Skylar Laine's personal idol didn't win her talent show, either.
Miranda Lambert, the singer the 18-year-old from Mississippi views as a musical role model, finished third on Nashville Star back in 2003. So Skylar knows she's got something to look forward to, even though viewers eliminated the young country singer Thursday.
"That is a comfort," Skylar said by phone Friday morning. "And Kellie Pickler didn't win American Idol. And look where they are. I want to follow in their footsteps."
That path, of course, leads to Nashville, and Skylar hopes to be there soon. "That's where I want to be," she says. "I love Nashville. Mississippi's my home, but Nashville's second home, definitely."
Skylar's already familiar with Music City, having gone there to write songs and record demos before Idol. One of her writing partners then was Deborah Allen, who had an early '80s crossover hit with Baby I Lied and also penned No. 1 country hits for Janie Fricke and John Conlee.
"I love collaborating with other artists," she says.
Skylar especially wants to write with Hillary Lindsey, who has co-written such Carrie Underwood hits as Jesus, Take the Wheel, Last Name and Wasted.
"She's amazing, writes with all the country singers," she says. "I just want to collaborate with a bunch of different people and write as much as I can."
For the immediate future, Skylar's keeping her fingers crossed for a trip to next month's CMA Music Festival in Nashville. It's the traditional introduction point to Nashville for country-singing Idols, and Skylar got to see Lambert perform there a few years ago.
That's where I really want to be," she says. "I came one year as a fan. Now, maybe, I'll be there as an artist."
On Idol, Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine praised Skylar's ability to tell the story of a song, but she says they didn't have a chance to talk much about plans for her beyond the show.
"He just said he thought I was going to have a really long career, and I hope that's true," she says. "I really want to be singing country music for the rest of my life."
Skylar says she hopes to make "a really country album. I don't want to be pop at all. I want steel guitar, honky-tonk songs, real country music. What it really is. Talkin' about guns and all that kind of stuff."
Earlier in the season, Carrie Underwood sent gifts to Skylar and the other finalists. Skylar's was a Tiffany's necklace with a heart and an inscription that read "Love, CU" on the back. "I think I wore it once on the show, but I wear it more every day," she says. When the finalists met Carrie yesterday, "she just told us all to be ourselves. I would love to get to talk to her about her whole career, how she's done. I love her as an artist. She's very sweet. She's an inspiration, too." (After the show, Carrie tweeted her, saying, "You're amazing, girl! Now hurry up and get to Nashville!")
A couple of weeks ago, Skylar tweeted that listening to country singer Justin Moore's Outlaws Like Me album before she went out on stage for the Idol results show always calmed her down. Justin saw the tweet and responded to her.
"I love him so much," Skylar says. "I'm obsessed. I jam out to his music every single day, him and Miranda Lambert are my inspirations."
When Ryan Seacrest announced Skylar's elimination from the Idol competition, Hollie, one of her best friends on the show, began crying, but Skylar just grinned.
"I was just relieved, you know," she says. I was happy for what I had done on the show, but I was ready to rock out, and I wasn't going to let my last performance be mediocre. I was going to go out there and rock it out.