Idology: Hollie Cavanagh on Diva Ballads, Deadly Heels and Why She Initially Hated 'Bleeding Love'

Hollie Cavanagh fans still upset by the tough feedback she got from American Idol judges over the course of Season 11, breathe easy. As Kelly Clarkson likes to say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and indeed, that’s Hollie’s philosophy about her rollercoaster journey to a fourth-place finish.

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In a freewheeling Idology interview, Hollie talks about what exactly made her cry so hard during her near-disastrous Season 10 audition, which lessons she learned from fellow contestant and close friend Joshua Ledet, how she was inspired by the Idol run of Haley Reinhart, why she still winces a little over her performance of “Save Me,” and which Season 11 outfit she’ll never forget. Plus, she delves into her love of diva ballads, her weakness for super high heels, and her penchant for digging in said heels when people tell her “no.”

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So press play below for the two-part Hollie Cavanagh experience, and for all my Idol news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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67 Comments
  1. jiji33 says:

    adele is a dive who belts high notes and she sells! the problem is that everyone sticks to what sells…that’s boring. at the end of the day, it’s the original artists that make it. even katy perry and rihanna who are not great artists are unique and have their own way of being and singing.

    • tarc says:

      And Adele arrived at 19 in a wave of early 60′s music that came (and went) in the UK. *Then* she crossed over in the US after having already been established in the UK. And you really can’t look at Adele as the rule, but the exception: the voice of the generation nearly always breaks all the rules. Hollie is absolutely correct: you can put those power ballads on the album, but you’d better have those iTunes singles in genres that are current if you want to succeed. The great thing is that she’ got a great, flexible voice and she’s so young! She’ll be able to do anything, and she’ll continue to grow explosively as she really becomes a pro and get exposed to the professional world.

      • jiji33 says:

        I dont like it when the power motivating teenagers is selling records rather than creating art.deadly capitalism is– when the only way to measure art is money– pop culture remains mediocre. moreover, i dont believe anyone becomes really big by simply following the rules of success. The very successful artists generate sth new.

        • Brigette says:

          Yes, thank you. People may have one-hit-wonders when they copy what is already out there, but doing something original and different is what makes a CAREER.

        • zaza says:

          But I think it’s very smart of her to be aware of the fact that it IS a business. You can be as artistic as you want, but at the end of the day, if the album doesn’t make money, you will be dropped from the label. The trick is to find something you love that also resonates with the music-buying public.

        • macy says:

          Agreed! That’s why I love Phillip — he said he’d rather sell 10,000 copies of a record he’s proud of than a million copies of a record that he’s not proud of.

      • jiji33 says:

        another note- any winehouse– huge voice. people love it, the music has to be good though.

        • SallyinChicago says:

          I agree with Comment byJIJI: Holly has a strong voice, but I see her on Broadway for some reason….ala Julie Andrews. It would be hard to find a “power” song for her to record.

    • MA says:

      Adele is a “dive”?

    • Lee says:

      The problem I had with Hollie and why I never voted for her was I didn’t knew what kind of artist she was. I guess there’s something to be said for someone who sings power ballads, country music, R&B, disco because it makes them versatile. But it only confused me, and I found it difficult to relate to her. The same can be said for Colton–singing everything from Lifehouse to Lady Gaga. That’s why I liked Jessica, Joshua, Phillip and Elise. I knew what kind of music they would make, and it was that type of music that I listen to anyway.

      • jiji33 says:

        jessica said that she was pigeonholed into this music and that she is not a pop singer at all. she wants to do more blues r n b stuff

      • SallyinChicago says:

        I love Holly’s voice, but somehow to me, the voice and the body don’t go together. It’s like Jessica and the big voice. I can hear her, but I can’t watch her….like Jacky Evanko(?) the opera singer. I can hear her but can’t watch her, bec body and voice don’t match. I would believe Holly if she was in a Broadway musical, I think she would be cute in a musical.

    • Idol watcher says:

      Jiji33- that’s where you are somewhat wrong. Katy Perry, is actually a very good singer when she does her thing, which is stand in front of an audience and play acoustic songs on her guitar. But, those songs haven’t sold very well for her. It’s the big, theatrical, dancing, pop songs where she sounds less than stellar that have proven time and time again to sell well for her, and that’s where Hollie is right.
      You still have to be “you”, but you have to stretch yourself to appeal to many listeners. You can still include songs you like and prefer to sing (like Katy’s acoustic songs that actually have good lyrics), but they probably won’t sell well as singles.

