Malaya Watson Talks American Idol

By Jamie Ruby

Malaya WatsonLast Thursday singer and tuba player from Michigan, Malaya Watson, was voted off of American Idol. She recently talked to the media about Idol and her plans for the future.

Fox Conference Call
American Idol

Malaya Watson

April 11, 2014
1:00 p.m. ET

SCIFI VISION: What’s the one piece of advice that you’ll take away with you the most?

Malaya WatsonMALAYA WATSON: Probably when Harry told me that I should focus more on my craft rather than my stardom, because at first I thought that the music business was all about just how you looked, but it’s honestly all about how you sound, too. So that’s one thing I will take away from it.

SCIFI VISION: And what’s your favorite memory from the whole experience?

MALAYA WATSON: Probably just performing on the stage and just working with a bunch of amazing people that not a lot of people can say they worked with.

QUESTION: How do you feel about being the youngest finalist in Idol history?

MALAYA WATSON: It’s pretty weird. It’s actually kind of cool, though, because I can actually be in the books, if you know what I mean. It’s pretty awesome, I guess. But at the same time, it was hard, because you have to focus on school and stuff.

QUESTION: How can you go back to high school after doing this?

MALAYA WATSON: That is a great question. I still don’t know. It’s going to be different; very, very different. Hopefully not drastically, but I’m ready for whatever comes up.

QUESTION: What was it like having David Cook come in as the mentor this week? How did he help you?

MALAYA WATSON: He helped a lot with what I needed to work on and stuff, and just all the things that I’m lacking when it comes to performance. And it’s good, because he’s one of the winners of American Idol.

QUESTION: Since the save was used last week on Sam, what was that like for you and the rest of the contestants? Were you all worried that you didn’t have anything to fall back on now, in case you went home?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, it was really nerve-racking. You never know when it’s time to go, so you just get nervous.

QUESTION: Were you surprised to be eliminated? Based on your performance Wednesday night, I know many viewers weren’t expecting you to be in the bottom, let alone be the one going home.

MALAYA WATSON: Yes. I kind of knew, but at the same time I didn’t. I mean, we all got nervous, but we didn’t know what to expect.

QUESTION: When reflecting on your song choice of “Through the Fire,” are you glad you sang that? Or looking back, do you wish you had picked something different? I’m sure you felt it was a little bit of a risk. It was definitely a stretch vocally.

MALAYA WATSON: Yes. I don’t know, I’m glad I picked that song. I really wanted to do that song.

QUESTION: When you were singing your farewell song last night, Jennifer Lopez was really emotional. What was that like for you to see her be broken up about you leaving?

MALAYA WATSON: It really made me see how talented I was. Because at first I knew I could sing, but I didn’t know I could sing that well. So it just really showed my musical ability and stuff. So it really touched my heart.

QUESTION: Do you feel like you grew a lot in the competition? Both as a person and as a performer as well?

MALAYA WATSON: Oh, yes. I haven’t grown height-wise. I’m still just 5’2”. But performance and singing and stuff, I think that’s improved way more. Because I used to be—honestly, a lot of people think that I really want to just talk to everybody. I’m really shy.

QUESTION: How does your school promote you and show their support in your community?

MALAYA WATSON: Well, they put up a lot of posters and stuff, and it’s all over my high school page, and they released a newsletter, put it in the newspaper, stuff like that, and put it all around my school, and just told everybody. So it really helped a lot.

QUESTION: We know that your dad is a professional guitar player. Did this influence you to get involved in music?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes. If he didn’t [do] music, I probably wouldn’t have done music either because I never would have been like around it a lot. When I was growing up, I was always around music, all the time. So just having him there, always playing music, it really influenced me to take up music myself.

QUESTION: What are three things that make you unique?

MALAYA WATSON: I play the sousaphone. I’m not afraid to be myself. And I can sing.

QUESTION: What are some of the struggles that you had to face during your run with American Idol?

MALAYA WATSON: Probably managing time with school and working on my music and stuff, and trying to balance my time evenly, and get everything done at the same time.

QUESTION: All the judges stood and applauded for you last night, and I wondered if they came up and spoke to you after the show, and if there were any final words of encouragement or advice? What they might have said at the end?

MALAYA WATSON: They had told me that I’ll be going far in a couple of years, and they’ll see my names all over marquises. And Harry Connick just told me to just work on my music because I’ll be big one day, and sometime soon.

QUESTION: What have you missed most from home during your time in Hollywood? Is there anything you’re looking forward to when you get back home?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, seeing all of my friends, because I’m having this big old get-together at my house tomorrow.

QUESTION: As you said, you’re in the books now as the youngest contestant. So do you have any unique advice for other teens who want to audition for American Idol and pursue a music career?

MALAYA WATSON: I would say just focus on school and just follow what your heart wants you to do. Because if I didn’t do this, I probably wouldn’t be here, because I was really hesitant. But if you really want to do something, do it while you have the chance. Because there’s going to be an important time where you’re going to want to do something, and you don’t do it, and you’ll regret it.

