Chicago resident Crystal Bowersox, the most recent "American Idol" runner-up, is on "The Tonight Show" tonight, where she'll be performing the title track from her post-" Idol" CD debut, "Farmer's Daughter," out Tuesday. She spoke with us from the set, waiting for Jay Leno to arrive:
Q. Are you nervous, or did "Idol" eliminate all your nerves about being on national TV?
A. I'm excited. I don't get nervous for it, I love it. I have such a good time doing this stuff. I like being busy.
Q. Tell me about the "Idol" recording process. I've always had the impression it's very tightly controlled, but "Farmer's Daughter" sounds like you got a lot of songs and sounds that you wanted.
A. In the past, it's been typically very tightly managed. Many contestants are completely new to the business. They don't know what's behind the curtain of Oz. They might get in there and not have the courage to stand up or put their foot down and say what they want. There's a little pressure, but Jive as a label understands I'm a little ... different than the typical "Idol" contestant. I don't want to do pop music. I want to do stuff that strikes a chord with people emotionally. I want to approach this a little differently.
Q. You were probably one of a few real songwriters to enter this process, to show up at the studio and say, "OK, I've got these songs and I want to do this."
A. When I met David [Bendeth, the album's producer], I told him I wanted to record live, or at least a live-based recording. He was open to the idea. I didn't want all digital tracks and AutoTunings. I wanted a real, raw, organic-sounding album. Everyone was excited to try something they haven't done. David's been producing Breaking Benjamin and Paramore. I think he had fun thinking about things my way.
Q. We use that word a lot in music. What do you mean when you describe your songs as "organic"?
A. Real instrumentation, live recordings. ... If something happens, don't edit it out or try to make things perfect. Let things evolve naturally. ... We got the band in the room and played through the songs. A lot of these I had from pre-"Idol," and some of them changed a lot. "Kiss Ya" went from a jam-band sound to a psychedelic thing. It turned into this Stevie Wonder-ish sound and feel. I was cool with it. I never thought of doing it that way. It came from everybody jamming the songs out.
Q. Jive wanted to release a different single, but you fought hard for your own "Famer's Daughter" to be the single, right?
A. [Pauses] I think "fight" is not the right word. Jive wanted the Kara DioGuardio [and Chad Kroeger] song, "Hold On." Nothing against the song -- I'm proud of it, and I hope I did the writers proud. I wouldn't have put it on the album if I didn't like the song. But for the first single, I wanted something that represented me as a songwriter and an artist, something that said, "Hey, world, here I am and this is what I have to say. Hope you like it." I didn't want the first song out there something that didn't feel completely representative of me.
Q. I've heard some of the recordings you made with Ron Prince at his Englewood studio.
A. I'm not talking about those. Those aren't even on YouTube.
Q. Will anything happen happen with them?
A. Yes, something will happen with them.
Q. Will you be touring on your own?
A. I don't know if I'll be touring by myself. There's definitely going to be a tour, it's just not definitive whether I'll be opening for someone or being a headliner myself.
Q. I see where the "Idol" producers are considering making the Top 12 live together in a house and filming it all "Real World" style.
A. All they need is drama. That's what they want. And they'll get it. It's tough going through that process. Personal space is important for mental health, and going through "American Idol" is already pretty shocking to your system. We'll see what happens.
Q. Would you have survived living in a house with Lee DeWyze and the other finalists?
A. No! [Laughing] Especially because they don't allow family in that setting. I definitely would not have survived that. It was tough enough for me. I couldn't even take care of my kid. He was away so much. He was in good hands and I knew he was safe, but I missed the crap out of him.
Q. Did you just buy a house here in Chicago?
A. No, we've rented a new place. My husband and I call Chicago home. I've lived there since 2004.
Q. And you were just married here?
A. Yep, on 10/10/10. We got married at Uncommon Ground [on Clark]. Brian [Walker, her husband] and I both frequented there, and we met there at the Monday night open-mike.
Q. I see you're also making your acting debut on an upcoming episode of ABC's "Body of Proof."
A. Yeah, that was interesting. I always wanted to try acting, but they approached me on this. I was surprised. I went to Rhode Island for a day and gave it my best shot.
Q. What do you do on the show?
A. I play an accused murderer and reformed drug addict. They were like, "Hmm, who looks like a reformed drug addict? Oh, yeah! Bowersox! Let's get her." It was flattering. Really.
Q. Are you doing the whole talk-show circuit?
A. I'm doing "Ellen" and "Regis." I just did "Chelsea Lately," which airs Dec. 21. That was a fun show. I can get a little raunchier, show a grittier side of me.
Q. What's the raunchy side of Crystal Bowersox?
A. I have a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. I like dirty jokes. I don't know if they're funny. They're funny to me.
Q. Will you be home for Christmas?
A. Yep, I'll be in Chicago. I have to have snow.