Sonika Vaid – American Idol
Q) I was wondering if you could tell us what’s next for you? What do you see yourself doing from here? I know in one of your intro-packages, you talked about really being focused on education prior to this show.
Sonika: Yes, well prior to this—so, I’m still in college; I’m a biology major. I definitely plan, at some point, to finish my degree, get my degree in biology, major that. I think, for right now, I’m going to focus on music. I think this whole experience has really opened my mind up to the idea of doing this professionally. I’m really excited about it. I’ve always wanted to work with people like Disney. I’ve grown up watching Disney movies and watching Disney Channel. I just love the music that they put out and just their whole vibe almost. I love Disney Channel. Also, I plan on writing songs because prior to all this I had written a few songs, but never really sung. Now I’m definitely going to take my song writing more seriously and really think about maybe releasing a few singles or even an album one day.
Q) How much experience have you had performing prior to Idol?
Sonika: Prior to Idol, I had not had any experience. When I would sing for the high school, it was just very, very quickly and—when I was in high school, I mean. It was very quick and I didn’t really focus on performing more as just like being heard because that was the way, in high school, how people started to realize who I was. Because in the beginning of my high school career, I felt like I was invisible. I kind of was because I was so shy and low key. When I sang for the first time, it made people realize, oh, she sings.Prior to all this, I just sang in chorus and maybe once a year at school.
Q) You got very emotional after your elimination which we actually haven’t seen from many previously eliminated contests before you. It seems like you weren’t really prepared for that news, I guess, is that the case and, also, where was that emotion coming from? I know you were going to miss out on the big hometown hero welcome so I don’t know if that played a role, for instance.
Sonika: No, I think I was just so emotional because it wasn’t so much that I didn’t think I was going to get cut because I always prepare myself for that every single time we go in there. I honestly thought sometime around Hollywood Week I was going home for sure. I think I was crying more for the fact that this experience of sharing my whole entire day with people who share the same passion as me is kind of coming to an end. I mean, I’m still going to keep in touch with them, but I won’t get to see some of my best friends every day, and that’s sad. Also, just being able to work with the band, in this show, you really get to work with a lot of amazing people so I think it was more sadness from that. I think it was just a very in-the-moment thing. I feel like I saw it coming, to say the least, because I had been in the bottom for the past two weeks with the judges’ saves. I definitely was prepared for it. I always prepare myself for it.
Q) There are some contestants left in the competition who have never landed in the bottom. Because of that, did you sort of feel like an underdog, and if so, did that stress, or maybe extra pressure, make the competition a little less enjoyable for you? Do you know what I mean? Say, for someone like La’Porsha or Trent who kind of glide through week to week.
Sonika: I don’t really have the biggest social media following at the moment, so there’s always that kind of thing, but the people who do follow me are very engaged and very supportive. I didn’t really feel like an underdog; I felt like I belong there. We all just get along so well that it’s like we don’t really think like that, I think. We’re just one big family, and we treat each other equally. I felt like I was part of the gang.
Q) I was wondering, you said you had an inkling that you could leave this week. Did knowing that make it difficult to prepare your song? You put all that work into preparing two songs, and you didn’t get to sing them.
Sonika: Every single week I prepare myself to get cut, but I always try my hardest to put my effort into the songs that I get every week because there always is that opportunity of oh, you’re getting saved or oh, you’re not in the bottom. I prepare myself for everything, I think. I still take the songs into account and really perform them to the best of my ability during rehearsal, during when I practice on my own. I love making things my own, too. That’s always something I do.
Q) Was the process of choosing songs difficult for you or how did you go about that?
Sonika: Choosing songs, it wasn’t that difficult for me. There were moments where—because I sang some pretty well-known songs where I feel like I could have gotten mixed feedback, and I probably did. I sang Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing, and that really could have gone in either direction; people could have hated it or loved it. That one was obviously a hard choice. For the most part, I just picked songs that I really feel and that I connect to. Even if I can’t say that the story of the song is true to me, there’s just some songs where I relate to the melody or the chords even; it doesn’t have to be the words necessarily. I usually don’t have too hard of a time picking songs.
MJ: Did you have any songs picked out for next week? Can you tell me what that was?
