Chris Sligh: ‘I Actually Almost Dropped Out’

'This isn't really the competition for me,' onetime favorite recalls thinking.

With the most memorable “why do you want to be the next American Idol” answer in the show’s history (“so I can make David Hasselhoff cry”), Chris Sligh was a favorite from the first time he came onscreen.

Not only was the 28-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina, hilarious, his smooth voice and unpredictable song choices made him truly unique. But after the judges tore into his rendition of the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” (see ” ‘Idol’ Recap: Sanjaya Delivers A Jaw-Dropper, Haley Is Toast” ), Sligh was eliminated Wednesday (see ” ‘American Idol’ Cuts Chris Sligh — ‘Bye Bye Curly’ “ ).

Q: Did you struggle with “Every Little Thing” through rehearsals?

A: When I sang with Gwen, that was on Saturday, and I just picked that song out on Friday afternoon and had changed my song. I originally was going to do “Give a Little Bit” by Supertramp, and the Goo Goo Dolls redid it recently. But I really wanted to challenge myself a little bit more than “Give a Little Bit.” I had never really looked at the music [for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"] and had never really actually even listened to the song, so I never realized that it was going to be quite that much of a challenge. Then by the time I got to rehearsals on Monday, I had started to get the rhythm down a little bit, and actually I went back and listened to my performance from Tuesday probably about 10 or 15 times, and it wasn’t a great performance, but honestly it wasn’t as bad as the judges made it seem.

Q: You had so much momentum in the beginning. What do you think happened?

A: You know, I never came into this wanting to win it. I come from an indie, alternative-rock background, and I think winning “American Idol” would hurt what I was really going for. And I think what kind of solidified it in my mind was when I was universally trashed for my arrangement of [Diana Ross'] “Endless Love” (see ” ‘Idol’ Recap: Lakisha Edges Out Melinda, Haley Has A Breakdown” ). I kind of thought, “This isn’t really the competition for me.” I actually almost dropped out that week. I went to the guy from 19 [Productions, the company behind "Idol"], and I was like, “If I drop out when I get to the top 10, can I still be on tour?” They were like, “No, you have to get voted out.”

Q: Can you explain the bet with Phil you mentioned?

A: I just had this feeling in my heart that I was going home. Pretty much no one gets away from being trashed like I was on Tuesday night unscathed. I told Phil that I was going home and he was like, “There is no way you are going home before me.” And I said, “Dude, I bet you 50 bucks I’m going home.” And he took me up on it, and I won.

Q: So you never wanted to win?

A: I mean, there is that competitive side of me that kind of kicks in. After that top 12 performance, I kind of took some time to decompress and talk to some people that I trusted, and then I came out and I was like, “I want to do it on my own terms, and if that means that I get cut early, then that means I get cut early.” With “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” it definitely was a riskier choice, but I feel like one of the things that was a little frustrating was that if you look through the six songs I did on the show, all six songs were risks in one way or another. I felt like that was ignored, and really the judges never commented on my voice and that was frustrating for me.

Q: So will you go back to your band, Half Past Forever?

A: Yeah, when I get back to South Carolina. They put out a CD before I tried out, and we were getting record-label interest before “American Idol,” so doors should open up for us.

Q: Is it possible to compete on “Idol” and joke about it at the same time?

A: I kind of wonder that myself. … It’s funny because I love the show but at the same time there are some cheesy aspects that I poked fun at. And there are people that love the show so much that anything that is bad said about the show or especially if you say something bad about Simon … there are people that will literally write you hate mail. People telling me they’d hope I would die because I told Simon I didn’t sound like Teletubbies. So it kind of freaked me out, because I was like, “Wow, people take ‘American Idol’ very, very seriously.” I would hope people would realize that me joking around about the show is very tongue-in-cheek because I can’t be too upset with “American Idol” if they are making me famous.

Q: You said it’s impossible to survive a beating like the one the judges gave you this week. So how do you explain Sanjaya?

A: I think that people underestimate Sanjaya. I think Sanjaya is actually a very good vocalist. I mean, if you go to AmericanIdol.com and you download his songs or even just listen to a preview, he has a good voice. I think he is just 17 years old. I mean, when I was 17 years old, I didn’t know how to sing in a live situation. I think that he is a very, very sweet kid and I have a lot of respect for him and I do not envy his position at all.

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