‘American Idol’ notes: Nick Fradiani interview, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 30: Recording artist Nick Fradiani performs during the 2016 Miss Teen USA Competition at The Venetian Las Vegas on July 30, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Posted on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Season 14 “American Idol” winner Nick Fradiani is not the biggest rock star out of Connecticut. He said that crown goes to John Mayer, who also spent some of his formative years in Atlanta.

“I’ve watched videos of him at Eddie’s Attic,” said Fradiani, who is performing October 18 at the City Winery Atlanta with his friends Alternate Routes. (tickets here.) “I guess that’s why he wrote the song, ‘Why Georgia?’ I’m a big Mayer fanatic!”

Fradiani is also mourning the loss of another hero of his Tom Petty, who died Monday night. He performed “American Girl” on “Idol” in 2015 and regularly includes Petty covers in his sets.

“It’s a huge bummer,” he said, of Petty’s death. “I was just playing his music as I was getting some merch in order. I’m just jamming out to him. It’s a sad day.”

For Fradiani, “Petty’s music always reminded me of California. I wanted to get out there one day and do my music. I still remember going to California for ‘America’s Got Talent.’ I was so excited. I was listening to Petty every day. His music spoke to me. It would make me want to make music. At 66, he should have a lot more years to live.”

He had fortunately been able to see Petty in concert over the summer in Hartford. “I’d seen a bunch of other shows since then with newer bands but Petty is still the best I’ve ever seen,” Fradiani said. “He was that good.”

No doubt he will do a Petty cover or two at City Winery. “I want to do ‘Wildflowers,’ ” he said. ‘That would be really cool. That’s one of my favorite songs.”

Fradiani recently split amicably from Scott Borchetta‘s Big Machine Records and 19 Entertainment and has built up his own team as an independent artist. “I’m still pretty close to Scott,” he said. “It just wasn’t the right fit. Scott needed a lot of help in the pop world from Universal Republic besides working with Taylor [Swift]. I was the only other pop person on the label so there was a disconnect. I kind of got a little lost. I felt forced into a weird lane that wasn’t fitting me too well.”

Although he did have a few minor hits off his first album, nothing really broke big a la Phillip Phillips’ “Home.” He is now working on his own EP and released a catchy single “I’ll Wait For You.”

The upside of independence is he has freedom to release music whenever he wants. The downside: he has to finance everything himself and do his own marketing. “I’m really enjoying the lack of red tape,” he said. “I just hope to play a bunch of shows and sell well. It all can work out. I’m trying to do this smart. It’s been interesting and fun and exciting.”

But Fradiani admits it’s a challenge gaining radio airplay and Spotify attention without a big label behind him. “”It’s not easy being on my own but luckily, I have a lot of good people with me,” he said. “I’m hitting the road grinding it out. I’m stubborn. I’d like to keep at this as long as they’ll let me!”

His new manager Jordan Burger also manages David Cook and Kris Allen, fellow “Idol” winners. “He’s done well with past Idols,” Fradiani said. “I wanted someone who could give me attention who would look out for my best interests.”

That would make a great combo tour bill and Fradiani isn’t against working with them. “I performed with them and Lee DeWyze and Phillip Phillips during the ‘Idol’ finale. That would be bada** the five of us!”

Yes, that would be the WGWG grand tour.

And like every single “Idol” alum I’ve spoken to, he thought the return of “Idol” on ABC was a bit premature But he hopes it works out. “A big part is how well the judges mesh together,” he said. “I think Luke Bryan is really good. And Lionel Richie is a legend. That’s going to be great. I don’t know about Katy Perry. We’ll see how that goes.”

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NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 11: CALIA lead designer, Carrie Underwood and her road trainer, Eve Overland lead a group workout to celebrate the line’s Fall/Winter 17 collection at West Edge on September 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Calia)

Nashville is hosting a hurricane benefit at Bridgestone Arena on November 12 called Country First featuring Carrie Underwood, George Strait, Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks. Others set to perform: Sam Hunt, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Martina McBride and Chris Stapleton.

The concert will benefit the Country Rising Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, a fund created to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, which have affected Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands.

With the Las Vegas shooting victims, there seems to be a ridiculous pile-up of causes to give money to.

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NEW YORK, NY – JULY 11: Fantasia performs onstage during the VH1 Hip Hop Honors: All Hail The Queens at David Geffen Hall on July 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for VH1)

Fantasia is coming to Cobb Energy Centre November 26 for a Christmas concert.

Tickets go on sale Friday, October 6 at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster.com.

She is releasing her first-ever holiday album “Christmas After Midnight” October 6.  The 12-track album was produced by Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, The Black-Eyed Peas) and includes some of Fantasia’s favorite holiday songs including “This Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” featuring vocals from Atlanta’s own CeeLo Green.

Besides Atlanta, Fantasia will visit major markets such as Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Nashville and New York before wrapping in Philadelphia on December 14.

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“Idol” singles action:

Kelly Clarkson “Love So Soft” #12 Hot AC, #24 top 40 (climbing)

Phillip Phillips “Miles” #20 Hot AC (climbing)

Scotty McCreery “Five More Minutes” #34 country (stalled)

Lauren Alaina “Doin’ Fine” #45 country (stalled)

Danny Gokey “The Comeback” #10 Christian AC (stalled)

Mandisa “Bleed the Same” #30 Christian AC (debut)

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Clay Aiken tweet of the week:

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