Stephanie Sokol for The Pit
On Thursday night, Ben Briley became the first male contestant eliminated from American Idol season XIII.
Briley said his song choice (Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets”), which broke away from his traditional country performances and spotlighted his piano skills, was probably the reason he was eliminated.
While it disappointed him, he wasn’t shocked, though he did feel “thrown under the bus” by the judges, who originally encouraged him to step outside of his comfort zone and do something different.
“It stung a little because the whole purpose is that I am a little different and I wanted to show that,” Briley said. “For one contestant they’ll say, ‘you’re consistent but we need you to change,’ but then they’ll say to someone else, ‘you don’t need to pinch around.’ But when somebody does take a big step forward to show a different side, it gets shot down on national television.”
“I wasn’t the weakest but I was definitely one of the weaker ones. I knew I would be in the bottom three, but I was surprised to go home, mainly because I wasn’t ready to go home, because I had a lot of plans of what I was going to do. but now I’m going to go home and figure out where I’m going to take my career from here.”
Choosing a more rock-style song was Briley’s way of showing his diversity. While he loves country and wants to make his career in the genre, he also has strong appreciation for rock and other music styles. He wanted to bring a new angle of himself to the stage, and show off his piano skills.
“It was definitely surprising (to be first guy eliminated). I didn’t expect to go home so soon,” Briley said. “But I chalk it up to that song– that was definitely the reason. I wanted to stick around as long as i possibly could, but everything happens for a reason, and this was a good reason– it couldn’t have happened at a better time, I was getting really homesick.”
Despite getting the boot, Briley enjoyed his time on idol. The Tennessee-native said he learned a lot about himself. From his first performance onstage to running past cheering fans in the tunnel, Briley said it was an exciting experience.
“During the audition when I went to Hollywood, i didn’t think i would get to go, but then they wanted me there. That gave me ambition and drive to do well in the show,” Briley said.
Working with the judges, including sessions with Randy Jackson, help Briley improve his singing. He said he has gained a lot musically from his time on Idol.
“I’d probably say the best piece of advice would be don’t sacrifice your performance for your artistry,” Briley said. “Keith told me the first week. and it really hit home for me, and i didn’t really understand it until I went back and watched it later. But it’s true. That was probably the most down to earth advice i got while on the show.”
Living close to Nashville, Briley said he hopes to play in the “music city,” and make some music. But for now, it’s time to relax and take it easy, as he returns to his wife, and hometown.
“Really, when I get home, I’m going to take about a four-day nap, and somebody needs to buy me a steak,” Briley said. “Then I’ll figure out what’s next. I’m going to go back to work, and I live 30 minutes outside of music city, so shouldn’t be too hard to book shows and find people who want to listen. My goal is to have a single on the radio by the end of the year.”