QUESTION: When it comes to dating, what qualities do you look for in someone? Is it important that they play music, or—?

MALAYA WATSON: Anyone I date, they have to play football. They have to be taller than me, with heels. And they can’t be stupid, because you know what it’s like, the myth, all football players are dumb. They can’t be dumb. They have to have a nice side, and they have to be loyal and honest, and stuff like that. Oh, yes, they have to be busy, because my schedule’s always busy.

But they have to understand what you’re going through, because you don’t want no whining boyfriend. Oh my God, no. I couldn’t do it.

QUESTION: You had said before that you had considered doing a little acting. Do you envision having some kind of a career doing stage, or going somewhere like Jennifer Hudson did?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, doing movies and stuff like that, yes. I’ve always wanted to do stuff like that. That would be pretty cool, I’ve always wanted to just venture off and just get big in that also, because I don’t want to just stick to just making music.

QUESTION: It seemed like Harry was always talking to you about scales, about listening to music and working on runs. Did you understand what he was trying to tell you?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, I did, because some of the stuff that he would talk about is the stuff my dad talked about, and it just helped that my dad talked to me about that type of stuff with me. Because I could understand what he was talking about, besides everybody else.

QUESTION: So your dad and Harry have a little bit in common?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes.

QUESTION: I was talking to your band director, David Miller, a few weeks ago, and he said he’d be surprised to see you back at Southfield High. Do you know for sure, at this point, what’s in the cards?

MALAYA WATSON: I don’t know yet, right now. I’m still debating. Southfield is a great school, but there are more advanced schools that will —I don’t know, it’s just hard. But Southfield’s been supporting me, so I don’t know, it’s still debatable.

QUESTION: What’s debatable, then? That you might go to a more music or arts-focused type of—?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, that kind of school, or a more private-type school, or a different school farther from where I’m from. I don’t know yet. That’s still on the table.

QUESTION: You’re 16, and you’re already talking about colleges a lot. Do you have a sense in terms of that part of your career? Or is college even for sure? Would you maybe just focus on an entertainment career at that point?

Malaya WatsonMALAYA WATSON: It just depends on where I am, after I graduate from high school. I don’t know where I would be, what offers I would get. So it would just depend. But if I could go to college, I want to go to Southern University so bad. I want to go there, or a school down south, honestly.

QUESTION: You sang a Broadway song, “I’m Changing” from Dreamgirls, last night, and is Broadway something you’re keeping on your radar for your career in the future?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes. It’s a debatable thing. I can’t really dance—I mean, I can dance if you tell me the routine, but I can’t freestyle. But I don’t mind doing a Broadway type thing. That would be kind of cool, actually.

QUESTION: You received a lot of praise from all of the judges and mentors this season about your vocal talent. Did that surprise you at all? And how does that make you feel, moving forward with your career?

MALAYA WATSON: It didn’t really surprise me. And I think like everything they tell me, I’m just going to ride along with it and just work on it and stuff.

QUESTION: Did your braces affect the way you sang, and when are you getting them off?

MALAYA WATSON: I’m sorry. I don’t know if they have, because I started singing when I got my braces. That’s when I started taking it serious, when I had these braces on my teeth. So maybe it did.

I was supposed to get them off almost three years ago, and apparently that didn’t work out. So I’ve just got them still. I was supposed to get them off freshman year.

QUESTION: So when might you get them off now?

MALAYA WATSON: I might get them off when I get back home, so I don’t know yet.

QUESTION: And are you going to try to work your tuba into the tour?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, I’m thinking about doing that, too. Hopefully I can, so—

QUESTION: How would that work?

MALAYA WATSON: I can’t let you know, if I’m going to do it on tour.

QUESTION: One of the things that really intrigued me about your run on Idol was that you were really on an improvement arc the last few weeks you were on the show, where it just seemed at one point the advice that you were getting clicked. And I was wondering if you could talk about that? Was there an a-ha moment for you?

MALAYA WATSON: When, yesterday or the day before?

QUESTION: Maybe even a couple of weeks ago. They were giving you a lot of advice about your runs, and then it seemed like you pulled your vocal performances back a little bit, and there was more dynamics going on in your performance. And I was wondering if, at some point, the things that maybe like your dad or Harry or the people behind the scenes were telling you, when it just clicked?

MALAYA WATSON: I don’t know. I just always listened to the comments and just focused on what I had to do and what I had to work on, honestly. There was never a moment where I doubted what they said.

QUESTION: And if you could do anything differently, as far as song choices or arrangements, if you could go back and change something, would you?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, I’d probably play piano more. Probably one thing I would do.

QUESTION: Malaya, you touched on the tuba. Were you actually planning to play that at all on the show?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, I was planning to play it next week.

