Idol's Sam Woolf Talks Song-Arrangement Woes, Going Guitar-less & the 'Heartthrob' Label

Don’t call Sam Woolf a heartthrob. American Idol‘s producers saddled him with that unwelcome label one too many times during his run on the show, says the Season 13 fifth-place finisher.

RELATED | American Idol: What Should the Top 4 Sing for ‘Break-Ups/Make-Ups’ Week?

I got Sam to dish Idol‘s “ladies’ man” obsession, his struggle to rearrange “Unwell” and “Time After Time” and his battle to “let loose” on stage when he dropped by TVLine HQ for a Google Hangout.

We also dished how he felt about his early front-runner status, what advice mentor Randy Jackson gave him about connecting to his lyrics and why he’s not angry at Alex Preston or Jena Irene in the wake of last Thursday’s uncomfortable “Idol Twist.”

Press PLAY below for the full 20-minute Q&A, and for all my Idol interviews, exclusives, recaps and galleries, 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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59 Comments
  1. Hopefully you do some hard journalism on Caleb and ask him why he feels it is OK to call people retards.

    • PC is a disease that will kill this country. If someone is a retard…they’re a retard…no need to beat around the bush and call them “mentally challenged”

      • Lisa says:

        It’s not about calling a spade a spade, it’s calling people who support you retards in general. To me, since he has such a low opinion of people that support him and think he’s worth voting for, maybe it’s time voters take a good hard look at whether he really is worth the votes. Not to mention that who wants to promote someone that is openly supporting cocaine and hookers in front of children. Lots of food for thought, and worse, it came right from the horses mouth. There’s no bashing here, just hard facts.

        • MAB says:

          I totally ages Lisa. It is not just the word. It is the attitude that made him say what he said and I am also very upset about him talking about the hometown visit and having access to cocaine and hookers. I am such a die heart fan of American Idol and have supported them through a lot of garbage but if they let this go and allow Caleb to win I will not support the show anymore. It will be the straw that broke the camels back for me. That’s how strongly I feel about this. I don’t care who wins at this point as long as it is not him.

        • claudiacostachaves says:

          Also, come to think of it, if I used a word as charged as “retard” about or, worse yet, threw it at ANYONE, my very un-PC mother would give me an extremely un-PC walloping and long time out so I remember to mind my manners and my language.

      • claudiacostachaves says:

        Agreed, PC is cultural cancer. That being said, respect your fanbase. They’re the ones who’ll buy your singles. Retard isn’t a nice word, PC or not. Not to mention the low oppinion he has of himself. If retards are the only ones who appreciate his artistry, that kinda reflects poorly on his level of talent and skills, doesn’t it?

        • Lisa says:

          Thank you. Well said Claudia. It’s not a question of whether the remarks were PC, it’s who they were directed at, and the context of the usage.

      • AlyB says:

        Wow. Way to totally miss the point there Captain lol. Also, the beauty of freedom of speech is that it allows people to stand up and call out what they see as hatefull, stupid or bullying behavior. The 1st amendment guarantees your right to say whatever stupid thing you want to and also guarantees our freedom to tell you just how dumb you sound saying it. That’s what freedom of speech is. Say whatever you want but be prepared to deal with the backlash. Besides, Idol contestants are under contract with a private enterprise. The terms of that contract can legally bind them to standards of behavior and speech. This may not rise to the level of disqualifying him but I’m sure he got an earful from producers. The fans that he disparaged in such a hateful way may end it for him by withholding their votes. It’s a free country :)

        • claudiacostachaves says:

          Exactly. Why would anyone be nice to someone so unpolite? “Why vote for someone who calls me a retard? There are more worthy recipients.”

          • karenb says:

            And don’t forget about his comment about making “old ladies cry” to a Journey song. Insert eye roll lol

        • Angela says:

          Thank you. I don’t get how people seem to think freedom of speech means they can say whatever they want and nobody should get upset in response.
          Bottom line, Caleb didn’t exactly come off well in those Twitter comments (I’m sensing the hype is going to his head?), and people have the right to find his remarks irritating or offensive or whatever. It’ll be quite interesting to see how this affects him going forward.

      • Karinna says:

        But he wasn’t talking about “mentally challenged” people, he was talking about, or to, people who he felt were obnoxious and annoying him with their suggestions. “Retard” should never be used as an insult because of all the mentally challenged or disabled people who were, and many times still are, called mentally retarded. They are real people with feeling, thoughts and a disability, it’s not their choice and not like the people making suggestions that made Caleb angry. Actually the word retard is actually a verb, not a noun anyway.

    • Kristi says:

      Where are you seeing this comment from Caleb?

