Q&A: ‘American Idol’ Runner-Up Kree Harrison On What’s Next, Grand Ole Opry & More

Kree Harrison during the “American Idol” finale on May 16.

Kree Harrison during the “American Idol” finale on May 16. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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Almost two weeks ago, Kree Harrison stood in front of the nation and learned that she was the American Idol season 12 runner-up. Though Candice Glover took the reality competition show’s top title, 23-year-old Harrison called it a win when she even made the Top 10. “I did what I came to do, which is create a following,” she told Radio.com during a sit-down in Nashville last week before dishing on her famous pals, like fellow Idol alum Kellie Pickler, and revealing what she’s most looking forward to now that Idol is over.

Congrats on making your Grand Ole Opry debut with Keith Urban, Kellie Pickler and a few others…

Not to interrupt, but if you look behind you, that billboard says “Keith Urban and Kree Harrison on the Opry.” It’s my first billboard I’ve ever seen. I can’t even believe it.

Coincidentally, the first time we met was nearly seven years ago backstage at the Grand Ole Opry with an artist named Catherine Britt. Do you remember?

I do! It was my first time at the Opry. I was 16. It was surreal. I was so happy to be there with Catherine. I sang backup for her on stage that night. What’s that song we did? “Angel Band”? It was a hymn, and I learned it backstage. I was just going with her to the show and then she said, “Do you want to sing?” and I said, “Yes!” Do I want to sing on the Grand Ole Opry, what kind of question is that? That was great, but I’ve always wanted to perform on the Opry myself. I’m honored that they invited me. It gives me chills.

Having had a record deal already, did you hesitate at all about auditioning for American Idol?

I thought, “I don’t want to do a talent show. I’m awkward in front of the camera. I’m worried about not giving them enough energy.” I went back and forth for a while. My sister, she is an amazing person and my rock, I told her that I felt like I was at a point in my career where I had nothing to lose. She said, “American Idol is a platform for artists, not singers, but artists. This is a jump-start for your career.” So I thought, “Why not?” And it worked out. It’s weird to say it out loud, though, that I’ve done it. It’s over. It’s gone by so fast.

“All Cried Out” is your first single, and it seems to somewhat relate to your own life — losing your parents at such a young age. Do you think you would have chosen that same song if you hadn’t been on Idol?

I know that would’ve have delivered it the same. At this point, everyone knows my story. I didn’t want to make my situation just be about the tragedy. I’m a very happy, positive person. If anything, I want people to take that you can move forward after tragedy. Until this competition, I’ve always really had a problem with connecting with people, but it taught me that this is what it’s about. You have to put that wall down, because this is you.

It sounds like you could’ve written “All Cried Out,” but this is a song by Gordie Sampson, Katrina Elam and Steve McEwan. What made you choose it?

I was so worried, because this is my single, something I’m going to have to sing every single night of my life … I hope. As soon as I heard it, I felt like it was very relatable, very relevant to who I am, and I feel like it’s a timeless song. It’s got soul, it’s country — which is the most important thing to me. I don’t ever want to be confused about being a country artist.

Have you already started work on your debut album?

The truth is I’m constantly thinking about songs. Whether it’s people pitching me songs or thinking about what I want to say on this record, that’s the process that is constantly happening in my head. Going into the studio and doing it will happen really soon.

In addition to your voice, your fashion stood out on Idol. Was that your doing or a stylist’s?

Honestly, I like to keep it classy and try to be timeless, as far as my fashion goes. The stylist on the show, she’d always say, “You have such soft edge.” Which makes me so happy! I want to make a fashion line that has that. I’ve lost some weight and come into the mindset that it’s OK to have curves; it’s sexy. More than anything, quit hiding it, because it’s unflattering to wear bigger clothes. I had no idea. I feel better about myself and the wardrobe made me feel that way. You’re a beautiful, curvy woman, be proud of that and stand up for that. Candice and I are both curvy women. We’re proud of it.

Did you see Kellie Pickler’s triumph on Dancing With the Starslast week?

I’ve already texted her. I wrote, “I’m so, so proud of you.” Did you see her last performance? I cried. I watched it in the car on YouTube. How amazing is she as a person? But, she also worked her ass off. She deserves that title. And, I’ll be seeing her on the fourth [of June] when we play the Opry together!

- Erin Duvall, Nashville Radio.com