    • SallyinChicago says:

      Well I don’t know about that….but Holly is not special as a singer….and I don’t see her as a star, except maybe in a Broadway play.

  2. Harrison says:

    I loved Hollie this season and I will follow her throughout her music career!

    • forrest says:

      Agreed. Looking back on the season with this interview, Hollie remains my favorite performer of the season. Thank you Michael for this interview. Great retrospective of her time on Idol.

    • the real wendy says:

      YAWN….yawn……

  3. Heni says:

    Love the accent. American with a touch of scouse, BRILLIANT.

  4. t.t says:

    lol at michael’s comment about haley “It doesn’t mean she wasn’t the best person in season 10.” you should’ve said ” and she was the best person of season 10″

  5. MA says:

    Hollie bunny!!! What a pear-fect way to spend my afternoon!

  6. buffy522 says:

    Hollie is really a good singer and has a sweet personality. Good luck to her in this crazy music bizz.

    • zaza says:

      I agree 100% with what you said and I want to applaud you for making such a nice, positive comment. I wish more people would do this!

  7. livvy says:

    She was my favorite

    • Mary B says:

      Phillip is my favorite but Holly was my second favorite. I love her voice and the beautiful tone of it. I found I enjoyed her music more then Jessica because there were times Jessica tone was harsh to my ears, not so with Holly. The reason I preferred Phillip to her was because of his originality which I did not see with her. I have so much music that sounds like her. I truly wish her success. She is a sweet kid and with the right direction I think she can be amazing.

  8. lovesickheroine says:

    It’s sooo unfair that the judges seem to critiqued all the girls harsher than the guys.

  9. CatLyons says:

    Hollie was my favorite! Great interview!!

  10. Zach says:

    I hope she get’s signed out of any of the top 4. Such a quality voice and person. :)

  11. Tommyo2000 says:

    Michael … your interviews are great, but I get the willies when I see you doing this in a conference room .. it reminds me of a job interview … next year do it from a couch/living room setting .. like the Haley interview last year … so much warmer …

    • Lunakit says:

      ^^THIS!!!^^

      Or even the restaurant set up from Season 10. …

      Or for that matter, even in a van down by the river… just *not* a conference room. It scares us.

  12. Suggestor says:

    Hollie has so many options to her career and she does not have to stick to what is selling now, because what sells now is a trend and trends move faster than generating content that stays on top of it. By the time you come out with something worthwhile, the trend may have shifted. She just has to be aware of what she has to offer, maybe even overlooking the other avenues such as being part of Broadway or TV. She’s someone that most people like. That SELLS and can’t be manufactured. I do believe the sound and performance she had for that Madonna song was the perfect range for her.

  13. MA says:

    My god…what a darling girl she is, so charming and likeable and smart, and a little bit snarky. I love that. Honestly, I hope Hollie doesn’t get signed right away. She’s just so young. I’d rather see her go to college, learn more about music, cut her teeth on life, and figure out how she wants to handle things and what she wants to do…and then find her big success. Shoving a bunch of wide-eyed kids into the cutthroat music biz and then shaping and molding them until they’re dropped for the next big thing just isn’t my idea of a good time. I like Hollie too much for that.

    • My Alter Ego says:

      I must agree with you MA. As always, Mr. Slezak brings out the human side of these contestants, and Hollie comes across as even more “girl next door:” adorable, refreshing, smart, and loveable (with a slight side of snark — I didn’t expect that).

      I truly wish her the very best!! And that best would probably happen if she tends to school for a bit and gets a bit more experience under her belt. She has a beautiful voice and, with a little more training and (quite a bit) more maturity, when she, once again, unleashes that voice to us, it could be AMAZING!

  14. tewence says:

    she is SO dang cute!! and likeable! wow…i hope big things happen for her.

  15. Hollie seemed a lot like Pia only not quite as large a range and not as full and resonant as Pia. But a beautiful tone and with the same inclination to the big ballads a la Whitney and Celine.

  16. laurie says:

    She was my favorite! I wish she could have tried out for the Glee Project. I just love her voice.
    Agree about the change of venue from the conference room to something more comfortable.

  17. marygrace says:

    Thank you for another great interview. Really enjoyed it.

  18. Lo says:

    Wow that was a great interview. Hollie seems very self-aware in terms of what she did right/wrong in the competition and where she wants her career to go. Good luck to her!

  19. karenb says:

    At least put some flowers in the boardroom, Slezak! :)

  20. asherlev1 says:

    Ugh. She is SO adorable.