  2. MAB says:

    I only wish Sam was still here rather than Caleb. My other thought is why Michael has still not addressed this yet. We heard from Linsey Parker, MJ big blog and others but not a peep from Michael, not even a tweet. It’s pretty hard to ignore something like this. If it was in some of the other seasons previously it would have been all over the news. Some people feel we should just judge the performances but to be honest I can’t see Caleb Johnson being an American Idol with his attitude. I think the fans have a right to know who they are voting for. People have beat up other contestants without even facts but just jumping to conclusions that they are not the best personality. Caleb has clearly made comments that are very offensive and the public has a right to know and then make a decision if they still want to vote for him or not.

    • I think he’s waiting for Reality Check ;)

    • Fabio says:

      I’m surprised it’s not addressed by Michael as well. Calling people/fans ‘retards’ for investing in him.

    • Lisa says:

      Not to mention that his so called attempt at an apology was so convoluted it can only make matters worse for him. He’s trying to backpedal and say it was never directed towards his fans when it clearly was directed at them. Sorry dude, you can’t unsay it. Your own words belie your apology.

  3. Jan says:

    Why does Caleb feel its ok to call people retards? Our children retards? Also, ask Caleb why he thinks doing cocaine is something we ” retards” want our kids thinking is cool. Ugh!

  4. MAB says:

    I just want to say that Sam has a great voice and I do believe he will make his mark in the music world some day. I just don’t think he was ready for this competition and if he was he would have been unbeatable. He has so much going for him. I don’t believe this is the last we will hear from Sam Woolf.

    • Lisa says:

      I agree. I think Sam will do well. Maybe his age played into his shyness with the stage. People grow at different paces, and Sam is no different. He seems to be a stand up kid, and he does have a great voice. Being comfortable with fame comes easier to some than others. I think his fan base may have grown bigger than he was ready for (a little too much too quick), but he’ll catch up. I’m sure we’ll see him again. Someone will sign him.

      • abby says:

        I agree. I love this kid. He’s down to earth and sweet. And his talent is stellar. The other contestants can consider themselves lucky that Sam did not have his breakthrough moment on Idol – or that he didn’t get the chance to sing an original song. Out of all the contestants, his record is the one I would buy.

    • Alan Dvorkis says:

      I agree 100%. I think he will have the biggest career of the group that made it to live shows. I think when he gets comfortable, he will be a major star. His voice does wonders to my demeanor, an anomaly in today’s music market. I shall buy his album the day it is released. I expect I shall love it too.

    • Jamie says:

      I think he’s incredibly talented. He has a beautiful voice and his original songs show amazing talent and the emotional connection that he is really capable of. I think he lacked the life and performance experience to compete with the others in the Idol forum and there’s just no way to bridge that gap in a couple of short, hectic months, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he wound up being the most successful in the long run.

  5. Bonnie A. says:

    Michael, you made me laugh at the idea of making sure the swaybots can clap in time to what is being sung, before they are allowed to stand there!

  6. Leeanne says:

    Wow, both Michael and Sam are so flushed and red. How adorable! lol. Sam is SO SHY!

    • just saying says:

      I don’t think that’s shyness. I think it’s just their coloring…

    • Steph says:

      What you call shy, I call BORING. It’s not Michael’s fault. In every interview, Sam comes across as blank and uninteresting as he did on the Idol stage.

      • Leeanne says:

        Wow, he is gone. Take comfort in that. No need to continue bashing him on his exit video. Show some class!

      • jga94 says:

        No, i think it’s just that Sam’s really a laid back person who does not overthink things, go back and overanalyze things which already was.and has been……and just goes with the flow. Blank?,,,,,Sam’s original songs show just the opposite; otherwise….he has a natural gift for songwriting. Plus he seems the type who won’t be that “open” to anyone—esp. people whom he just met or hardly know….if he was so uninteresting–as you put it—why would he have such close friendships (or seem to have) with the other idols?

      • jga94 says:

        Blank?Uninteresting? I would use these adjectives to someone who appreciates David Gray songs (an artist who first made it big before he was even born….and someone who appreciated Sheeran’s artisty even before he made it big in the US….

  7. Fabio says:

    Michael did a great job with Sam. Wishing Sam all the best. I wonder if he’s going to his prom?

  8. AlyB says:

    Great job on the interview Michael. Sam seemed to loosen up and get more comfortable towards the end. He does seem like a nice but very reserved person. Hopefully this exposure and the tour will help him gain more confidence. I always thought Sam had a beautifone tone. With some time to work on dynamics and performance he could make a go of a musical career. He’s so young still. I wish he had offered more pushback on the heartthrob box they so desperately tried to shove him into. I think we could have seen more growth from him instead of him seemingly putting up a wall. I’m glad he has no bad feelings about the no votes. He seems very level headed and even somewhat relieved that he’s now free to do things more his way. Honestly the cutest thing about this was how deeply crimson both of you blushed at the beginning :) Thanks. Now where’s Reality Check?

