“AMERICA has voted and Carly . . . you’re going home tonight.”
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest looked, almost apologetically, into the sea
blue eyes of Dublin-born Carly Smithson last Wednesday night as he informed
her that she would be leaving the competition in sixth place.
Slightly shocked and a little teary, Smithson, 24, wrapped her arms tightly
around fellow contestant Syesha Mercado, wishing her the best of luck in the
rest of the competition, while graciously nodding her head accepting her fate.
Smithson’s mother and sister, who flew in from Ireland for Wednesday’s
show, looked on disappointingly, yet very proudly, from the audience.
Seacrest, who told viewers that Smithson would be missed dearly from the show,
especially for her sense of humor, asked Idol judge Simon Cowell, known for
his blunt opinions, to say a final farewell to Smithson.
Cowell said, “Carly, first let me apologize for giving you a compliment
last night, it seems it was the kiss of death. But let me tell you, Carly, you
can leave here with your head held high tonight.” Fellow judge Paula Abdul
nodded in agreement and said, “Carly, you are really the American dream.”
Smithson, surrounded by the five remaining contestants, thanked the judges and
American Idol for “the best time ever” and said, “I’m
not upset I’m going home tonight.”
Five days after elimination, and looking more radiant in person, Smithson visited
New York on a rainy Monday to conduct a slew of interviews. The Irish Voice
had an hour-long sit down with Smithson in the Fox offices on Sixth Avenue where
she discussed her experience on Idol, her favorite performances, her aspirations
for the future and her love of Ireland.
Donned in a brightly colored yellow shirt, accentuating her pale skin and blue
eyes, Smithson arrived at the Fox offices at 3 p.m. on the button accompanied
by her husband of 3 1/2 years Todd Smithson.
Smithson, whose family name is Hennessy, grew up in Dundrum, Co. Dublin. As
a child she performed in various musicals and even appeared in a movie. Smithson
left rainy Ireland behind her when she was 13 and moved to sunny Los Angeles
with her father Luke.
“He always wanted to live in America and he loved the sunny lifestyle.
You’d always find him in Spain with his shorts on,” said Smithson
After helping his daughter launch her singing career, Hennessy moved back to
Ireland when Carly was 17.
Smithson, who won the hearts of Idol judges back in January with her rendition
of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” last visited Dublin
in June 2007 and is planning a trip back to see her family in the coming weeks.
“I’m looking forward to going home while we have a few weeks off,”
she said, explaining that she currently has two weeks down time before the final
Idol show where she will once again perform for America.
“I then have, I think, three weeks before we begin the month long rehearsal
for the Idol tour, which will run into September.”
Excited to show her home country to Todd, Smithson said that although he has
never been there and will accompany her to Dublin in a few weeks, “I don’t
think he’ll ever live there, he says it’s way too cold!”
Todd nods, confirming his wife’s statement. “But,” said Todd,
In the meantime, Carly said that she thoroughly enjoys Dublin and Ireland as
a vacation spot to relax in and enjoy when she goes back.
Smithson first tried out for American Idol’s season five in 2005. She
made it to the Hollywood rounds but had to leave the show due to visa issues.
“It wasn’t a talent thing. I got let go for the first time on the
show. It was a visa issue and the judges were so excited, so it really was only
a matter of time before I came back and the fact that it was in San Diego this
time round was perfect,” she said.
Smithson admitted she gained a lot more confidence in herself being on the show.
“I don’t care what people think of me anymore,” she said.
“You have to have leather skin because everyone has an opinion but now
I’m confident enough not to care anymore.”
Smithson, who has a tattoo of the word “Eire” (Ireland) in her mouth
and an uncompleted tattoo of a Geisha on her right arm, said that being on the
show has “hopefully changed some people’s opinions of us,”
including her husband in her statement, whose face is blanketed with tattoos.
“I think people will now see that we are very approachable,” she
added. The Smithsons own a tattoo shop in San Diego.
Each week the Idols have worked with various singing mentors including Mariah
Carey, Dolly Parton and most recently musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Although Smithson didn’t want to choose just one celebrity “because
they were all individually different,” she did say that Webber spent a
long time with each of them and she greatly appreciated it.
“He was really cool. He didn’t want to be called Lord,” she
said. “He had so much information for us like music wise and how to change
It was Webber who advised Smithson that a song such as “Jesus Christ Superstar”
— the song she sung the week she was eliminated — would suit her
vocal range much better than the original song she had chosen from Phantom of
Asked if she feels changing her song damaged her chances of staying in the competition,
Smithson said, “I really have no idea. A lot of people say it was the
lyrics of the song, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ that did it, but it
isn’t a song that is to be taken seriously. I enjoyed every minute of
it and I thought I had a good night so I don’t have any regrets.”
