Q&A: Curtis Finch, Jr. Defends Nicki, Talks Post-'American Idol' Plans

"I want to work with Kim Burrell, I want to work with Usher, there is a long list... I really just want to be successful and I really want to make America proud"

The first of the Top 10 was sent home Thursday night when gospel singer Curtis Finch, Jr. was voted off "American Idol." Though she was absent from her judges seat during his performance the night before, Nicki Minaj told the St. Louis native that if he got sent home, she was going home. It was revealed that Curtis was in fact in last place and was therefore given a chance to sing for his job. Despite the audience's pleas to "Save, save, save" him, the judges did not come to an agreement and Curtis was eliminated. In true diva fashion, Minaj blurted out "Are you kidding me?" and got out of her set as if she were going to leave. Minaj calmed down and retreated back to the bench but maintained her position that America had made a bad call.

Curtis Finch, Jr. Sent Home on 'American Idol'

Billboard caught up with Curtis to discuss his reaction to Minaj's support, post-"Idol" plans, and how he's already preparing for the Top 10 tour.

Is being eliminated bittersweet?
No. We don't have that.

Mariah was on stage with you for a long time after you were eliminated. What was she saying to you?
That's my baby. She was really just telling me to stay encouraged and to remain consistent and to remain 100 percent authentic, which I think I've been presenting myself to be to America this whole time and so I feel like the job is done.

Do you know who chose for you to stay or go?
I don't know who chose for me to stay and who didn't. At this point you can't go back and redo it so it is what it is. I really just strived for perfection every time I sang, because I want America to get who I am every time. At this point I really don't care because I can't change it.

Would you have supported Nicki's decision to walk off the show?
Ah! That's mind-blowing to me. When she said it I was like 'Whoa, make your coins! Get your check! Stay around' because that will make me tune in because I have really transitioned from a contestant now to an American person that's watching the show so I want to see her when I turn on American Idol so I'm glad she didn't walk off.

A lot of people were talking about how she wasn't there for your performance and she's some great diva or something, what are your opinions on that?
I think Nicki's great, but I also think the other judges are great as well, and so by her not being there for my performance I don't think really it would have changed today. It is what it is and so we just have to look forward to me doing great things like I've been trying to do on American Idol.

What are you going to do now?
So many things. I want to work with Kim Burrell, I want to work with Usher, there is a long list that you don't have enough tape for me to tell you all that. I really just want to be successful and I really want to make America proud, and this is the best stage I feel like, because there are so many things that you get to do, so many people that you get to meet, like you guys, and so this doesn't happen to me every day. I don't want to just be able to come around you guys and have nothing to say. The next time you see, me I want my resume to be long. I want to be about 500 pounds lighter, because I really want to strive to be the best Curtis I can be.

Who will you miss the most?
I'm going to miss everybody. I've grown close to the contestants as well as the judges. I'm going to miss it all but I'm going on tour so it doesn't matter!

Candace was pretty broken up and I know you guys are close how does she take the news?
They all were, but not well. And if we talk about it for too long neither will I. I remember trying out for American Idol last season with her and us both getting cut in Las Vegas making the top 70, so we don't just say we can sing, we say we believe in ourselves so much so that when we wake up in the morning the note from yesterday doesn't have to transfer to the note from today. I love her so much because she is an incredible gift, just like the other 8 contestants that are left. She will be fine because the tears are going to have to be wiped away, so she can kill it next week.

What do you think of the top 3?
Well deserved! Kree, Angie and Candace have something called 'it'. So when they sing, they fill the room with such global warmness because they would make everybody want to say whatever their message is. When Candace was singing, you felt the hurt. When Angie was singing you felt it. When Kree was singing it was like oh my goodness. Where do you get this gift? I love them and it's well deserved.

Did you know that they were going to rank the contestants?
Girl no. America thinks we know everything and we don't. So we are living everything alive with everybody else. When you see where you rank it really makes you want to work to be consistent or even harder, because you want to stay in the competition.

What judge did you feel the biggest connection to and will probably keep in touch with the most?
I love Keith, I love Mariah and I love Randy and I love… Who did I miss?

Okay rewind. They all have so many passionate things to say and are always so specific about how they feel, whether they think it's a song choice, what you are wearing, when you are an artist you want everything about you to be AOK. So they would always pinpoint certain things. With Keith, you know he's going to talk about your song. With Nikki, you never know what Nikki is going to talk about. And Randy is always going to say well, I don't know dog, it didn't quite work for me tonight. And Mariah is always going to tell you that she would have stood up but her skirt was too tight. There are so many things you tune in to see because these judges are incredible. I love them all.

Whose criticism were you most afraid to receive?
None, because I always sang in a way that I would always try to get the best out of them. If they could tell me something that would make me better week after week, I have always invited it rather than push it away.

Were you shocked to get voted off so soon? A lot of times people have a feeling it could be them…
I never have a feeling because I was already thinking about weeks to come, so you never know. You always prepare for tomorrow like you will be there tomorrow, so I was shocked, but I would've been shocked if it had been someone else because the top 10 this season has been the best ever.

If you could pick one thing from this whole experience that you said was the best thing ever, what would it be?
I remember getting done singing "I Believe I Can Fly," and I remember how extremely overwhelmed I felt inside of myself and so to open my eyes and kind of come back, if you will, to see the judges standing and applauding and to hear the roars from the crowd saying, "Oh my God, Curtis, I believe as well!" Speechless.

Everyone was cheering, "save, save, save"…
Yes oh my goodness! Y'all trying to make me cry!

Do you think we'll see and all-female top-five?
You might. You may see all guys left, as you know the Top Three or the Top Two. With American Idol, you know, you never know because some people say you never thought I would be standing in this position, and so people have to vote. People have to stay true to who they are in order to be great fans and great contestants.

Besides the tour how are you going to keep up the momentum career-wise now that the show has given you the platform?
I'm just going to keep being true to myself. You know, really I worked hard to be where I am and I've learned so many things in such a way where I've shocked myself saying that, "Oh my God, I didn't know I could get up at five in the morning and still be able to sing at 8 o'clock at night!" And so, I mean, there's so many things that I've learned about myself and that's the point of American Idol! Because either you're going to step up to the plate or you're going to go back to the dugout. Like, there is no in between. Either you're going to hit the homerun or you are going to be out at first base. It's either in or out, and so you just have to be consistent and that's what I'm going to strive to do for my career.

What do you think about fans who credit you with bringing Gospel back to the forefront?
Man what a great question for one, but it makes me feel good because there are so many people that have come on Idol trying to be that instrument and so I'm humbled that God would use me as the instrument to make people feel like and get to know who He is.