Sonika: Next week were the judges’ picks, Scott Borchetta’s picks, and then my hometown song. My hometown was actually up in the air. There’s two songs. One was going to be Come Away With Me by Norah Jones, and I was going to play the piano for the first time. That’s something I had not gotten to do on the show; that would have been cool. The other one was To Where You Are by Josh Grobin. That was for my grandfather who had passed away when I was in eighth grade, and it’s more so a dedication song that hometown song. Scott’s pick for me was Flame by Cheap Trick, and then the judges’ pick for me was I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. I feel like I would have had some fun with that—all of the songs. They were all great choices.
Q) You mentioned Disney. Did you feel like a princess in some of those outfits? You looked so beautiful.
Sonika: Yes; even for the dark songs. When I sang Evanescence, they put me in this beautiful gown that made me feel like I was going to the Oscars. The wardrobe team is just insane. The dress that I was going to wear for Love Me Back To Life was just breathtaking. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to wear it because it’s really beautiful. They worked really hard on it, too.
Q) You worked with some amazing mentors. Who was your favorite? What did you learn from Steve Van Zandt and Sia this week?
Sonika: Sia is really nice. She’s a sweet person. She gave me the advice of having fun. She said you have a beautiful voice and that I’m—I think she said I was very marketable is what she said, which is kind of insane because it’s coming from Sia. She’s one of the greats in my opinion. She said just to have fun and enjoy yourself because she said now that you have the singing down, you just really need to enjoy yourself.
There was a moment where I’m not sure if they would have shown you it, but it was when she mentored me. I sang a note in her song, Love Me Back To Life, that she wrote for Celine Dion. I sang a note and I hit it but it didn’t sound and it didn’t feel passionate. I think it was just because I was nervous about it. She gave me that hint of advice of just let it go, almost just like let it pour out of you. I did it two seconds later, and it just felt different. She gave some really great advice.
Q) You finished in the top five. As you may or may not know, last year, they sent top five out on tour; have you heard anything at all about what they’re going to do with you this summer?
Sonika: I have no idea. No one’s told me anything yet. There’s always surprises though. I’m not sure.
Q) Harry said that his favorite part was watching you talking to Ryan Seacrest about yourself. Hearing that, I wanted to know what you thought about that and then, also, are you more aware of that now and is that going to change how you are going to present yourself to your fans?
Sonika: I admire the fact that he took the time to say that because that means a lot coming from someone like him, that he sees who I am just from the two seconds that he hears me talk. I honestly never really spoke to Ryan Seacrest, I think, on stage at least. I’ve spoken to him behind the scenes but not on stage just because I think I rush off after my performance. I think I’m just going to stay true to myself. That’s the advice I heard from that. My family is really important to me, and my parents, they raised me with really great morals. I couldn’t have had better parents. I think that I will present myself like that throughout my career.
Q) Being one of the last performers on American Idol, what is your advice to performers following their dream without an avenue like Idol?
Sonika: I would definitely say don’t be afraid to put your music online and YouTube and Instagram and Vine and all these—there’s so many ways, now that you can be heard. I think it’s very important to just put yourself out there, and stay true to who you are is also a really big one. I think that that’s very key. Being someone who didn’t really post that much on Instagram, I’m seeing how much people affect others with their Instagram videos. There’s some really successful people that started from YouTube. I mean, Justin Bieber started from YouTube. I think that’s a really big thing.
Q) What do you think was the best takeaway from the judge panel through your journey?
Sonika: Yes, of course. The best piece of advice that just rang true throughout the entire season for me, I would say, is just the aspect of letting go. I feel like I’ve started to let go a lot more, I think. As I watch myself back, I feel and I see how much I’ve changed, and I’m not even trying to sound full of myself. I say that because I really feel like a changed person. This whole experience has really shaped me and pushed me to limits where I thought were never possible.
Q) What can we expect from you as an artist going forward? What type of music, exactly, would you like to make?
Sonika: I would definitely—well, Disney’s always a thing that I’ve dreamed of. I’m not sure if that will be an option, but that’d be really awesome. Then, also, pop, I really like pop and mixed with a little bit of R&B. Now that I’ve sang rock on the show, that’s always an option, but pop is something that I’m really going to just stick to.
Q) Based on how the voting has turned out every week, have you seen a little bit of a pattern in that the girls have trouble getting as many votes as the cute guys, basically?
Sonika: I mean that’s always—everyone thinks that, I think. The guys are very talented. They do deserve, and so does La’Porsha. All four of them really deserve to be there, and they’re all so talented. I wish them the best. The cute guy thing is a very funny concept.
