After a successful run on "American Idol," 22-year-old Josh Gracin
is marching back to Camp Pendleton, California, Thursday morning, where he
will continue his duties as a U.S. Marine supply clerk with the 1st Force
Service Support Group.
On Monday, the Westland, Michigan, native said he was happy to return to the rigors of the military.
"In the Marines, you have a set schedule and everything goes the way that
it's been going for the last two years," Gracin said. "And you're so used to how everything works and it's organized and everything.
"Then [I came to 'American Idol'], and nothing is organized," he continued. "It's such a pain to get used to and have to sit and basically wait for people who are totally unorganized. From what I understand, that's the way the business works."
But don't think that Gracin is ungrateful about his experience on the show. A country singer at heart, he sees "American Idol" as a way of kick-starting a career in music.
"There's [USA Network's] 'Nashville Star' and 'American Idol.' I chose 'American Idol' because there's a larger audience and simply because of the fact that all the kids, you knew, were going to sing R&B or pop," explained Gracin, who auditioned in California. "I knew if I went out there with something different that, one, I might have
a little bit of an edge, and, two, I can hopefully win listeners over to the
kind of music that I like. I listen to all kinds of music, but I try to
incorporate and mix all the music that I like into country music and kind of
make a new sound."
Creating this "new sound" was Gracin and his vocal coach's goal each week.
"I tried to picture country music, and I tried to picture songs that I could
probably re-do as a country song. Then I looked at a country song, and I
tried to pick a country song that sounded like the song I wanted to sing. I
incorporated the two and came up with a middle ground."
The toughest theme was the night he had to perform a Diane Warren song. Earlier in the series, he sang Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," one of the few songs Warren has written for a male singer.
"Everything else that represents her music was [written for] females. So I kind of got stuck there," Gracin said, laughing. He opted for 'NSYNC's "That's When I'll Stop Loving You."
Gracin said he believes he stood out from other contestants because he made a connection with fans, something he learned from watching his idol, Garth Brooks. Gracin made his singing debut in 1993 performing Brooks' "Standing Outside the Fire" at a school talent show.
"You have to be a performer, not just someone who stands up there
and sings," Gracin said. "But if you noticed,
I'm one of the few people that went in the audience and interacted with
the fans and tried to perform around the stage. That's all part of country
music. If you ever been to a Garth Brooks concert that's what he does. He
performs for the fans."
Apparently it worked, as Gracin survived "American Idol" — and cantankerous judge Simon Cowell — until Bee Gees night on May 7. For his exit song, he brought his 11-month-old daughter, Briana Marie, onstage, held her in his arms and sang the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" to her as the camera showed his wife, Ann Marie, in tears.
Gracin was pulling double duty during his time on "American Idol," as he
didn't leave the military to participate. He did live off-base, however, in a
Hollywood Hills home shared by the rest of the cast. Sundays through
Thursdays, his family stayed in a hotel nearby.
In the back of his mind, Gracin did wonder about the possibility
of being sent overseas for the war with Iraq. But contrary to rumor, he
wasn't kept from serving so he could participate on "American Idol."
"I'm patriotic. I had all my stuff packed and ready to go. I had a family
plan for my daughter and my wife in case I had to go. It was never so much as
a worry. Being in the military, people know that if you're not over there by the time the conflict started, you're pretty much not going to be over there unless World War III or something like that broke out."
Gracin is poised for a new tour of duty as well. The "American Idol" cast will kick off its U.S. tour in St. Paul, Minnesota, on July 8 (see " 'American Idol' Tour Kicking Off In July" ), and the U.S. Marines gave Gracin permission to embark on the trek with his fellow top-10 contestants.
And of course, the singer is hoping that an album is in his future. "Whatever happens, happens. I'd love to do a country album and get one out there."
The finals of the second season of "American Idol" air Wednesday.