Friday, May 4, 2007

Chris Richardson: I'm in God's Hands

Chris Richardson says he doesn't mind hearing the comparisons to Justin Timberlake. But, he adds, those who've drawn the connection should listen to his album when it comes out and then decide if it still holds. "To be even mentioned in the same sentence as someone so successful, it's great," Richardson told The Associated Press Thursday in a phone interview.

"They might be surprised whenever I come out with my album, that it's completely different than his. So that's when other people might one day be, like 'Hey, you sort of sound like Chris Richardson.' "

Richardson said that he and Phil Stacey had a feeling the axe was coming on Wednesday and that they were "at peace with it and we just accepted it. Usually when you go out there on decision night you usually go out there preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

Now Richardson is focusing on the future -- the "Idol" tour and his album, which he said will be a mix of both rock and soul. "It'll be a mixture of a Maroon 5 sound with a little bit of Jason Mraz," said Richardson, who also plays the guitar, drums and piano. "I love rock and roll but I have this soulful type voice and I just like to infuse both of them."

Born in Belgium, Richardson moved around as a child with his sister Michelle, mother Phyllis, and father Danny, who was in the Air Force. As a child and teen, Richardson said he was overweight before he became more health conscious and shed about 40 pounds. At Great Bridge High School, Richardson played football and track before graduating in 2002.

Richardson made a decision after his freshman year to focus on a career in music and not return to the football program at Christopher Newport University. "I always wanted to be a professional football player but I also always wanted to be a rock star," he said. "For me, I seemed like I shined more whenever I was in the nightlife scene singing in a club or bar as opposed to standing and waiting to get thrown in the game."

After leaving the school, he studied music at community college while working at Hooters, soending his shifts dancing and singing to James Brown in front of the white and orange tiled walls and silver stovetops, making his way from a cook to a supervisor in about four years, said general manager Jennifer Gillis.

"He used to love listening to his James Brown while he was at work," said Gillis, who only knew of his real singing ability through recordings he had made. "He would sing goofily. He wouldn't sing like he normally would, and he would joke around with the regulars and with the staff."

In the Virginia Daily Press, Gilles said, "From what I hear, he's not going to be back for a couple of weeks. "He's going to be making the rounds, hitting the talk shows." But when the time arrives, Gillis said Richardson's friends in Chesapeake will throw a welcome home party. "It won't be at the restaurant, though," Gillis said. "We'll probably have to rent a tent," adding, "Finishing sixth among thousands of people who auditioned isn't too shabby."

Hooters manager Terrell Parker said, "We are proud of Chris. He did a good job."

Richardson's good friend Anthony "Blue" Yearling also said it's a bit early to schedule the singer's return bash. "We'll have to wait and see," he said. "It all just happened."

"It has been a long journey and I've enjoyed every second of it," he said. "I think that things happen for a reason. Maybe if I had made it through the times that I tried out the year before, I might not have made it this far. I sort of just give God the will and then I go from there. I'm pretty much in his hands."


Yesterday, Richardson answered questions from journalists across the nation. He talked about fashion, family, his friendship with fellow contestant Blake Lewis and what it's like to get the boot from one of the most popular programs on U.S. television, "American Idol." Here are excerpts from the telephone press conference:

On rumors that he has a girlfiend and who he's dating.

I just got out of a three-and-a-half-year relationship back home. That's about it. The rumors that are going around, all that stuff is just rumors ... Right now, I'm single, but still respecting the fact that I just got out of a relationship.

On the women he's been seen with in Hollywood clubs.

The women are friends and acquaintances.

On what he's like to sing on the [American Idols Live!] tour.

I haven't even thought that far ahead. I've got a lot of songs in the database, I've just got to figure which would be the best, one that would suit the style of music that I'll be coming out with on my album.

On how he felt about the producers pitching him directly against Blake, with whom he's best friends.

They gotta make a good television show, you know. They're smart producers and they know what will shock people and what will get people interested in the show. Whatever way they did it, if they would have let me go with someone else, it would have been just fine, too.

On what he and Blake were saying to each other while you waited to her who had been eliminiated.

We were singing a song that we had wrote that we used to laugh and joke about. And I was just telling him to go ahead and sit down, 'cause I knew I was going home and he was staying.

On where he got the clothes he wore on the show. Were they his or did he go shopping.