    Wonderful interview as always! :D

  21. Princess Adora says:

    Thank you Michael!! I love you Hollie :D

  22. Sha says:

    She’s so cute! She had a great run and I wish her the best. LOVE that she commented on jlo’s ??feedback?? for Flashdance “starting slow” and then “building up”. Obviously :/

  23. Sha says:

    sorry, but I disagree about the red pantsuit. Hollie if you’re reading this, NEVER wear that again. It aged you by like 25 years. Stick with dresses

  24. Ken Holly says:

    You bet we’re upset: rule number two is don’t mess with Texas and rule number one is don’t mess with Hollie Cavanagh of Texas…

  25. WishesRandyCouldn'tSpeak says:

    Warning: Long post :P

    Ohh Hollie, my wonderful Hollie! Last year when Haley was jipped I swore to never watch this show ever again.

    Then, this year I tuned in to Hollywood rounds and was literally just about to stop watching until — her face appeared on the screen and I shouted “I KNOW THIS GIRL! I LIKED HER LAST YEAR!” and then I began to watch just for Hollie. Seriously, and what made it more exciting/annoying for me was that I would see glimpses of Hollie more than anyone – however they would never damn introduce her. So I kept on watching until I saw how far she made it cuz at that point I was rooting for her without knowing any complete story etc…was basing it off the faintest memory I had from last year.

    So then I watched until I saw her face cheering in a random holding room which indicated that she made it to the next round, and then after seeing her constantly cheering for each contestant making it to the live shows like the sweetheart she is, she was FINALLY in and the LAST girl to be shown make it into the top 24…(seriously Idol way to make me nervous for the whole 2-day episode). And from that, I rooted for her till the end and am SO GLAD I did!!

    Truly my favorite contestant of this season and one of my favorite contestants ever on this show, and she is so super sweet/adorable/nice/humble/understanding etc…. so young yet so willing to take any criticism and never complain about it and move forward.

    This girl right here is the reason I began to watch again and am so glad cuz it was such a great season, I love you Hollie Cavanagh!!!!! :D

    I hope you become so successful – you deserve it! :)

  26. Janet says:

    I loved Hollie. She’s so sweet and took the critique so graciously, for an 18 year old she certainly handles herself extremely well. I’m impressed by her maturity and intelligence for someone so young. Hated the way the judges critiqued her. If Steven and Jennifer got critiqued on their performances, it’d be interesting to hear the comments. I watched Steve Tylers performance on the finale, it was embarrasing and painful, no wonder it was the lowest finale ratings ever. Hollie is marketable, she can do a great British accent, has charm and personality. I can see her doing an Alice in Wonderland or a Peter Pan production, tables always turn.

    • WisconsinKevin says:

      she can do a great British accent because she was BORN in Liverpool , England and lived there the first eight or so years of her life !

      She was my favorite contestant this season and when she was in the bottom two with Heejun in Top 9 week I thought she was a goner. I am so happy she turned it around starting with “Perfect” ( which I loved even though the judges didn’t like it ), Rolling in the Deep and on and on all the way to make the Top 4. For all the people who said she was “stiff and boring” go back and watch “River Deep Mountain High” from Top 5 week ! Hollie moved all around and sang that song great without missing a beat.

      It pissed me off when Hollie got the Siobhan Magnus/Haley treatment when the judges, instead of saying in a concise manner they didn’t like one of her performances , would go ON and ON and ON for minutes about how much they didn’t like it instead of being brief ( think of Hollie doing “Save Me” ) it seemed to me they would drone on to try to discourage people at home not to vote for her

      Hollie does have a sizable fan base- she was able to outlast in successive weeks Colton, Elise and then Skylar ( I liked all three of them ) on her way to the Top 4. Around our house we like to imitate Hollie when she said “Peh-fect is the peh-fect song for me to try to be peh-fect ! ” Looking forward to seeing her in Milwaukee on September 11

      • McFudge says:

        This criticism that Jennifer Lopez gave after Save Me clinched it as never before that she just didn’t like the girl and never would. She rambled and rambled until she finally came up with…….have fun singing Save Me????? Really, Jennifer? I hope you had the grace to be ashamed of yourself when you watched the playback. (I crack me up.)

  27. noa says:

    i really want to see her in a group. something like the Spice Girls for this generation. she’s a great singer and she’s very likable, i just think that having another person on stage with her makes her even better.