So why then does Smithson think she was eliminated?
“I really don’t know. I guess because I had such a good night that
people thought I was safe so they didn’t vote, but you know what, that’s
okay, it happens,” she said positively.
Smithson said she didn’t feel that being Irish put her at a disadvantage.
“I don’t think it mattered at all, in fact it might have helped
me a lot,” she smiled.
Smithson showed America her vocal range for many weeks by tenderly and passionately
singing songs like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,”
and Parton’s “Here You Come Again.” Other weeks she upped
the tempo to rock out versions of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On,”
and Celine Dion’s “Drove All Night.”
The Dublin girl said her most enjoyable performance on Idol was her performance
of “Come Together” from the Lennon/McCarthy songbook. “I used
to sing the song every week in the bar where I worked and it was my first choice
so I was thrilled when I got it,” she said.
Smithson was criticized one week by Cowell for the way she dressed. “You
need to start dressing like a star,” he said, but she said she never really
took any notice.
“We would go shopping with stylists every week for clothes for the show
but we really had a lot of freedom to be who we wanted to be and what we wanted
to wear,” Smithson said.
“When I got the comment from Simon a lot of people were concerned about
what I wore, but I never really cared.”
On Cowell and the well-known fact that he was very tough on her throughout the
season (expect for last week), Smithson said she was initially surprised.
“I actually thought him being English we would have a lot more in common
and gotten along better, but he was busting my chops every week,” she
Asked why she thought he was so hard on her, she replied, “Maybe he felt
a little more comfortable with me, I don’t know.”
Smithson did ask Cowell off camera once why he was throwing her a curve ball
all the time and he said, “I just think you are great and I really believe
Cowell also made mention of her first audition in 2005. “I saw you in
the first audition in season five and you just walked in sang and walked out
and you had so much confidence, and then you came back and a lot of your confidence
was gone,” Cowell told Smithson.
“Of course I didn’t care,” admitted Smithson, “I was
on my way to a Motley Crew concert. It just happened that I went to the audition.”
Upset at the barrage of media bashing she received throughout her tenure on
Idol because of her Ultimate High album that was released when she was 17, Smithson
said, “ All the newspapers kept saying, oh she was discovered before.
Well, how was I discovered when no one knew who I was until I went on the show?”
Ultimate High only sold 378 copies in its first week of release. Smithson explained
that her album was released on the back of 9/11 and in January 2002 her record
company imploded, leaving Smithson to fend for herself.
“I was awarded a Meteor music award in Dublin and I had no representation
at all but I went anyway. I didn’t even know where to pick up my ticket,”
Smithson is not the only person on Idol to have a previous record.
“Half of the top 24 had records and four out of the five contests left
all have had a record or have been on a TV show, but for some reason I got picked
on the most,” she said.
Smithson said that all the Idols are like a big family, and said she will definitely
keep in contact with past contestants Amanda Overmyer and Michael Johns and
current contestants David Cook and Brooke White.
“Brooke is the person I will turn to for advice for the rest of my life.
She is just this nice spirit. If I ever had a problem I’d end up in her
room saying, ‘What do I do?’”
When asked who she thinks will win American Idol, Smithson said she really has
“I honestly don’t know. We’ve been together since July and
I’ve heard them all sing again and again so I really don’t know.
I’m not the public at home watching it,” she said.
So what does the future have in store for Smithson?
“Well, right now I’m still in the whirlwind of Idol and all that
good stuff, but it would be super cool to make a record, whether it’s
independent or with a label, but I definitely want to do that,” she said.
Although Smithson is not aware of any current offers by any record labels, she
did say she was told that there was very positive information for her when all
the hype dies down. “I’m super excited to find out,” she said.
Pop/rock is the type of music Smithson said she enjoys making.
“I don’t like singing about rainbows and sunshine. I want something
when I go out on the stage that there is a lot of meat to and I like a song
with a lot of high notes and a lot of belly,” she said, adding that she
has been writing her owns songs for a long time and is looking forward to the
Idol tour which will kick off in July where she will get a chance to perform
her own stuff.
For now Smithson will return to San Diego with Todd, who has made 31 round trips
to Hollywood to see his wife, and relax for a few days in their newly renovated
cottage before she is back on stage for the finale of American Idol on May 21.
“I’m still living the dream,” she said.