Jason Castro Feels Relieved After Being Kicked Off 'American Idol'
'I would've liked to go farther, but I don't think I could handle it,' dreadlocked singer says.
There are always a few contestants we don't hear a peep from during the audition rounds or Hollywood week, and then they disappear before the top 12. But Jason Castro was different. He did his cheesy top-24 dance, dreads flailing about, and we knew "Idol" would never be the same.
And it won't be. The 20-year-old from Rockwall, Texas, brought a new audience of "dread-heads" to the show with his goofy demeanor and offbeat song choices. But his unexpectedly long journey on the show came to an end after his forgotten lyrics and odd arrangements during Rock and Roll Hall of Fame night.
We caught up with the unique castoff to see how bad he really wanted to win, what he thought of Paula Abdul's misstep last week and why he was relieved to be going home.
Q: Simon suggested after the results show Wednesday that you had messed up your lyrics in Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" on purpose. Was that the case?
A: [Laughs.] I definitely did not do that on purpose. I couldn't believe I forgot such a popular line, something that's, like, written on your soul. Somehow it slipped my mind, but I definitely didn't do it on purpose.
Q: So you still wanted to win?
A: Yesterday I wanted to win, and the day before that. I think what it came down to was just my inexperience. Once we doubled up on songs, I wasn't really able to focus. ... My mind was split, and I just couldn't deliver either/or.
Q: When you say you were inexperienced, what was your musical history before the show?
A: I started playing guitar my freshman year of college and singing shortly thereafter. While I was learning, I was teaching myself. I would learn songs, but I would never learn them all the way through. [Laughs.] I'd never even learned a song all the way through, so learning two in a week has just been tough.
Q: Since you had less experience than most of the other contestants, what do you think the judges saw in you to put you through to the top 24?
A: I think it was the potential, you know? Just because I was so new at it and what I had done so far, I think it showed enough potential that I could be something. ... I'm very much what the show was originally about. I am kind of as raw as it gets. I haven't done much of anything, singing-wise.
Q: Why do you think you stuck around till the final four after having virtually no exposure prior to the top 24?
A: I think a lot of it just has to do with my uniqueness, just being different from the usual thing. I at least catch the eye and the ear a little faster than anybody else. I was disadvantaged coming in, but I guess just [being] me was an advantage. [Laughs.]
Q: Were you concerned about that lack of exposure?
A: I would see how people were getting excited about other people, and I was like, "Uh-oh." [Laughs.] I knew why they weren't airing my stuff — it didn't clear — so I was OK with it, but it still wasn't fun.
Q: What songs didn't get cleared in those early rounds?
A: In the auditions, for the first two auditions, I sang "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, but in the style of Ray LaMontagne, one of my favorite singer/songwriters ever. He just did a really cool version of that. That never cleared. Another song I love to do is "Santeria" by Sublime. I tried to do that in Hollywood week for my second day, and they said it cleared, but then they changed their mind. And then I tried again while we were out here — it never cleared.
Q: How did you feel when Simon said you weren't performing like the Jason they voted into the competition?
A: I was feeling the same thing. I was feeling me losing that power, just because I couldn't connect with the songs in the given time. I really had a hard time when we picked it up to two songs. I wasn't committing to either one, and I just couldn't connect with them. I couldn't fall in love with them. You need time.
Q: Your interview packages always made you seem a bit goofy. Do you think that portrays you accurately?
A: I think it very much does. [Laughs.] I am a goofy person. I am kind of an awkward conversationalist — I'm doing my best right now! — but all my friends, they love it, because what you see is what you get. I didn't change at all coming out here. That's me!
Q: Some conspiracy theorists are suggesting that you mouthed the words "Don't vote" during Tuesday's show. Is that what you said?
A: I was saying, "Vote," and then I said it again. I was kind of trying to emphasize that, but nobody heard me. And I remember going and sitting down and thinking about it, and they kind of have the same syllables, and it's gonna look like "Don't vote." That went through my mind, and I was like, "Dang it." Consciously, the second time, I only said, "Vote," once when they were showing the phone numbers, because I thought of that.
Q: Why did you seem so relieved after being eliminated?
A: I was as happy last night as I was when I found out I made the top 24. This whole time, I had a blast. And I was trying. But it's just really been hard. And that night, I remember before we found out about the results, I was really starting to fear the week ahead. If I had made it, [I thought,] "How am I going to do three songs? I can't even do two right!" With the hometown visit, it was just going to be a lot of work, even though it would've been so much fun. I was just freaking out about it. That was all building up. I was ready for it to go either way. [When I was eliminated,] I just really felt relieved. The pressure was off. I loved my time on there, and I would've liked to go farther, but I don't think I could handle it. I'm content.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about you?
A: There was an interview this last week [with Entertainment Weekly], and I said I had wanted to go home or something. I think this week, everyone kind of had the idea that I was ready to go. And that wasn't my mindset at all going in. But every week has its ups and downs, and that morning, when I had that interview, I was kind of frustrated with a lot of things. ... There was a lot going on that morning, and that sort of came across wrong. The way I was on the show, people were kinda thinking that I didn't want to be there, which was never my mindset.
Q: What did you make of Paula Abdul's blunder last week? Did it mess with your second performance?
A: That was kind of funny. [Laughs.] I was confused, like, "What's going on? Does the second song mean David [Cook's]? What does that mean?" But it was an honest mistake. I don't think it really affected my next performance.
Q: Why do you think you didn't really get worked up about Simon's criticism?
A: [On Tuesday] night, I was having fun with my songs. He could say whatever he wanted, but I was confident in what I was doing. I had nothing to be ashamed of. If he didn't like it, fine. If it wasn't what we needed for the competition, OK. If I wasn't prepared for a song, and I'm going onstage feeling like it's not the best it could be, and then they say that too, it's kind of reaffirming my thoughts. It's just another day. It's just a song. People see past that, and I see past it.
Q: At the beginning of the competition, you kind of looked like the guy who just wandered in by mistake, but were you really interested in winning?
A: I did come in with that attitude. And I made it farther than I had ever imagined. I didn't really consider it a real possibility that I could win until these last few weeks. I did kind of just wander in! [Laughs.] I was like, "Well, all right, I'm here. Might as well be in it to win it!" I was giving it my best. I never necessarily had the mindset of winning first place; it was more of the mindset of every week, I want to give it my best. And that leads to winning.
Q: What did you think of Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" going to #1 on iTunes after you performed it?
A: That was awesome. I couldn't believe it. When I saw that, I realized the amount of power that "American Idol" has. ... It was just such an honor. How cool. If people hadn't heard that song, they should've. I'm glad now they have.
Q: What did you learn from your experience on "Idol"?
A: I've learned I can do a lot more than I thought. Before I did this, I wasn't really confident as a performer, and I wasn't doing it a whole lot. Now I did it for a few months straight — on TV! [Laughs.] I just gained a lot of confidence, and learned that I can do it.
Q: Have you heard from any famous fans or other musicians who want to work with you?
A: ["American Idol" season-five finalist] Chris Sligh called me the other day. He was apparently hanging out with one of my friends — it's a guitarist, who's doing some studio work in Nashville — and they were hanging out, and I came up in conversation. He gave him my number, and he was just extending his friendship, and I haven't called him back yet. [Laughs.] I haven't had time, that's how busy this thing is. I can't even call back a celebrity!
Q: What do you hope to do next?
A: The tour, I'm looking forward to that. That's just gonna be a blast. After that, wherever music leads me. I wanna play some music somewhere.