This time around, American Idol Alum, AJ Tabaldo sits down with De novo Magazine to discuss life after American Idol. As you will read, AJ is eager and busy working on networking and working on his music career.
AJ Tabaldo was a contestant on the mega-hit show, American Idol. Here, AJ performed alongside Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis, and Sanjaya Malakar. Destined to greatness, AJ crafted his music and voice in Santa Maria, CA. From small-town dreams to instant recognition, AJ Tabaldo just may have it all.
Tabaldo didn’t see his dreams come to pass with American Idol, but he is hopeful that his voice and charisma will take further. We think so too.
Moreno: AJ, thanks for joining me. Now that you have appeared on American Idol, I’m curious, what encouraged your interest with entertainment?
Tabaldo: I've been singing since I was 5 years old, so music and singing have always been an interest. I've never ever wanted to be anything else but a singer. I knew since I was 5 that it was what I wanted to do. I had my first performance when I was 12 at a local concert in my hometown, and since then I've been pursuing a career in music. I'm part Filipino, so as a kid I tried my luck in the Filipino industry as well as attempting to establish a career here in the states. So I've been interested and working at it for years.
Moreno: I guess your efforts have come to pass. However, didn’t you grow up in Santa Maria, CA? What was that like?
Tabaldo: I led a very good and happy childhood. Santa Maria is a fairly small town, so I would say that I was a little sheltered. I attended private school from Kindergarten all through High School, so I grew up with traditional Christian/Catholic Values. My childhood was pretty normal. Nothing too drastic or life changing happened to me. I also come from a HUGE family and I'm very family oriented. I was raised in a pretty stable environment throughout my whole life. I've got good parents! They raised me well and they provided for me and my sister.
Moreno: Have they always been supportive of your dreams?
Tabaldo: I personally think I've got the BEST family in the world! They are my number one supporters in everything I do. Never once did they discourage me in my choice to pursue music, my parents especially. They are my biggest fans and they want nothing more than to see me succeed.
Moreno: Success has a lot to do with personality and charisma in the music industry. What differentiates you from other artists?
Tabaldo: I think I'm different than other artists today because I like to think that I bring back that "feel good" sound. You know, the type of R&B music that just makes you feel good. Not the cookie-cutter sound that when you turn on the radio, everything sounds the same. I miss those days when it was all about making timeless music. Also, I think my ethnicity makes me a little different from what’s out there in mainstream music right now. I consider myself an "ethnic mutt", but I'm primarily Filipino. At the moment, the mainstream industry has yet to embrace an artist of Filipino/Asian decent, and I'm ready to break that barrier.
Moreno: How do you define success?
Tabaldo: To me, success mirrors happiness. If you are happy doing what you do, then I think that means you are successful. It doesn't matter how much money you make if you aren't enjoying what you are doing. Achieving your goals and doing what makes you happy is my definition of success.
Moreno: Let’s talk about your American Idol journey. Was it what you expected?
Tabaldo: Being on that American Idol stage was one of the best feelings I've ever felt in my life. The only tough part for me was performing for the cameras. I've been performing all my life, and I'm all about working the audience and connecting with the audience, so it was a little new for me to work the audience AND the cameras.
Moreno: What about the judges?
Tabaldo: I personally like the judges. They're normal people just like me and you. Of course they play a character for the show, so I remembered not to take them too seriously. They were actually pretty nice to me on and off the show.
Moreno: Describe the moment when Ryan informed you that your Idol journey was over? Did you see it coming? Or were you surprised at the results?
Tabaldo: It was so up in the air for me. A part of me was shocked, and a part of me had a feeling it was me going home. Based on the comments from the judges, I felt that I should have been safe. But at the same time, it’s a TV show. Not only was it a singing competition, it was a popularity contest too. I was officially "Sanjaya-ed.” Plus, I realized that I didn't get as much exposure in the beginning of the show, so it was a little hard for me to compete with other contestants who had more show time and established fan bases. I saw it coming.