Yeah, we would go shopping in different places. Some of the clothes I don't even remember what the name of the clothes were. I just remember seeing it and I liked it and it was something that I wanted to do. The combination. Sometimes the outfits would go together and sometimes they weren't, but it was on purpose that I did that, because that's what I felt and I felt the mood. I always try to do stuff to fit my style and also fit the song of the week. That's what I did when I went out and shopped, I just really tried to fit my style and make sure it completely fit in with theme of the week.

On what he was thinking between the time he knew he could be, and then was, eliminated.

Me and Phil came to peace with the fact that we thought we were coming home. When he called me and Blake together, I knew I was going home. You start to put pieces together. I looked around and saw the band setting up and the guitar player grabbing a 12-string guitar, and I'm the only person with a 12-string guitar. You put it together. I just think if you go out there and prepare for the worst and hope for the best ... I think you're not so much let down. You know, for me, I'm sure that everybody knows by now that Blake's my best friend. I was glad to go and him to be in my place.

On how he and Blake ended up becoming so close.

It started in Hollywood week. It was just one of those things where you just sort of clicked with somebody. Me and him had a lot in common, music tastes, music style, personality traits, loyalty of friendship. It was just one of those things where we just bonded.

On whether he stayed close to his family during the competition.

Staying in touch with my family kept me grounded. Talking to my mother on the telephone energized me. It made me want to do the best that I can do.

On whether he took advice from others during the competition.

I tried to be myself throughout. I tried to stay true to myself and sing the songs that I could have fun with. That's what I did with "Geek in the Pink." It was something different for me. I'm glad I did it. I loved doing it.

On whether his verbal joust with Simon Cowell over his "nasally" singing might have cost him votes.

It might have. And then again it might not have. Who knows? I was grateful that at the end of that exchange I got to say that my heart and prayers went out to the students of Virginia Tech.

[On a video clip on the "American Idol" Web site, Richardson talked about that in more detail: "I've come to the realization that I sing with a little nasaliness. It's nothing new to me. I've always sang like that. And there's a lot of artists to me out there that have a nasally-type singing voice that have been successful. And some people are going to like it, and some people are going to completely hate it. And I totally respect that. You can't change your style of singing. You can make it better ... It's tough to come out there every week. That's the only thing I can say about it."]

On his relationship with the judges.

Randy was really supportive even on the bad nights. He'd always say something supportive. Paula also had some uplifting things to say.

Tomorrow's blog recounts Phil Stacey's conference call exit interview and whether the active Navy sailor will be allowed to participate in the Idols Live '07 summer concert tour.


In an Associated Press story, "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller said he was determined to stretch the boundaries of the hit TV show this season by staging an ambitious charity special and a songwriting contest. So far, he's more than pleased with the results.

The online competition to create this season's coronation song got off to a robust start with nearly 30,000 entries, which were winnowed down to 20. Voting on those was to begin after Wednesday's show, with the most popular song performed later this month by the top two finalists and the winner recording it.

The entries were screened by Fuller and series producers and include "a handful of world-class songs," Fuller said.

Any tinkering with the Fox series -- the centerpiece of a hugely lucrative franchise that includes albums and concerts - is carefully considered but vital, Fuller said. "When you're sitting in the amazing position of having the biggest show, it's a great opportunity to experiment," he said. "You either sit there and think, 'It's great' and wait for it to fall apart, or say, 'Right, we're No. 1, how do we maintain, improve the show and the interactivity with our viewers?' "

"I think with everyone ... primarily the network, there was a little bit of trepidation [about Idol Gives Back]. We have a good thing going and when you look to change it in a way that's never been done before, it makes people nervous," he said.

"With credit to all concerned, they backed me on it," Fuller said. "Along the way, there were a lot of questions asked, lots of worrying faces. But we pulled it off."

Last week's two-night fundraiser for relief agencies serving needy families in America and Africa, drew pledges of $70 million with the help of star power from Bono, Celine Dion and others.

One element in "Idol Gives Back" that Fuller concedes could have been done differently: Although it was decided to refrain from bouncing a contestant last Tuesday in the spirit of the evening, the show briefly made it appear that Jordin Sparks was in jeopardy. That drew sharp criticism from some viewers; in hindsight, Fuller said, they might have handled it differently.

