BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Like most everyone else back in her hometown, Angie Miller admitted she was stunned when Ryan Seacrest announced her elimination from “American Idol” Thursday night.
“I was hoping and dreaming to be a part of that finale and I really wanted it, so of course it was shocking,” Miller said yesterday from Hollywood in a conference call with the media.
But if you were expecting sour grapes or second guesses from the Beverly teenager in the wake of her “Idol” exit, she wasn’t about to provide them.
Instead, Miller said she is looking forward to performing on next week’s “American Idol” finale, followed by the “American Idol” concert tour and a future in the music and entertainment world that was unimaginable to her a few months ago.
“I feel like in a way I’ve already won by making it to the top three,” she said. “The exposure and the journey is incredible. I really wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of how far I’ve gotten.”
In a conference call carefully controlled by “American Idol,” Miller handled a variety of questions with poise and grace. She refused to bite on a question about whether Kree Harrison was aided by an emotional video of her hometown visit that centered on the tragic deaths of her parents.
When one questioner suggested the “sob story” might have helped Harrison, who advanced to the final with Candice Glover, Miller said, “I love both of those girls, and they deserve to be there. I would never be, ‘That’s a sob story.’ That’s her life. (Kree) is one of the most genuine people I know. I didn’t even think of that.”
Many people considered Miller, the 19-year-old Beverly High School graduate, and Glover the favorites to advance to the final two of the competition. Miller had been a top vote-getter in previous weeks and has a prodigious number of social media followers. Her hometown visit to Beverly last week drew an estimated 15,000 people.
Miller said she figured that Glover, the 23-year-old South Carolinan with the big voice, would be one of the finalists, meaning that either Miller or Harrison, who have been roommates for the last few months, would be voted off.
“Which was just terrible, because she’s my best friend in the competition,” Miller said. “It was terrible we had to beat each other, but I really am so happy that she made it.”
Miller had no explanation for her surprise departure.
“I don’t know about the voting,” she said. “I know one week people can be on top and they can be on the bottom. I do know that it did not disappoint me at all.”
Asked how she felt backstage after her tearful departure, which included on-stage hugs from her family and the judges, Miller said, “It was just a feeling of, ‘Wow, it really happened. I’m off the show. This is what it feels like.’ It’s time to just move on and starting thinking about the future. I didn’t want to dwell on how sad I was. I just got voted off. What’s next?”
Miller dismissed the criticism of Jimmy Iovine, who said she should have played piano when she performed Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” on Wednesday’s show. Miller said she was worried that she wouldn’t have time to learn how to play the song.
“He still said I was the favorite of that round,” she said. “I don’t think it would have made that much of a difference. I just didn’t know that song well enough. I probably would’ve screwed it up on piano.”
Asked about the response to her elimination from people back in Beverly, Miller said, “I’ve had an incredible amount of friends and family just calling and texting me. I love Beverly. I’ve done all of this for my hometown.”
Miller, in fact, credited her hometown visit with helping her on the show. Her performances on Wednesday night received generally rave reviews from the judges.
“I remembered being in Beverly with thousands of people there and being on that stage and feeling so free, so in the moment, and thinking, ‘Why don’t I feel like that on the “American Idol” stage?,’” she said. “I feel like it showed and it paid off.”
As for the next step, Miller was scheduled to appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” last night. She then planned to focus on rehearsing for her appearance on Thursday’s final “American Idol” show of the season.
One media member asked if she would be singing with Jesse J, the singer that Miller says she most admires.
“I would die if I was able to sing with her,” Miller said. “That would be the most incredible thing ever and I hope it happens.”
Miller will then embark on a 40-city tour with the other 11 finalists beginning June 29, including a stop in Boston at the Agganis Arena on Aug. 19.
“We all get along like family,” she said. “The tour is going to be a blast. I can’t wait to meet all the fans and sing full-length songs and not be judged.”
After the Idols LIVE! tour, Miller said she hopes to sign a recording contract, put out an album and maybe go on another tour. She said she would also like to get into acting.
Miller, whose parents are co-pastors of the Remix Church in Salem, said she would not concentrate on Christian music.
“I want to have music that is real and has real-life stuff,” she said. “I don’t want to have dance party music, but at the same time I don’t want to put people asleep. I want to incorporate the piano into a soulful sound but with an edge. I know the message that I want to send out and I know the sound that I want to do. I just can’t wait to show it to people.”
Miller, who a year ago at this time was getting ready to graduate from Beverly High, said she will never forget the reception she received on her hometown visit.
“I can’t believe I was there a few days ago,” she said. “I just want everybody at home to know I just thank you for supporting me and bringing me this far.
“I really am blessed to be part of the top three. It blows my mind. I can’t wait to sing in the finale on that stage. I can’t wait for the tour and my future. I know this is just the start. The launching pad.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.