Q) I was just going to ask if it sort of helped you take your elimination a little bit better, maybe less personally. You know what I mean, like a guy versus girl thing?
Sonika: I never thought of it like that, but that’s funny. Thank you.
Q) I’d love to know what your favorite love song is or your favorite ballad to perform.
Sonika: From the show, I would say I Surrender is a really good one. In terms of love songs, I would definitely say My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion is probably a really iconic love song.
Q) What were your favorite performances from the show, from this season?
Sonika: Bring Me To Life, I’d say was probably my favorite performance, only because that was the performance that really made me feel like I can do this, that I do have the confidence somewhere in me to really perform and push myself to the limits that I thought were never possible and get out of my bubble.
Q) When you are singing these love songs, how do you channel all of these emotions? Because it definitely comes through in your performances. It’s great.
Sonika: Thank you. Being away from my family is very—I miss them a lot. I kind of channel my love for my family, and I put that through my songs. That energy goes into all the love ballads and the songs that I sing, all the
Q) I was wondering if you will consider leaving Massachusetts, like maybe moving to Nashville or to Los Angeles to pursue your dreams?
Sonika: I definitely think it’s in the cards. That’s definitely a possibility. I have to definitely figure out what I want to do, because I miss my family so much all the time. My mom does, too. She’s always out here with me. She won’t let me go anywhere alone. That’s not a bad thing. I definitely think it’s in the cards for me to move to Los Angeles or Nashville, yes.
Q) If you could name your first album, what would it be and why?
Sonika: Maybe like Infinity or something like that. I think that that’s a pretty—I think it’s a very powerful word because—well, I wrote a song called Infinity. That’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written. It’s empowering, I think, and it’s about living life to infinity. It makes you feel limitless almost.
Q) Are you a prolific songwriter? Is that something you do a lot or you like to do?
Sonika: Before college, yes, I used to write a lot of songs. I think I have 15 songs written, maybe like 10 of them recorded. I kind of stopped before college because college, lots of homework, I didn’t really have time for it. I’m definitely going to pick that back up.
Q) Do you compose on the piano?
Sonika: I do compose on the piano, yes. I play by ear. That’s always something that I’ve enjoyed doing, playing by ear.
Q) Now, MacKenzie was asked about being on The Voice versus American Idol, and he said that Idol allowed him to be more of himself. Do you share that? With Idol, it’s the final season and you have the experience from both shows. Do you agree with MacKenzie’s assessment?
Sonika: I do, I do completely. He couldn’t have been more right in saying that. American Idol really morphs you and helps you to become a better version of yourself, I think. They make you feel like you can push yourself, and it’s okay. They honestly, I think, they strive for us to be the best that we can be. You couldn’t ask for anything better than that, I think. It was just a great experience overall. No regrets at all.
Q) I just want a little insight into how you came up with the two songs that you were going to sing last night and, also, can you talk a little bit about the selection process in terms of whether you ever felt conflicted between doing a song you wanted versus the mentors or the producers and whether you felt any pressure at times?
Sonika: We usually get—sometimes they will give us the liberty to choose our own song, and sometimes they will suggest songs for us. I never really had a problem with any suggestions because they are so spot on with their suggestion. Scott’s really smart at picking music for us. I feel like he knows us really well, and he also knows this business very well. He’s very, very intelligent. The judges’ choice for me, I think, that I would have sang next week, is also very smart too. It’s right in the ballpark that I would be singing in.
Q) Is there one contestant in particular you’re rooting for? Assuming you’re going to say all of them, do you have, maybe, a prediction of who will win? Could you take a guess, maybe?
Sonika: It’s funny because I couldn’t even answer that even if I wanted to. I genuinely think they are all so different and so talented. America has a really hard decision. I think anyone there deserves to win. They’re really great.
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you?
Sonika: Thank you to all of you guys and to my fans and everyone who supported me. I just wanted to thank you so much for all the love and support. It’s just been so great. I never thought I would be where I am today. If you told me that I was going to be doing American Idol a year ago and make it this far, I would have laughed and been like there’s no way I’m going to be singing in front of millions of people. My God, my life I feel like has changed so much, and it’s for the better. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity. Even conference calls like this make me feel important. This is so special. I don’t know if people wanted my social media information or not, but it’s just my first name and my last name, Sonika Vaid. If you want to follow me, I’ll follow you back. Tweet me, anything. Thank you so much, guys, for this opportunity. It’s really awesome.