Yesterday, a few hours before the "American Idols Live!" show hit the stage at Arco Arena, local media (including The Bee) got a chance to chat with five of the Top 10 finalists - one-on-one.
The tour offers this opportunity at every stop, but they don't tell you ahead of time who you'll be interviewing.
The five we got were great! Keep in mind, they're only a little over a week into a two-month-plus nationwide tour. So the energy and enthusiasm hasn't worn off.
And, even though the "Idols" arrived in Sacramento under miserable conditions - with the intense heat and smoke - some of them made it outside before getting hair and makeup to sign autographs and greet the more than 200 fans who patiently waited in a baking parking lot for the buses to arrive!
Here's what the five I had the privilege of chatting with had to say:
* Chikeze: "The tour is just a continuation of the show. It just grew. We're all still hanging out together. And, man, I love my songs!" Moving forward, Chikeze says he's already writing songs for a album and has experienced another life-changing experience - besides "American Idol": "I've been a vegan for about a month!" Chikeze says the tour's catering staff couldn't be more accommodating to his new dietary needs, and the change makes him feel 100 percent lighter. As for staying healthy, he drinks lots of water on the road. "But I'm used to abusing my voice," he says.
* David Archuleta: Omigosh, the 17-year-old runner-up is (he'll hate this!) just as adorable up close as he was on the show. Humble, grateful, the teen is so poised for his age, admitting that if he wasn't on tour, he'd probably be "looking for a summer job." David says the first tour stop (in Glendale, Ariz.) was "a special moment." "It was my first experience doing a show like this. The energy was amazing." David, like the other "Idols," agreed the show is about giving back to the fans. "It's our 'thank-you' concert." As for life on the road, he says he was a little nervous about sharing his living space, but everyone has gotten to know each other all over again. How does he stay healthy? "I have to give myself plenty of vocal rest!"
* Carly Smithson: No, she hasn't had a chance to get her geisha tattoo finished. "But the first thing I'll do when the tour is over is go to Primal Urge in San Francisco to color it in." Carly admits she's lost about 15 pounds and loves her outfits for the show. "I found my dress while having lunch at Sunset Plaza (in L.A.). And People (magazine) is doing a story on me soon!" Carly says she loves the tour because there's no competition, no judging. "It's just more chilled," she says. Hair and makeup already done, Carly looks great. "I feel like Cher!" she says.
* Kristy Lee Cook: No, she never got the horse back that she sold to get to last year's audition. "But I did get a new horse, which I'll be riding tomorrow (Thursday) for a photo shoot at Mount Hood (Oregon) for my album cover!" Kristy Lee is getting a super start on her career, with a single, "Fifteen Minutes of Shame," debuting next month; the album is due in September. "It's a mix of country and up-tempo songs," she says. With all this - and planning a wedding, too - Kristy Lee doesn't get much rest during the tour's off days. She lets me in on one wedding detail: Designer Alfred Angelo is creating both her wedding gown and those of her bridesmaids.
* Michael Johns: "I'm just happy living the dream!" The 28-year-old Aussie says he's savoring every moment of the tour and taking nothing for granted. "I love getting out there on stage and then meeting the fans afterward," he says. "Their smiling faces say it all." Michael admits he didn't know the tour would be like this, how appreciative the concert-goers are.The master of Queen songs already is writing, recording and working with a producer for his album. As for his stage outfits, he wears a "really cool jacket and scarf." When asked about his obvious good looks, he turns beet red and admits, "I never see myself in that light. I look at photos of myself and ask, 'who is this guy'?"
The five "Idols" were taken aback that auditions for Season 8 begin next week. "Are you kidding me?" asked Chikeze.
And just in case attending the show last night or watching Season 7 has inspired you, the next "Idol" just might hail from Northern California. As I mentioned in last Sunday's "Idol" preview in Ticket+, auditions kick off next Thursday, with the first stop in San Francisco.
Sacramento's Fox40 is gearing up with its own local "Idol" audition. Tomorrow morning at 6, prospective contestants are offered the chance to compete at a two-hour audition session at Skip's Music, 9660 Elk-Grove-Florin Road, in Elk Grove. A team of local music professionals will qualify contestants based on ability and stage presence.
The prize? One local winner will be guaranteed an audition in front of the "Idol" producers next week in S.F.
Along with Skip's Music, Fox40 also is partnering with 101.9 (The Wolf) in the talent contest.The two-part audition will identify the five best singers. Those finalists will battle for the title of "Sacramento Idol."
Natalie Bomke, Fox40 morning news anchor, will co-host the event and provide viewers with an inside look at the competition during live coverage from 6 to 8 a.m. The Wolf will broadcast the entire Dave Kelly Show with Susan Brown live from Skip's Music.
Who can enter? "Sacramento Idol" is open to all amateur singers and performers who are residents of the Fox40 viewing area. You have to be16 to 28 years of age on July 15 and bring a valid photo identification. Auditions will be on a first-come, "first heard" basis.
For more info and a complete list of rules click here.
Just remember: Simon Cowell is always kind of grumpy on the first tour stop!
To read my review of last night's "Idol" show, click here.