"This has been an intriguing year. It's been a slow burn in terms of getting to know the talent ... It's more of a journey than ever this year," he said. Two or three "terrific" contestants have emerged that Fuller sees dueling until the last. "No names," he said, diplomatically.


According to the New York Post, in spite of the nationwide sensation he caused, it seems that his hometown could care less that Sanjaya Malakar is back.

City officials in Federal Way, Wash. -- a suburb of Seattle -- won't give the "American Idol" finalist his own day or a parade -- or even a cardboard key to the city. "Federal Way has more important things to deal with, and unless a council member tried to push through a proclamation, then that 'Idol' wannabe should not expect a similar honor," town manager Neal Beets told a local TV station just before Malakar, 17, was voted off "Idol."

Suggestions for a Sanjaya day "came from people on the East Coast," says a city hall source.

"I would love to do something," Tiffany Archibald, the director of marketing for a mall near his home in Washington, told a local paper. "I just can't find him."

But Archibald seems to be one of only a few Federal Way residents who want to celebrate his return.

Mayor Mike Park told reporters that the city has never honored anyone with a special day in its 17-year history and is questioning Sanjaya's connection to the town in the first place. "It's not as if they have deep roots in the community," Park says.

Malakar's family has lived in the Seattle area most of his life, but has also lived in Hawaii and California. He attended area schools but dropped out of high school in Federal Way his sophomore year -- after passing his GED exam -- to pursue a career in music. His parents are divorced.

A source at City Hall said that officials were reluctant to do anything for him that would cost taxpayers money. "Maybe if they [fans] had gone to the chamber of commerce it would be a different story," the source said.

After weeks of exposure on "American Idol," Sanjaya quietly returned home late last week and has tried to keep a low profile ever since.

And to top that off, now Time Magazine has left Sanjaya off their official list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Talk about a fleeting 15 minutes of fame. Awwwww.

ROSIE AND WALTERS BLAST PREZ' IDOL CLIP reports that while the "Idol Gives Back" thank you video from the President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush (click to watch video) on Tuesday night's results show seemed innocent enough, the unusual appearance is also generating controversy. After discussing the performances of Idol 6 finalists Blake Lewis and LaKisha Jones on Wednesday morning's broadcast of ABC's The View, co-hosts Barbara Walters and Rosie O'Donnell criticized the presidential appearance.

"I think that's great... [but] that there are so many things that the President can come on and thank people for, and perhaps we've been talking about how little money goes to [U.S. military] servicemen who come home and who are wounded and to families who have to struggle, that I just think that it's sort of interesting that they go on the most popular television show," Walters remarked after co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck -- responding to O'Donnell's comment that the appearance upset her a little -- attempted to defend the Bush appearance.

"I'm more disturbed that he's thanking the American public for giving up their money," O'Donnell responded after Hasselbeck, a political conservative, began the discussion by uncharacteristically baiting O'Donnell, an outspoken Bush critic, by asking her if she was "disturbed that [Bush] 'invaded' Idol last night."

"We've asked the American public for money during every tragedy, but you know, [he's spending] $500 billion in Iraq," O'Donnell continued. "But he wants to thank America for the $70 million out of their own pockets that they gave but he doesn't mention the $500 billion he's spent in Iraq. I think it's very distorted."

After Hasselbeck responded that she thought President Bush's Idol message was a "positive one," Walters continued her criticism. "American Idol -- I hate to be cynical because I'm such a wonderful person -- but American Idol could have thanked themselves," said Walters. "I just think it's interesting that the President and Mrs. Bush spent their time and effort to come on a popular television show."

When Hasselbeck suggested all presidents would take advantage of what fourth The View co-host Joy Behar termed "a photo-op," O'Donnell criticized Fox -- which has already been receiving criticism for not increasing its parent company's "10 cents for every one of the first 50 million votes cast" donation pledge to include all of the 70 million viewer votes that last week's Idol Give Back performance show ultimately ended up generating -- for only contributing $5 million to the charity telethon.

"Here's what I would respect Fox if they did, if they matched the money. How much money has Fox made off of American Idol? If they said, 'We will match the [entire] $70 million,' I would go, 'Wow. That's impressive... to think that they're not making money by the increased [ad] revenue [Idol Gives Back's two-hour "results show" broadcast generated for them]... you have to look at that,'" said O'Donnell of "I would prefer that the President spend his time at the funeral of a dead soldier than on American Idol."

