'Idol' Exit Interview: Ben Briley talks to EW after third elimination

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Well, we know what Ben Briley won’t be doing this summer!

Briley missed out on this year’s top 10 and therefore, the annual summer tour. The bottom three featured two boys for the first time —  fan favorite Sam Woolf and a hatless Briley, along with a very brave Majesty Rose who tackled “Let it Go” from Frozen on this week’s cinema-themed night. Jennifer Lopez said the bottom three made sense to her based on their performances and only .07% separated Briley and Rose from the final elimination. EW talked to Briley right after his elimination about his new look and defending himself against the judges’ comments.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling?

BEN BRILEY: I’m fine. I’m ready to go home. I’m tired.

It looked like you were expecting some bad news tonight.

I was. I knew it was going to happen. I was expecting to be there. I knew I was going to be in the bottom three because I had a weak performance [Wednesday] night, and I knew I could do better than that. I just wanted to show people that I could do something different and that didn’t pay off and that’s fine, it doesn’t matter. Musicians don’t prepare for one show a week only, week-to-week and then don’t have to do it again. Real musicians don’t have to worry about that. I’m ready to get this show behind me and start making my own music.

What did you learn from this experience that will be helpful for you?

The one thing I learned is how to be professional. That was one thing that I didn’t know much about and it taught me a lot about that, and I want to take that with me as I go.

What did the judges say to you after?

I congratulated Harry on his performance. I said he killed it, and I really enjoyed it. Cause they don’t really talk to us that much, trying to be impartial, you know? But he said stick with it, and that I have a killer voice, even though I didn’t showcase it last night. I told Keith that I wanted to play together in Nashville. I said that’s the first thing we’re doing, me and him are gonna play a show. So, hopefully that’s gonna happen, but I don’t think it will.

Did you have a feeling today that it might be time to go home?

I do miss home, and I’ve missed home for a while now. I just kind of had a gut feeling and I’ve heard that from past contestants that you kind of just know what’s gonna happen that day. No one’s gonna tell you anything, no one’s gonna act different towards you or anything like that. You just kind of feel it, whether you’re in the bottom three or the one who’s going home.

You debut a new look this week. Were you comfortable with it?

Oh, I was comfortable with it. I wanted to show people that I could do something different, and if I wanted to show them, I thought I had to clean up on the exterior too and not wear a cap. [Not wearing] a cap when you’re playing a piano is almost blasphemy!

Have you talked to your wife yet?

No, I haven’t seen her since. I think I’m going back to the hotel hopefully soon. She was gone last week, but she’s here and my mom, my dad and my sister are here too, so that’s nice. Hopefully, we’ll go out to eat later or something like that.

Do you have any regrets?

No, I don’t regret anything at all. I wanted to do [my performance] like that, and I feel like I reached my goal. If I confused people, that is not at all what I wanted to do. I just wanted to show people that I could play piano and that I could do different things. One week I’ll do country, one week I’ll do southern rock, one week I’ll do R&B, one week I’ll do blues. I have all these genres that have influenced me and I wanted to showcase all of them while I was on the show and people I guess, it just didn’t sit well with them.  I really hate it when people say you need to stay in your vein because that’s the biggest load of crap of life, because then you become pigeonholed and people start expecting and that’s not what I want to do. I have a lot of different genres that have influenced me, different music themes that I love and wanted to showcase. The hard part is doing that every week and putting those genres in every week — it’s almost impossible to do that. But no one is going to tell me how to sing, or what to do, or how to act. I know who I am as an artists and it really bothered me [the judges’] comments [Wednesday] night; it really bothered me because they pretty much shot down what I was trying to do. I understood what they said, they wanted that authenticity and that’s what I wanted to bring, but that wasn’t the goal. I wanted to show people that I could do other things.

In the past, the judges have criticized people for staying in the same lane and not branching out though.

That’s what I’ve noticed, and I’m not going to pick on the judges too much but they will say to one contestant, “Hey, you need to break out and do something different.” I think they told Majesty that she was spreading herself too thin. And then I do it and try to break out and do something other than country music, then I get shot down for it. So the inconsistency, something needs to happen there with  what they say because not only does it confuse them but it confuses the people voting and they don’t know what to think. But it’s not their fault I went home, I probably picked the wrong time to do that song or to break that out. I don’t think I did. But as far as regrets, I have none. I set out to do what I wanted to do and not many people can say that on this show because you’re told what to do left and right and how to sing it and stuff like that. I was just proud of myself that I told them what I wanted to do. This is what I want to do, this is how I want to do it. If you don’t like it, then kick me off. I did it with Jonny Cash, they wanted me to play guitar last week and I said nope. I am gonna sit there and sing and then this week, they said you probably shouldn’t do that one, and I said this is what I want to do, and I did it.

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