QUESTION: Oh, wow. Okay. And being the youngest person in the competition, did you find yourself pretty impressionable, and therefore did you have trouble taking in all different opinions and figuring out what to do?

MALAYA WATSON: No, I just picked whichever opinions sounded more realistic and more of a thing that I could work on to improve myself, and just worked on it.

QUESTION: So, being only 16, did you go into the competition already knowing what kind of artist you wanted to be? Or did that develop throughout the competition?

MALAYA WATSON: It developed throughout the competition.

QUESTION: In the top seven there’s only two girls, and someone like Caleb, for example, has definitely been a front-runner in the competition, it appears. He doesn’t seem to have a bad week. What are your thoughts on there only being two girls left now? Do you think Jena and Jessica are in trouble at this point? Or could you see either of them actually winning the whole thing?

MALAYA WATSON: I don’t know. It’s really tough to decide what would happen, now that I am gone. But yes, the girls are becoming a little scarce. It’s really weird. But at the same time, you never know, because America changes their mind a lot.

QUESTION: How tough was it for you to sing your final song, Malaya? It seemed like it was pretty hard keeping those tears back.

MALAYA WATSON: Oh, yes. I was trying. I guess it didn’t work. It was really hard. But at the same time, it was just cool just singing on the stage for the final time and stuff. So in the end it’s all good.

SCIFI VISION: If you could choose anybody, who would you love to sing with at some point?

MALAYA WATSON: Dead or alive, or doesn’t matter?

SCIFI VISION: That you could actually sing with, so alive, I guess.

MALAYA WATSON: Oh, okay. Probably—oh, Fantasia. Oh, my gosh. If I could sing with Fantasia, that would be amazing.

SCIFI VISION: Great. And what do you see your album looking like?

MALAYA WATSON: Probably a lot of collabs with people. Much more of an R&B-type feel to it. Like throwback and up-to-date R&B, and blues, and soul.

QUESTION: Over the course of the season so far, did you ever feel like Harry was ever too harsh on either you or the other contestants? Or did you think he was pretty fair?

MALAYA WATSON: No, I think he was honest, honestly. That’s the best part about it. He actually told you what you should work on, or what you need to do, and stuff like that. So I think, to me, his advice was honestly the best, if you want my opinion.

QUESTION: What was your favorite performance that you gave over the course of your run on the show, and why?

MALAYA WATSON: Honestly, there is no favorite. They’re all amazing, because all of them I took the time out to just put myself into the song and just do my thing. So there’s never really a performance that I like the most.

QUESTION: How soon do you think you might be coming home, and do you have plans set? You said you’re having a party, are there other things going on for you?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, I’m having people come to my house, because I miss everybody. So, yes, that’s what I’m planning on doing. And just—I do not know.

QUESTION: Do you know when you might be coming home?

MALAYA WATSON: I know I am coming home tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay. And you don’t know if your school or anybody else is doing anything special?

MALAYA WATSON: I have no clue.

QUESTION: I have a question about the finale. People were asking you who you’d want to sing with. Would you want to sing with Fantasia at the finale? Is there anybody that you really have on your wish list?

MALAYA WATSON: Just her and some old throwback singers like Shaka and Aretha and all of them.

QUESTION: I know that you like a lot of the throwback songs, but did you ever entertain the idea of trying something a little younger, or something—is there anything current that you like?

MALAYA WATSON: I do like John Legend, of course, he’s amazing. I like Michael Buble, and I do like—what else do I like? I like Bruno Mars, and Pharrell. I like a lot of male singers, though, I don’t know why. Or I like Tamar Braxton, she’s good too. And like I said, Fantasia.

QUESTION: So do you think that you’re going to do some of the throwback songs on the tour?

MALAYA WATSON: Probably, hopefully, yes.

Malaya WatsonQUESTION: Awesome. I want to see some tuba jamming. By the way, that looked good in the commercial last night, when you guys were all playing your instruments. Was that fun to film?

MALAYA WATSON: Oh, yes. That was really fun.

QUESTION: I want to get your take on CJ in this competition so far. I think this was his third week in the bottom, but he keeps surviving. And I don’t know whether you guys considered him the underdog of the competition or something, especially since he started out as a wild card pick to begin with, and is still in it.

MALAYA WATSON: Yes. He’s like my big brother, though, so I support him and everybody else in the competition all the way.

QUESTION: Do you have an idea of who you think could take the whole thing?

MALAYA WATSON: Honestly, no, because everybody is just so good. It’s hard to decide who would win. It’s really hard, I must say.

QUESTION: Did you have a sense of the support here in Detroit that was growing as the season went on?

MALAYA WATSON: Yes, I heard a lot about it, but I didn’t really see a lot until I go back home.

QUESTION: Did you happen to ever hear from Aretha by any chance? She’s a big American Idol fan, I know now.

MALAYA WATSON: Unfortunately, no.

QUESTION: No. Maybe she’ll reach out to you now, when you get back in town.

MALAYA WATSON: Hopefully.

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