"I don't think it's a bad thing for [President Bush] to be on American Idol thanking the people who donated $70 million to this country and also to Africa," Hasselbeck responded before Walters reiterated her skepticism about the appearance.

"I don't think it's a bad thing -- I think it's a fine thing -- I just think it's interesting that of all the different outlets and all the different ways of spending money and with all of the time constraints that the President and First Lady have, that this is what they chose to go on," said Walters.

Here is the transcript of the segmet from

Barbara Walters: "What they were doing was they were thanking people who contributed to American Idol for both African and American charities, and they were obviously reading exactly from the [speaks very slowly] tele-promp-ter."

Joy Behar: "I think he should be voted off. What do you think?"

[audience applause]

Walters to Joy Behar: "Do not expect to be invited to any state dinner."

Behar: "You know what? I would not go to the White House."

Walters: "Oh, it's the White House!"

Behar: "I would not."

Walters: "Well, that's wrong."

Behar: "I have my principles."

O'Donnell: "You wouldn't go?"

Behar: "I wouldn't."

O'Donnell: "Interesting."

Hasselbeck: "You wouldn't go even to protest?"

Behar: "Protest, yeah, outside, but I'm not going to sit there with somebody who's doing what he's doing. I won't. I would not."

Hasselbeck: "You wouldn't sit there just to try to get a moment with him and tell him what you think, one on one?"

Behar: "Oh, like he would spend a moment with me."

Hasselbeck: "Maybe he would. Maybe he would. Sheryl Crow got to Cheney." [O'Donnell corrects her, noting it was Karl Rove]

Behar: "She practically had to assault Karl Rove. She practically had to be on top of the guy."

Walters: "I think, at some point, if you're invited to the White House and it is the President, I do think that your opinions are your opinions, but I think you'd go. But, you know, you probably-"

O'Donnell: "I don't think I would go either. I hadn't thought of it until you said it, Joy, but I probably wouldn't either."

Hasselbeck to O'Donnell: "Did you like him on Idol last night? Were you disturbed that he invaded 'Idol,' for you?"

O'Donnell: "A little bit. But I was more disturbed that, you know, he's thanking the American public for giving up their money. We've asked the American public for money during every tragedy. But, you know, $500 billion in Iraq, but he wants to thank America for the $70 billion [really million] of their own pockets that they gave, but he doesn't mention the $500 billion that he spends in Iraq. I think it's very distorted."

Hasselbeck: "I think it was a great thing that the American people did, and to just-"

O'Donnell: "I think we're asking a lot of the American people while we're wasting their money and not giving them enough to live on, you know."

[audience applause]

Hasselbeck: "These weren't forced donations to ask of people, I mean, $70 million, it's a lot of money for kids, and the fact that people gave, it's a gift."

O'Donnell: "But on another thing is I would prefer that the President spend his time at the funeral of a dead soldier than on American Idol."

Behar: "But that would be a photo-op he doesn't want to go to."

O'Donnell: "I know."

[audience applause, Behar says something unintelligible to Hasselbeck]

Hasselbeck: "I've said he should be there. I've said that he should be there."

Behar: "He should put his money where his mouth is, and let's see him show up at one of those funerals."

Hasselbeck: "I don't think it's bad for him to be on American Idol thanking the people for donating $70 million to this country and also to Africa."

Walters: "I don't think it's a bad thing at all. I think it's a fine thing, but I think it's just interesting that of all the different outlets and with all the different ways of spending money, and with all the time constraints that a President and a First Lady had, that this is what they choose to go on."

O'Donnell: "And consequently, it's on the Fox, it's on the Fox network, which is all of the pundits who are pro-Bush are on the Fox network, so I thought it was interesting as well."

Hasselbeck: "Let me ask you this. Would a President, then, be not so wise then to choose an outlet that didn't reach as many people? I mean, this is in terms of just getting to American people and reaching the public, that was probably the smartest way to do it."

Behar: "He has access to all the money that we pay taxes for. He is able to do whatever he wants to do with that money. Congress will be very happy ..."

Walters: "Not exactly."

Behar: "Well, practically."

Hasselbeck: "It has to be approved now, especially with the changes in Congress."

Behar: "He could do it though, he could do it."

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