazing Spider-Man together. When we were in Minnesota we all wanted to go to the Mall of America. You can’t take Phillip Phillips to the Mall of America. He asked me, “Colton, do you have a beanie?” Phillip Phillips in a beanie is very funny.

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Hollie Cavanagh: I went to the Mall of America by myself and saw Colton and Phillip at a table. This lady came up and recognized me and Colton and meanwhile Phillip is sitting there in his beanie. She looked at Phillip and said, “Can you take a picture of us?” with no idea of who he was.

Testone: I’ve been out to see live bands and I’ve sung with some of them. I jumped in with this piano player in Detroit at a jazz club called Cliff Bell’s. There was a full band and they were jamming and I did three songs with them. I sang in San Diego with a blues band, which was really fun. I’ve been doing really cool things in every city. In Seattle, I went on the ferris wheel.

Han: I get really tired. After the concert I sleep on the bus. Whenever we have a day off I’m trying to embrace that moment where I could rest and not think of anything.

On changing this up from city to city:

Van Pelt: Every city is different. We’ve had some cities that are much more energetic than others. Certainly as performers up there we feed off the audience. To have that really good, positive energy flowing through the room is really great.

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Dixon: It changes night to night which is really good for us, because we’re singing the same things over and over and over again. So to have a different energy every night keeps it different for us. It keeps it entertaining and keeps us on our toes every night.

Cavanagh: Some places weren’t as energetic as others so when that happens we’re just OK, and then when they’re really hyped up, it’s like, OK, let’s go! Chicago stood out for me. The whole place went crazy.

Dixon: San Jose was great, too. DeAndre’s home town. They love music and you can tell. The more the audience gets into it, the more we’re going to get into it.

Brackensick: Almost all my friends were there in San Jose, along with my whole family. I’m looking in the audience and it’s like, “Oh, I know you! What’s up, cousin?” Everyone was there. High school friends, co-workers, people I haven’t seen in years came to the show. It was nice to see all that support.

Han: There’s a different vibe in every city. I’m giving them the same vibe but it’s a matter of how people receive it. Sometimes it’s really a party-party-party concert. Sometimes it’s really gentle.

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On touring the country by bus:

Van Pelt: They keep the boys and the girls separated on different buses. If they put us all on one bus, we’d probably be fine. We’re really cool with each other. We’re learning everyone’s little eccentricities, like their sleeping and eating habits. Elise is in the bunk right above me and our air conditioning vents rattle rather loudly and hers rattles extra loud. Without thinking, she hits it because it’s rattling so loud it’s bugging her and that wakes me up in the middle of the night. I know she’s just punching the vent so I go back to sleep. She’s at the very top and I’m in the middle. I’m susceptible to motion sickness but I’ve been just fine. I sleep like a baby.

Cavanagh: As far as living on the bus, I think we were all nervous about being with each other 24/7 but we’ve really surprised ourselves and we’re all getting even closer.

On how the summer tour is different than their season on Idol:

Sanchez: It’s so much better than the show because it was a competition but it wasn’t a competition. There was so much pressure on us to impress the audience, the judges and Jimmy (Iovine). It’s totally chill now. Everybody can relax. We don’t have to worry about anything and can just have fun whether it’s a day off or a show day.

Van Pelt: I feel like I’ve had a unique relationship with the fans because of where I went out on the show and because of what I got to show of myself on the show, which I didn’t think was a lot. I finally feel like what I’m doing on the tour is 100 percent me. What the fans are getting to see now, on the live show, is 100 percent EVP instead of 50 percent. So I’m gaining more fans by the day. I was the first out of the ten to go. I don’t care if even one or two people say they weren’t a fan of mine before but they are now. That means more to me than anything. It’s cool to know I’m reaching them in a way that I wish I could have done on the show.