It’s a little after noon on Friday in Los Angeles, and Alex Lambert rolled out of bed five minutes ago. The American Idol season 9 castoff was up until 4:30 a.m. taking Twitter song requests live from fans as they watched him on If I Can Dream, the Web reality series that follows six people trying to make it in Hollywood as actors, singers, and models. The show is available in episodic installments every Tuesday via Hulu, but also offers viewers Big Brother-style access to the house with a 24/7 video feed. But much like BB’s live stream, there are well-noted lulls in action. Large ones. Starting this week, the show pumped up the action a little bit with a new Idol-centric feature. Every week, the housemates will have the person voted off the show over for dinner the Friday following their elimination. Yesterday, they dined with Didi Benami.
Lambert’s followers, presumably a large portion of those who looked in last night, are the same ones who launched a petition to get the once-mulleted singer a spot on the show. (Yes, the hair has been chopped, but more on that later.) It got 20,000 signatures. No one was more shocked by the overwhelming support than Lambert. In a phone interview with EW.com, the still sleepy-voiced Lambert talked about his new gig and his surprise over the fan following that made it possible.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First, can you explain the show in your own words for people who haven’t checked it out before?
ALEX LAMBERT: If I Can Dream is pretty much: They’re going to follow me while I pursue my career. They’re going to hook me up with vocal coaches and co-writers to help me co-write my songs. They’re pretty much going to do everything they can to help me take my music to the next level. There’s five other people in the house, and it’s just showing us pursuing our dreams.
Why did you think this was a good post-Idol step for you?
Honestly, it’s like the perfect thing I could do right now. I went back home to Texas, and I’m really a beginner in the music business. I didn’t know what to do, who to talk to. All I was going to do was go out and play shows. I didn’t know what to do with like press, publicity, and all that stuff. So this is perfect. They’re hooking me up with the perfect people.
I know that you said before that the plan was to go back to Texas and finish high school. How did plans change so fast?
[Laughs] I kinda realized I could finish school online while I was out in California. It would hold me back if I went back to high school.
Tell me about the petition that helped you get on the IICD.
One of the viewers from Idol, her name was Jessica. [She was] just disappointed that I got eliminated from the show. I guess they thought it was too soon for me to go, so they started a petition. It was the first time a petition had been made for a castoff from American Idol. I guess they just realized that I had something to offer and had potential.
How’d you get wind of the petition?
One day, my mom was like ”Oh, there’s this petition,” but for some reason I didn’t think much of it because I thought that everyone had fans and everyone’s fans were making a petition when they got kicked off. I was like ”Oh, that’s cool.” But when someone told me this was the first time it ever happened I was like, ”What? This is awesome! That’s amazing.” I just really appreciated it so much. I didn’t know I was going to get this much support.
In the past you were pretty hard on yourself performance-wise. In one interview with us you said that you weren’t ”much of a performer.” What’s changed that made you want to get back up there?
I never thought that I didn’t want to be on stage. When I get on stage I feel like that’s my place and where I need to be to show people what I can do and show people my voice. I guess the petition was a little bit of a confidence booster, I’d say. On Idol they kind of lock you down, so I hadn’t even realized I had fans. So when I got off, I was like, ”All these people really like my voice that much?” It really makes me want to make more music for them.
What do you think your post-show success says about what the public is craving musically? And do you think that’s something they’re not finding on the show?
I think the reason that a lot of people like me is [that I’m] something unique that people haven’t really heard on Idol before. There’s never been someone who sounded like me on Idol ever. I guess everyone was like, ”This is cool.” I think I have a unique style, but people realize I’m a beginner. Idol was really one of my first times getting on stage. If I go up there and do songs like I did as a beginner, what can I do in the future when I’m a veteran performer? I think people saw potential in me on Idol.
How did the first night go in the house?
Everyone in the house is so cool. I didn’t even know they were going to be this cool. Everyone really understands because they’re going for their dream also. I’m here to make my dreams come true and they understand that.
I saw some tweets earlier today that said, ”I’m watching Alex Lambert sleep.” How have you dealt with the fact that people can watch you 24/7?
For some reason, honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all. I honestly like the cameras because I want people to know who the real me is. On American Idol they didn’t get to know that because all they got to see was two minutes of me once a week. Now, people get to see who I am every day. I think that’s awesome.
So I heard you take requests via Twitter.
[Laughs] Yes, for now. I don’t know how that’s going to turn out. I don’t want to be staying up till 4:30 every night.
I know it must have been a big change for you to go from your hometown in Texas to L.A. How has that been?
Well, this is how I’ve always thought of it. I always knew there was going to be a point in my life where I had to be extremely busy, and that’s what I want. I’m loving every second of L.A. I love being busy and playing music every day in front of people now. I love showing everyone my music, and L.A. is the place to do that. I guess it’s really slow in Texas. It was a little hard to get used to L.A. at first, but Idol pretty much broke me in. Now I’m just going with the flow and going to do whatever it takes.
I heard that you were working at a Sonic in Texas and living in a one-bedroom apartment before this.
Yeah. Before this, I was living with my brothers and mom. There were four of us and my mom in a small apartment and now I’m in this giant house. The apartment, it kinda sucked, but for some reason I don’t really mind sleeping on the ground [like he did in the apartment] or that living situation. That’s how I’ve always been all my life. Yet to come to this giant house and have my own bed—a really comfortable bed—[and] a fridge full of food all the time, it’s gonna be awesome. Last night was amazing already. I just can’t wait to see what’s next.
QUICK HITS WITH ALEX LAMBERT:
Last album you bought: John Mayer, Battle Studies
TV Show: I don’t really watch TV that much. I never had cable. So I would just watch late-night shows, like Conan O’ Brien.
The mullet: I have, like, a baby mullet right now, but the mullet will be back.
On the Idol judges (in one word):