My final interview shot backstage at the recent Idols Live Tour concert at Los Angeles's Staples Center is with 10th-place contestant Michael Sarver, but ironically, Michael is the man who kicks off the Idols Live concert every night, performing first and setting the tone for the entire evening. That's a high-pressure position for any performer to be in, especially at a gigantic arena like the Staples, but judging from Michael's laid-back demeanor during our talk that day, he's handling his duty like a pro and totally enjoying himself.
Michael and I chatted but what it meant to him to perform again in L.A. (and to perform where the memorial for his favorite artist, Michael Jackson, had been held just a week earlier), and how the song he chose to sing as the tour's all-important opening number is a sort of shout-out to his much-missed wife back in Texas. Check out the video below, along with a full transcript:
REALITY ROCKS: So, we are here with Michael Sarver. And how does it feel that just about six weeks ago you were across the street at the much smaller Nokia Live [for the American Idol finale], and now here you are at the Staples Center, which is pretty much the biggest, or one of the biggest, venues in the country?
MICHAEL: Oh you know, from the very beginning when we found out about this tour, this has been a special date in our minds. Number one, because L.A. has become a second home to all of us. I mean, we all live in different places, but I remember getting on the plane yesterday and thinking that I was going "home." It felt like I was coming home, 'cause we lived here for so long. And it's a special place, 'cause this is where it birthed for us. Not to mention...this is the Staples Center! I mean, come on! It don't really get any cooler than that! Every city we go to is going to be just as cool as the next, but for us, the Staples Center is very special, just because of what it represents in the world of entertainment. It's hosted so many great things--for instance, the tribute to Michael Jackson. The fact that we stand in the same building and sing after such a monumental moment happened in the Staples Center...I don't know if there's even been any other events [in the Staples venue] since that happened here.
REALITY ROCKS: Not anything major, just the [Ringling Brothers] circus.
MICHAEL: Yeah, or the game, yeah. So it's very special for us to be part of this, and I hope we can carry him on through what we do.
REALITY ROCKS: Now actually, that brings me to...the song you do on the Idols album ["You Are Not Alone"] is a Michael Jackson song, right?
MICHAEL: Yes, I was very excited to find out that it made it on the album. It was my favorite week on the show [Michael Jackson Week], it was the most meaningful song that I sang, and Michael Jackson's probably my all-time most inspirational artist. Probably just like everybody else in music could say the same thing. And it is a huge, huge honor that my first official release of anything was a Michael Jackson song. I'll carry that for the rest of my life.
REALITY ROCKS: Very cool! Now, I saw the Idols tour last year, so if the structure is the same, it starts with the 10th-place person, right?
REALITY ROCKS: So you open the show!
MICHAEL: I'm first, yeah!
REALITY ROCKS: That's a lot of pressure!
MICHAEL: Not at all! I love it. I prefer it! There's this fresh life and energy and the fans are just pumped and going crazy 'cause they're ready for a show, and I come out there and it gives me a chance to be a leader. I believe that I've been born to be a leader. And so here I am, leading it off. It's been great. I was excited about it when I knew that was how it was going to be, and I'm still excited about it after I've done it a few times.
REALITY ROCKS: When you were trying to think of a song that's basically going to kick off the entire show, like, how did you pick a song that would set the tone?
MICHAEL: Well, to set the tone, number one, it had to be rockin'. It had to be an upbeat song, it had to have some nice guitar in it, and more than anything it had to say what I want to say the most in life: And that is, that I'm "In Love With A Girl."
REALITY ROCKS: Aw!
MICHAEL: That's by Gavin DeGraw. I love love, and that's what I speak about more than anything, and that's what I say first thing on the stage. And that's awesome.
REALITY ROCKS: Is your wife on the tour with you, or coming to any of the dates?
MICHAEL: She's not going to be traveling on the tour, but she is going to be at a couple of the spots. Her and my kids are all going to be at the Glendale [Arizona] show, just because of the time--we have a day off before and a day off after the show, so it's time to spend and hang out with each other. So they'll be there.
REALITY ROCKS: Is it difficult being apart?
MICHAEL: Absolutely. It's not something I think I'll ever get used to. People ask, "Are you adjusting?"--and I just can't say that I am. It hurts every day, but we do it for a good reason.
REALITY ROCKS: Yeah, well I'm sure you're looking forward to the reunion with your family, and I'm sure they'll be proud to see you perform.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. [19 Entertainment person tells me to wrap it up...boo!]
REALITY ROCKS: I'm being told you must be whisked away to another interview, but good luck--and I'll see you onstage tonight, kicking off the show!
- Michael Jackson
- Staples Center
- Michael Sarver