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‘American Idol’ winner Trent Harmon

"American Idol" winner Trent Harmon with Kidsday reporters,

"American Idol" winner Trent Harmon with Kidsday reporters, from left, Gianna Vecchione, Samantha Thornton, Sofia Kaspiev and Saidah Lopez in Manhattan. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We talked with the final “American Idol” winner Trent Harmon when he was in Manhattan recently.

What artist inspired you?

I would have to say it’s a pretty short list, but at the top of it I would put the artists that I was fortunate to cover on “American Idol”: Chris Stapleton and Allan Stone. You might not have much of their music on your phone, but you should at some point.

You have a journal that states all of the judges’ critiques. Do you have that as motivation to better yourself as an artist?

Motivation for the fact that you’re not always going to get positive critiques, but you have to flip it. Like one week Mr. Harry [Connick Jr.] said “Trent that wasn’t very good. You sang sharp on most of your notes in that song.” So at the top of my page I wrote the word Sharp. So every time I would write a new note I would have to remind myself don’t sing sharp. Do you know what sharp means? Sharp is when you sing above the note.

Was there any song that you didn’t enjoy singing on stage?

No. I had a couple of songs that I knew I didn’t do as well as I could. I knew it as soon as I sang the last note I was like, “Oh man you let that one get away.” That wasn’t good. I got to pick most of the songs. So I like [them] because I got to pick them. I liked every song I got to sing.

Do you write your own songs for “American Idol”?

No. You could but it’s a really long process to be able to get to do one of your own songs. I don’t know what the process is because I never did do any of my original songs. If you’re getting to do songs that are already hits on the radio, that people have on their phones, stick with those.

What are your plans after “American Idol”?

Make a CD. I’ve always wanted to make a CD and I’ve begged and begged and pleaded with people, please help me make a CD. Whatever I have to do — I’ll mop the floor or I’ll pay you out of my own pocket, like, whatever I have to do. For some reason it’s like you have to get your face on TV for people to take you seriously. You have to do something big. This was the last thing for me. I had decided to give up music the night before I auditioned. I was in Belize doing mission work and I had just told the group I was with, I was like “Guys, I think I’m going to quit doing music. I’m going to get a regular job,” and these three little fellows come walking into the camp and they had a guitar and they said “Could you teach us a song?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” They had the most beautiful high voices and I just sat there and thought about my whole life. I was like, “Oh wow, how did I get to this point where I wanted to quit and there’s these kids who want me to teach them a simple song.” They inspired me to go audition. I auditioned the next morning.

How do you keep calm with all the stress of being on “American Idol”?

I’ll show you how you keep calm. You take this thing right here [phone] and lay it face down and be organized. I’m impressed that you all have your questions typed out and you’re not just in here making stuff up. You better do that throughout. Because if you’re getting ready to go to high school, write everything down and be organized. Don’t ever let it get on top of you. Be on top of it. Does that make sense? Be on top of it just means set your alarm for five minutes earlier than you’re going to get up and read over whatever it is you might think you have a quiz on the next morning. The stress you have to deal with is less if you’re already prepared. I’m doing a lot of interviews and stuff for the show. It would not help me just to walk in and do them. It’s good to watch the news, read a book, read the paper, know what I’m going to talk about. Be prepared. That’s how you deal with the stress.

Do you feel like Mississippi is proud of you for winning?

I know they are. If nothing else they voted. A big chunk of my votes came from Mississippi and I thought it was so unique that La’Porsha [Renae] and I, the two of us, were in the top two of the last season, part of the biggest singing competition ever and we’re both from the same state. That’s a movie. If you think about it you can make a movie out of that. I know Mississippi is proud because I’m proud of them.

Have you ever gotten sick on stage because of your nerves?

No. I got sick on stage because of mono. I had that for sure, but no. The nerves thing for me I just try not to get, just don’t get nervous. I know that sounds so silly, but you control your own emotions. Nobody’s making you nervous. You may say the crowd makes me nervous, no they don’t they don’t make you nervous. You make you nervous. Just breathe.

Are you going to move from Mississippi to LA or are you going to stay?

I think we’re going to talk about that. I’ll have to be in Nashville a lot because that’s where the record company is that will be putting out the CD. I could live wherever. I lived in Belize in the summer time and it’s not cool. Literally it’s not cool because it’s on the equator so it’s superhot. I live in Arkansas right now. So wherever they need me to be I’ll go there.

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