Aaron Kelly Sees Harry Connick, Jr. As 'Great Replacement' for Simon Cowell
American Idol FOX

Since you're 17, could you also see yourself going the Disney route?

Aaron Kelly: I see myself more like, interacting with Disney, but also being able to be a country music artist. I know Rascal Flatts, they've done some recording for Disney -- "Life Is a Highway" was a Disney recording. I see myself as more along the lines of a Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban-style person.

Will you back to high school now, or are you planning to record an album?

Aaron Kelly: I'm actually on the verge of finishing up with high school. I've got all my senior credits, so after that I'll be all finished. I'd love to record an album and get to do some original music, like the stuff that I've written. I don't know if people know that I write songs, because we're not allowed to do that on the show.

How did you balance your schoolwork with the exhausting "Idol" schedule?

Aaron Kelly: I balanced school like I normally do. You know, wake up a little early. The [other] contestants worry about their performance or the results, but I have to worry about astronomy, so I'm not thinking about all this stuff. I have school to take my mind off of it, so I use that as an advantage [laughs].

Some have said that "Idol" doesn't have the strongest group of contestants this season. How would you respond to that?

Aaron Kelly: It seems like they say that every year. These are all talented people and we're all working very hard up there. Sometimes people think we just go up there and sing, but there's a lot more that we have to go through behind the scenes, and it's very difficult to sing a song or genre that you're not very comfortable with. We're all doing it pretty well, I think.

Who was your favorite mentor this season?

Aaron Kelly: My favorite mentor was Harry Connick, Jr. He worked with us on such a personal level. He did all the arrangements and worked really hard in making sure that we all shined on our performance nights. I felt really privileged to have him as a mentor.

Could you see him replacing Simon Cowell as an "Idol" judge?

Aaron Kelly: Actually, we were talking about that a little today. He would be a great replacement for Simon. He's very honest and he's going to tell you [his opinion] straight out. I think Harry Connick would fit the bill perfectly.

Do you think he's interested?

Aaron Kelly: I don't know. I'm not sure how that works, but from my opinion, he'd be a great person to fill in Simon's spot.

Video: Aaron Kelly performs "You've Got a Way"

What was your mother's reaction when you dedicated the Shania Twain song to her?

She cried, actually, because she's just very proud of me. She wasn't actually in the audience that night. She was there for rehearsal, but she had no idea I was going to dedicate it to her. I know she was very, very proud of her young man.