Moreno: For the American Idol fans who can’t get enough, tell us what life is like behind the scenes. What’s a typically Idol day?
Tabaldo: I would describe it as fun hard work. We always had something going on. If we weren't rehearsing, we were shopping for our performance outfits. If we weren't picking songs, we were doing some kind of press interview. It was a job, but a fun job that we all had dreamed of finally doing.
Moreno: What do/did you make of the Sanjaya hype?
Tabaldo: No comment. Sanjaya was actually a really cool kid. I'm proud of him for making it as far as he did. He handled the public scrutiny and ridicule really well. Did I mention that he had great hair too! He probably doesn't even realize how famous he is. EVERYONE knows who he is. I don't get approached by a fan without a question or statement about Sanjaya.
Moreno: Who did you think was going to win Idol?
Tabaldo: To tell you the truth, a couple of contestants and myself called Jordin from the beginning. I think some of the talent this season was phenomenal, but there was something about Jordin. She had "it". From the voice to the name to the look. She had the whole package.
Moreno: Before you auditioned for American Idol, what were you doing?
Tabaldo: Before auditioning for Idol I was auditioning for Idol! This was my 5th year trying out, so it had been a long time coming for me. Before Idol, I was a Supervisor for UPS and I pursued my music on the side. Also, right before making Idol, I was scheduled to attend California State University Northridge. But I obviously had to put that one on hold.
Moreno: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Tabaldo: I think my strengths are my voice, my music, and my song writing. I feel my weakness at the moment is my fear of taking risks. I'm terrified to make the wrong decisions or direction and see my career in music go down the drain. I need to learn to just "go for it" sometimes. .
Moreno: Is there anything in the entertainment industry that bothers you?
Tabaldo: Image. Not that I'm unhappy with my image, or feel that my image isn't good enough for the entertainment industry. I just think that at this day it’s starting to overpower talent. And quite frankly, I think talent should come first.
Moreno: Outside your popularity, what does AJ ponder about? What questions about life do you struggle with, if any?
Tabaldo: I always wonder and question why things happen the way they do. They say things always happen for a reason, and I'm that person that wants to know that "reason" right away. All my life, things have come so easy for me. I was raised well, did good in school, had a really good job... but the ONE thing that I wanted to achieve was the hardest thing to get. I guess perhaps I'm being tested on how bad I want it, but it gets a little frustrating at times. I try to keep the faith and remind myself that God has a specific plan for me.
Moreno: In general, what annoys you? What brings you pleasure?
Tabaldo: What annoys me? Well a few pet peeves of mine are Fake/Ignorant people, dirty bathrooms, alarm clocks, and traffic! I HATE traffic! Especially in L.A. I just moved out here not too long ago, and I'm STILL not used to it. Oh and parking too, don't get me started! But on a brighter note, Music, spending time with my friends and family, and FOOD bring me pleasure.
Moreno: Do you still keep in contact with other idol members? If so, who?
Tabaldo: I still talk to almost everyone, but I've mostly kept in touch with Chris Richardson, Brandon Rogers, Paul Kim, Alaina, Sabrina, Jared. Everyone is so busy doing their own thing, so it’s a little hard to keep in touch. When things slow down for us I'm sure we'll have a reunion!
Moreno: AJ, you seem to know where you want to go and achieve, but is that ultimately what you want from life?
Tabaldo: I want happiness, noot only for myself, but for my friends and family as well. I want to have a successful music career, a family of my own, and a care-free happy go lucky life! Life is too short to stress over non-sense.
Moreno: Is this what you pray for?
Tabaldo: I ask God for strength, guidance, health, happiness and forgiveness. No one is perfect, and I'm glad that I have a God who is aware of that. I am grateful for all He has blessed me with, and I can't thank him enough for that. No matter what I am going through in life, I know that He is there for me every step of the way. What more could I ask for?