  28. Jeannie says:

    Hollie just reeks of talent! She had the hardest journey (which had so many obstacles I don’t even want to go into) of all the idols and yet managed to deftly strap on her hiking boots and attack that mountain. She was a pleasure to watch ( actually the only reason I watched the show) and became someone to truly admire each week in regards to how she handled herself ( and at such a tender young age). I wish only the best for Hollie because she truly deserves it!

    • WishesRandyCouldn'tSpeak says:

      Love your post!

      Same here though, the only reason I watched this year was for her. Then i fell in love with Jessica too but Holile really got me to watch this season and I was so happy and proud she made it to top 4….from having glimpses of her in hollywood to top 4 haha I made a good pick for a fave this yr didn’t I haha :)

  29. imho says:

    She’s a sweetie – and a fighter! I wrote her off after the first few weeks, but she clawed her way back into my musical heart. I really like her voice, and when she finally got into her “groove”, it worked! But no matter what she chose in top 4 week, it was her last week. There was no way she could have broken that final 3.

  30. zaza says:

    I am just so happy to see the mostly positive comments on here. Of course, the fact that Holly is such a sweet and talented girl, lends itself to nice comments. I get so tired of people being nasty for no reason other than they think it makes them looks smart.

    All the best Holly! You deserve it.

  31. Loni says:

    I love Hollie and this interview was super cute. I wish her the best!

  32. KT of the West says:

    I think Holly would be adorable on a show like Glee – she held her own in those awful group numbers and showed a great personality during those poopy Ford commercials.

  33. Tiff says:

    Thanks, Slezak for a great interview – I just wished you’d discussed Hollie’s sing-off more – for me, that was her performance of the season,

    But other than that, Hollie is very cute and she deserves success. I hope she does well with her album in the future – ballads will always sell if you sing them well and they’re good.

    • WishesRandyCouldn'tSpeak says:

      Same here, her swan song was one of my all time faves…so magical and perfect musically/vocally. From hugging each contestant, no frown, just full of smiles the whole thru (even thru hugging those awful ppl they call judges) and belting out that song that made me fall in love with her last year to close her journey on American idol….ahh a wonderful full circle performance. I wish he talked about that too, it was so great.

      • McFudge says:

        It’s true, it was pretty awesome. She’s such a little wisp of a thing. With all the weirdo criticism she got throughout this season, considering her season 10 meltdown, all year I kept expecting her to break into tears at any moment, but she just kept brushing herself off and moving on. Then during her sing-off, she not only nailed the song, she spent half the time comforting her fellow contestants. Very professional, very impressive.

  34. Joshua Andrews says:

    Love her :):)

  35. MamaLis says:

    THANKS Michael!
    Go HOLLY!! Ya little fighta!
    Just remember there are MANY ways to pursue – and be a sucess at – music!
    Even Idols past have shown varied journies to success so…. keep an open mind at ALL your options at life ahead!

  36. Jamie C. says:

    I like Holly–she’s a sweet girl.
    Ok-gonna go watch a Big Bang theory re-run now. Nudge me when Phillip is on. ;)

  37. Yo' says:

    Thank you, Michael, for the continuing interviews; they must take a lot of prep. This girl seems pretty straight up and I find myself loving her voice much better now than when she was in the contest. She really does have a great quality to her voice!

  38. Leah says:

    She becomes a totally different person when she performs, the sound of her voice, her attitude, her demeanor, everything. She seems so demure and even a little ditzy when she’s being interviewed, but once that microphone is in hand she’s clever and smart, and that huge voice just comes out of nowhere. She’s a very interesting person.

  39. R-Dub says:

    I never understood the judges criticism, douches! I love this girl and couldn’t wait to watch her perform each week. I was so happy every week she made it through because the judges sure didn’t make it easy. I’m addicted to this girls voice, I’ve been playing back the top 12 episodes and mostly skip to her :-) And I loved Flashdance not her best performance but she got totally Haley Reinharted by the Judges. The climb sing off was epic, probably in my top 3 ever and Holly is possibly my favorite contestant of all time and if not in the top 2. I really don’t know about the Broadway thing, because you have to be able to Act which 98 percent of good singers can’t, and I mean that with regard to live stage performing. They can make almost anyone look like they can act in movies or TV, hell look at J-Lo!

  40. Amy says:

    Glad to see this interview with Holly. She was one of my favorites all Season 11, loved many of her performances, and was rooting for her. Still am…wish her success and look forward to hearing more from her. I too hope diva singers, ballads, and singers’ singers, (male & female), all come back “in fashion” at some point.

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