St. Pete's Michael Lynche on American Idol: "(I) always gave my heart when I sang...the only thing with giving your heart is, it can get broken."
Below is an edited transcript of Lynche’s answers, delivered with his young baby daughter Laila Rose gurgling in the background, as the singer talked about the training he received at Gibbs High School, spending time with his mother as she died from cancer and how his work teaching special education at Thursgood Marshall Middle School was some of the best work he’s ever done.
Do you think took enough risks?
“I don’t know if risk is, if that’s the right mindframe to go. You’ve got to show all the sides of you. With me, stepping outside of the R&B realm, that’s risky enough. They see me they see how I look and they expect to hear R&B and when they hear something different, sometimes it’s a little jarring. For my guys still left in it, they’ve got to really stay true to themselves. You’ve got to be comfortable up there and really pick songs that mean something to you. I don’t know if risk is what wins it. At this point, you’ve solidified what your fan base is and you’ve got to give them what they want.”
What’s your height, weight and what do you bench press?
6', 1", 300 (pounds), 505(-pound bench press).
Tell us about what you discovered (at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts in Gibbs High School)
“I went to a performing arts high school – it was a special program, magnet program inside of a regular high school. It was a regular high school with all the sports teams, but then inside of the high school in a specialized program was this magnet program for performing arts. So we were able to take dance classes and photography classes and music theory classes. I got my classical singing training in high school, we were able to take a program where we could take college classes from a college professor and get college credit. I learned to play steel drums there. It really opened me up to anything I wanted to do, besides the fact that I could play sports. It was the best time that I ever had in school, I was able to get into theater shows, you ahd to audition for roles. it was a really big deal in the school.”
When might you get back to St. Petersburg? What are your future plans?
“I’m still focused on the show right now. The Top Ten will be back for rehearsals starting in Tuesday, we’ve got the tour rehearsals starting in June. Right now, it will be a good time to reunite with my guys who left the show early. I’m going to start working on putting together a great album – the number one plan this year is to put together a great album. As soon as my schedule permits I’m going to come home. My family’s there. I really can’t wait to get back home and just heal a bit and feel the love down there. Soon as my schedule permits I’ll be back.”
Can you elaborate on how you dropped out of playing football?
“My mom (former St. Pete Times community columnist Michele Lynche) had failing health for a long time. She was diagnosed with cancer. My heart really was missing home and missing my mom. My plan was just to transfer to the University of South Florida. And then my mom ended up passing away. It really kind of threw me for a loop for a bit. I kinda lost my way. And I started working with special ed kids at am idle school (Thurgood Marshall Middle School in St. Petersburg) It really changed me – it was the best thing for my heart. It really was the best work I’d ever done in my life. At the same time, I bought a guitar again, hadn’t had a guitar in a while, because my plan was to play professional football. I bought a guitar again and started writing music and started writing music and that side of me started growing again. I hadn’t explored it, because I was really focused on athletics. When I left UCF, it was a really confusing time in a young guy’s life. Just really trying to find my way and I got to spend some great last time with my mom. We’d stay up late night and watch infomercials. She loved to stay up all night long. That was kinda highlight in my life, all that time I got spend with her in the last little bit of time she had on the earth.” She was age 53.
What did it mean to have your wife and child with you?
“It really started out with them in Hollywood Week, was when this whole experience really got real. It wasn’t about hoping I do well; I had to do well. Because of the sacrifice I made at that time, it was very important for me to do well. They would have been there for me if I was working at home depot or dominoes pizza. It’s nice that I get to be the family man. I’m not anybody else but that, that’s what I am first. It was nice that that was my story and everybody saw that. Having your wife there helps your heart in a tough moment.”
Was it tough facing the expectations for people back home hoping you would make Top Three?
“I live for pressure. I think if you’re going to be something great, you’ve go to be able to do it in a pressure situation. You look at Tuesday night, I sang well and performed well and felt good about what I did. It just so happened that it didn’t happen for me to be in the top three. I’m where I’m supposed to be. God definitely has a plan on my life and all of our lives. I really feel that I’m where I’m supposed to be, regardless of what that is. I don’t feel like I let anyone down. I came out and did what I do and people just didn’t vote that way.”
What did judge Randy Jackson say to you when he hugged you after you were eliminated?
“He was pointing out that Chris Daughtry got number four and it’s not a bad place to be where I am.”
Did you feel you had to perform and original take on a song or just a good one?
“I felt like you should do something original. Everybody should always make the song their own. You get into the karaoke zone when you just do a good version. So I always wanted to have a song feel like I wrote it. I wanted to find that place in the song that was original for me and was new for me. In my opinion, I think that’s how you succeed on the show; really making it your own.”
Right before you were saved by the judges, when you were singing for your life, what was going through your head?
“I wasn’t terrified. I felt like, going into the season, I like that concept of sing for your life. And really, every week to me is sing for your life. Nothing is guaranteed for me on the show. I never wanted to take anything for granted. When I got to that point and it was literally sing for your life and the life of your family and your future, here’s your one chance -- I felt like I could do that. I felt I could stand tall in that moment, when it got down to Andrew and I, I wanted it to be me in the moment. I didn’t want him to have to go through that. I felt strong enough and prepared enough to take that moment on. It worked out. I wasn’t surprised that they saved me, just extremely grateful to still be around.”
What were your memories of the University of Central Florida?
“My memory of UCF is all the construction. It always looks different every time you get there. My wife and I we moved to college four days after we graduated from high school. That’s a memory I always have – never having lived on my own, never having seen a dorm room. I took as many posters from the football office as I could, and just wallpapered my walls with football posters…Everybody should go to college – its’ the best time to get out and start living on your own and find out who you are outside of your family. It really matured me in that time from being in high school and focused me more. I was never really into partying. We really were kind of homebodies. It did make me realize how much I missed home and my family. I didn’t realize how much I would miss them until we were away.”
What was your mindset going into Wednesday? Did you expect to go home?“America s a fickle creature and she’s shown that as the competition has gone on. You just never know. I think that I was consistent every week and always gave my heart when I sang. The only thing with giving you heart is, it can get broken. But if it gets received well, it can be something really magical and special – which it was that on a couple of weeks. The way that the wind blows, the votes, you just never know.”
None of the people saved by the judges have made the top three. Do you think the save is necessary for the show?
“It’s two-sided. As far as the voting goes, it’s really one of my favorite parts of the show, that the people get to pick the champion. But it also depends on who’s voting. As far as the save goes, it really speaks to your work ethics and your professionalism, and what they see of you behind – not just on the stage that America sees. The judges get to see a bit more and how your reputation is around the set. Around the crews. It just speaks to who you are as a professional, for them to take that chance on you….and say to America think about this again. Because this person has shown us to be a professional and to be somebody worth taking a look at.”
Even though you had to miss the birth of your daughter to audition for Idol, was it all worth it?
“I don’t think you can say anything is worth missing the birth of your child. Only time will let those wounds heal. It definitely gives my family a good change in the future and gives my daughter a better chance that I did it, and took that sacrifice. Me personally, of course I didn’t want to miss it. But it wasn’t a choice. This was what I needed to do for the family at this time. My schedule isn’t really – just being off at this point doesn’t mean your schedule thins out…It’s the time to really keep sprinting aheadm, keep charging ahead, so you use this opportunity, being seen on national TV all these weeks, to the best of your advantage.”