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Crystal Bowersox on 'Idol' Appearance: 'I Feel like I Jinxed Casey Abrams'

The season 9 runner-up tells THR how "strange" it was to be back in the 'Idol'-dome, what this year's finalists have to look forward to and how much she's learned about the music business.

crystal bowersox season 10 performance
Michael Becker / FOX

It’s hard to imagine Crystal Bowersox being jittery on the American Idol stage. After all, the season 9 runner-up made it all the way to the finale last year, spending more time beneath those beauty lights than, well, the ten other contestants vying for the show’s top honor. But last week, entering the very television studio that would set course to the rest of her life, starting with a long coveted career in music -- her own, not others’ -- Bowersox describes a sensation she’d never felt before. “I got nervous,” she told Idol Worship after her April 28 appearance. “It was weird, I never got nervous on the show.”

Fortunately, returning to Stage 36 is not unlike coming home for Thanksgiving and running into your high school friends at the local bar -- it’s a reunion of sorts. For Crystal, that even carried an extra symbolic piece of nostalgia -- her dusty microphone stand from playing around Toledo, Ohio, now residing in Los Angeles where it awaits her next gig... or a travel case. Bowersox spoke to THR about her Idol appearance and what else she’s got cooking.

THR: How did it feel to be back in the Idol studio?

Crystal Bowersox: Definitely strange, but once my band and I got to the studio and kind of settled in, it was fine. It was good to see familiar faces, the crew, love all those guys. It was cool. I had some flashbacks to when I was on the show, seeing the mic stand and the stage and everything. I know it's a different stage, but it felt the same.

THR: But you had different faces staring back at you, namely Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler…

Bowersox: Yeah, they were right ahead of me! The judges were different, but everything really looked and felt the same. It was surreal, but I feel like I jinxed Casey Abrams. He was my favorite. Of course, the show that I perform on, he goes home. But it was cool. I got to talk to him, and he's going to be all right.

THR: Have you been keeping up with the show?

Bowersox: I hadn't watched a lot of the season, but of the performances that I did see, he was the one that impressed me because he’s a true musician. I mean, the kid could play and do it all at the same time, and I really like that.

THR: Like last season, there are only two girls left on Idol -- Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina. How do you account for that?  

Bowersox: Audience. Viewership. And the contestants, too. If they have something really special, then they rise to the top anyway, but it's tougher for girls in the industry. Women feel this pressure to be a certain the way, like you're only going to succeed by being a pretty girl or showing off your legs, but true talent shines through for sure.

THR: Tell us about meeting the contestants…

Bowersox: I met Haley and Lauren in the hair and makeup rooms. I walked by, saw them in there and we chatted for a minute. Haley is kicking butt. She’s a good Midwestern girl, and Lauren's from down south. I got to meet her mom -- they've all got that sweet southern drawl. Really nice people. I think they both have a lot of heart, and as long as they follow it, they'll be alright. 

They were all excited and wanted to know: "How did you get through this?” James Durbin, the first thing he asked me was how I coped with being away from my kid for so long. I told him, "Not well, but you're doing it for him." But it was cool to get to see them in the position I was in not very long ago. I think it gives them hope to know that after the show, you can do what you want.

THR: In your case, that’s finally doing your own songs…

Bowersox: And with people that I have been friends with for a long time. I didn't just pick seasoned musicians that I have no kind of personal commitment to. This is my family for sure. The harmonica player is my nanny. He watches my kid and lives in my basement. Some of these guys have never been on TV before and I was trying prep them for what it’s like – boom, bang, it's over, and you're gonna be, like, "What just happened?" They were total pros -- I'm really proud of them.

THR: Why did you choose “Ridin’ With the Radio?”

Bowersox: It's fun and because the original intent of the song was to question how people do things in music today. It was all totally validated when I got to Idol and realized that we were the only live performance. Everything is pre-taped these days, but I'm a believer in, "If you can't do it live, don't do it."

THR: What do these contestants have to look forward to?

Bowersox: A whole lot more pressure. One thing I tried to tell all of them was, it feels very real now, but none of it really matters. It's all about the decisions you make after the show that will carry you through. That's what's really important. If you get the right people around you and stay true to yourself, you can do anything you want. But they've got a lot of fun stuff to look forward to -- meeting some really talented people in the industry and just getting to do things they've probably never done before.

THR: What have you learned about the music business since your American Idol experience?

Bowersox: That it's a lot more complicated than I thought it was before I was really in it. It's like this exclusive, elite group that's hard to get into. Everybody needs a ticket in, and it's a who-you-know world. It can be treacherous, but you have to learn to navigate it, be smart and never compromise your soul for it. Do what feels right, even if that means that you're not going to be a superstar. If you're doing what you love, that's what it's about. It's about doing what you love. It's not about making millions.

THR: Last year, Melissa Etheridge was not able to sing with you on the finale because she had performed on Dancing with the Stars a few weeks earlier. This year, relations between the shows have thawed, but you did eventually get to perform with Melissa.

Bowersox: Yes and we got to perform on our own terms, it wasn't the show's terms. We got to do our own thing, and I still consider her a dear friend of mine.

THR: You mentioned several times on the show that she was your idol, it must feel great to know you two can now jam together…

Bowersox: For sure. It's strange, but it's something I kind of foresaw as a young kid. Like I just shot the B.B. King commercial for OneTouch Glucose Meters, and I remember seeing the original ad featuring B.B. and saying, "I'm going to do that someday." And then I was in the commercial with B.B. It's all about The Secret… It's definitely true: the power of positive thinking is immeasurable.

THR: Season 9 winner Lee Dewyze just announced a headlining tour, do you have any plans to hit the road this summer?

Bowersox: I'm doing a lot this summer. I don't know if I'm going to do my own headlining tour, but if I do, it's going to be on my terms and I'd like to play small venues and where I can really know my audience and see who I'm singing to. I want to be on the road for sure. I'm opening for Darius Rucker in Fort Myers, Florida. I'm going to be writing with John Popper and Blues Traveler -- he's a good friend of mine. I take it a day at a time. I don't look at my calendar unless it's two days ahead.