Gary James' Interview With American Idol's
Diana De Garmo
American Idol's third season produced a singer named Diana De Garmo. She didn't win the competition that year. Fantasia Barrino did. Since then, Diana has gone on to record a debut CD titled "Blue Skies", make a Broadway debut in Hairspray and tour the U.S. with Brooklyn: The Musical. She also made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2007.
Diana De Garmo spoke about her experience on American Idol and her career to date.
Q - Diana, last time I heard something about you, you were doing a Broadway show. Was that Hairspray?
A - Yes, that was it.
Q - How long were you a part of that?
A - I did it for ten months, but my first contract was for four months, from February of '06 to May of '06, but I'd already signed a contract to do the first national tour of Brooklyn: The Musical, so I had to leave Hairspray, even though they asked me to stay. I had to leave Hairspray for three months and come back in September of '06. Then I stayed through February of '07.
Q - You still have a record contract with RCA don't you?
A - Actually, I don't. I've been basically doing my own thing, kind of being the black sheep of the music industry. (laughs) I was very fortunate to be with RCA when I was. It was a good learning experience. I'm proud of my first album, no matter what the actual outcome of it was in the end. A lot happens for any person between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. I'm kind of doing that both physically, mentally, musically. So, I'm just kind of coming into myself as an adult.
Q - I just read that Taylor Hicks and Rueben Studdard lost their record deals.
A - It's really tough. There's a lot of Idol alumni out in the music industry right now, a lot of really talented people. I don't know everyone from all the other seasons, but just from my season alone, I mean the people I was in the Top 10 with, were just flat out amazing. You just kind of have to take the opportunity afterwards and run with it. You just can't say "Oh, that's it. I won. Now let everything come to me." You really gotta use it as a stepping stone. I've been really lucky that everything I've done has kind of helped me get to the next level. Conquering Broadway. Conquering Reality TV. Coming out with an album. Traveling overseas. Things that make me a better performer in the long run.
Q - You also played Carnegie Hall didn't you?
A - I did. It'll be a year ago in May (2008). I did a tribute concert with The New York Pops to Neil Sedaka. It was just amazing. I was so nervous. He was sitting there listening to me sing his song. He came up to me afterwards and said "That was the most beautiful rendition I've ever heard. You remind me of a young Celine Dion." I about fell out because I'm a huge fan of his. I respect him so much. So, to have his approval really meant a lot to me.
Q - I never realized that before you went on Idol, you were an accomplished singer and actress. Did you have an advantage then?
A - I think going into Idol everybody's pretty equally challenged you might say. Nobody quite knows what they're getting into until they experience it. I was only sixteen, so you can only have so much experience at sixteen. I went in there I think with more of a performing confidence than some other people had, which helped me. But like I said, I was sixteen. Some people I was competing against were twelve years older than I was. I'm kind of used to always being the baby in the group. My mother always called me an old soul. So maybe I have an old wisdom. (laughs) It kind of helps me along.
Q - I don't know how long Idol stops in one city, but I do know that three judges can't possibly audition 10,000 people in five days, or seven days. So, how does the audition process work?
A - They have a couple of weeding out systems. There are two separate rounds before you get up to Simon, Paula and Randy. I was fortunate. I auditioned in Hawaii in my season, which is the only season they had auditions out there. And only 3,000 people were there. If I had auditioned in Atlanta, which is my hometown... Ironically, due to a scheduling conflict, I had to perform somewhere, so I couldn't actually go to the audition in Atlanta, but like 10,000 people showed up in Atlanta. That would have been absolutely crazy.
Q - How long did the Idol crew stay in each city? Do you know?
A - In my season, it was a little over a week. I think this season they were spending a little more time in each city just because they're having huge numbers of people come out.
Q - What's the reason behind the contestants being forced to sing a different style of music each week? Ultimately the winner records a CD of music they're comfortable with.
A - It's hard. Simon still to this day likes to bust my chops about not being this or not being that. He made some comment to the effect that not having one certain style. When you're on the show, one week you're singing Elton John. The next week your singing Gloria Estefan. The next week you're singing Donna Summer and then the next week you're singing like, Country music. It's so broad. It's funny. It's definitely wild and it's challenging. I think there were a couple of weeks I thought "Oh my goodness, I'm never gonna make it through this alive." (laughs) I think the hardest week for me was Elton John because I was really, really sick and my original song ended up not getting cleared the day before the show aired, so I had to change songs and sing another one that to this day I cannot stand listening to. It just brings back really bad memories. I start to get a nervous tick or something. But, that's part of the show. That's how they keep it challenging. Pop music nowadays is so broad. In the end, if you can make crazy rounds of singing all sorts of different music, if you can get to that record deal area, the first and second place, I think you're bound to do something well.
Q - If there were no American Idol, where would you be today?
A - I would still be pursuing music. I love it. I don't know if I would have gotten the opportunities, as many as I have had in the past couple of years, but definitely still trying my hardest. Right before I went on, I had recorded things, not anything super-duper professional things. I was trying. I was doing demos and going about it just like every other artist. I figured let's do this American Idol thing. That would be fun. I'd like to have thirty million people know my name. That'd be pretty cool.
Q - Do people still stop you and say "Hey, Diana!"?
A - All the time. It gets more prominent when the seasons roll back around. American Idol is like buzzing in everybody's head. But here in Nashville, I just moved here a couple of weeks ago and it's so funny. I have a commercial running now for a restaurant chain called Zaxby's. They have certain, I guess I wanna say "stars" do it. Dominick Wilkins, Jerry Rice. Mine even ran during the Grammys the other night. I had all these people call me. So now, I'm getting recognized from Gone Country, the show I'm doing on CMT. I was at the mall yesterday and I had some girl just about tackle me in The Gap; "Oh my God, you were on American Idol. I so loved you." I was like, "Hi. OK." (laughs) American Idol has such a broad audience. It really reaches so many people and the fan base is absolutely huge.
Q - So, these days you're on a Country show?
A - Well, I'm currently promoting my show that I'm on CMT called Gone Country, where we have seven artists...big artists. Everyone from Carnie Wilson, Maureen McCormick to myself, Julio Iglesias Jr., Cisco, Dee Snyder and Bobby Brown. The seven of us live together in a house in Nashville and we have to live a Country lifestyle and learn Country music and then perform our own Country song. Right now, that's airing on Friday nights at 8 PM Eastern time. And it's also simulcasting on VH-1 and MTV, which is pretty cool. So, I just decided I've kind of taken a career change you might say. Down the way of the Country-Pop side of the world. It's kind of funny. Life has brought me full-circle in the industry. I started out singing Country when I was real little 'cause at the time there was no such thing as clean Pop music. As I got older, I really went Pop due to numerous reasons and now I've kind of taken a sign and made my full circle back to Country.