  9. Teeny Bikini says:

    What an adorable kid. He’s so shy. I do love his voice, I am sure he will become more comfortable on stage with time. I couldn’t tell if he was speaking low or if there was something wrong with my sound though… Thanks for posting, Michael.

  10. Tommyo2000 says:

    I find the internet interview awkward …

  11. brandy says:

    Sam has a SUCH a great talent. In a few years, he would’ve been unstoppable.

  12. Mia says:

    Sam has gotten better with interviews. Unlike his post show interviews where he looked awkward, in his latest interviews he sounded confident. I think being voted off was better for him. He kind of like matured faster. He’s my favorite this year. Love his voice. I hope he get signed and release an album in the fall. I would definitely buy it.

    • Jamie says:

      I’ve been really impressed with how he’s handled himself following the elimination, both on Thursday’s results show and in his post-elimination interviews. I think he’s shown a lot of class and maturity.

  13. claudiacostachaves says:

    Goodness gracious, to interview that kid is like pulling teeth. He is so uptight, so shy, he doesn’t answer the questions. All Sam wants is to be taken seriously as a musician and artist. He LOATHES the label hearthrob. I wish he wrote more tunes. Everybody respects a good songwriter. About Caleb… now, that guy looks like a bully, sounds like a bully, laughs like a bully… Well, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

    • DrTake1 says:

      I don’t think he’s such a bad guy. He seems quite pleasant for the most part, to be honest. He was probably just a little ornery from idol trying to flip the script on him and his fellow contestants with that ballot business. Would you have said all that before he made his recent comment? Speaking of what he looks like, you should see what he looked like before he grew his hair out and before he had a stylist. He was a chubby. drama-class geek (not that that’s a bad thing) who dug classic rock and he still is.

      • claudiacostachaves says:

        He’s got an attitude, you know? And he can be obnoxious with his kinda warped sense of humor. I’ll check him before hard rock make over, but it’s hard to picture him as a drama geek.

    • darcy the slutty twin says:

      He’s such a douchebag. He’s bought his own hype. He thinks he’s this big star but in reality is just like a lot of Idol contestants who tried and failed to make it to the show before.

    • jga94 says:

      Sam’s just not good in interviews….this is loads better than previous interview he has had…I heard a radio interview when he was only 16…lots of dead air….but when he played his original songs, wow….it was undeniable that he has natural good songwriting abilities….anyway, it fits his singer-songwriter mold….just goes to show he is not pop and definitely not a “heartthrob”

  14. GuitarBlue says:

    Going through the tour will help Sam become more confident and outgoing.then it will be whether or not a Label wants to invest in recording, promo and distribution with him.

    If we watch last week’s show, you see that right after it was announced that Sam was eliminated, the big screen behind Ryan displayed a picture of Sam and Jessica. Then Sam’s picture went “poof” and Jessica’s remained.

    That was likely the indication that Jessica was the other one in the bottom 2. Her chances of surviving this week are very low, considering Sam’s former voters will likely swing more toward Alex and Jena.

    Also, the major portion of Idol watchers are not as caught-up in the choosing yes/no drama or Caleb’s remarks on choosing his songs. It’s more the dedicated watchers that analyze the show more carefully, will take part in blogs and follow the happenings of the show much more closely than the average viewer. Around all the sites that cover Idol, some are praising Alex and Jena, some are claiming they were mean and sent Sam home, some are blaming Jessica regardless of how she voted. Overall, it may make little difference in the outcome.

    • AlyB says:

      The pictures behind them in that shot are part of the set. All of their pictures were lit up in a display around the theater when the live shows started. Each time a contestant is eliminated, they let their picture go dark. Jessica’s has been by Sam’s since the beginning. The others around them were of previously eliminated contestants so they were already dark. Jena, Caleb and Alex also still have theirs lit up. They were just out of frame. Watch this week when they pan the theatre and you’ll see them. Only 4 are left lit up but they are still in their original positions with darkened photos between them.

    • Leeanne says:

      I don’t get how Jena would get Sam’s votes. Sam has a very low-key acoustic style. Jena and Caleb are much more theatrical. If Sam’s fans shift to anyone else it’ll be Alex or Jessica but most of them probably just won’t vote at all.

  15. osborn1116 says:

    I thought it was a good interview. Sam’s usually low-key so not surprised but Slezak seemed to get him to open up a bit.

    Also for the amount of money Randy makes, and the amount of advice he gets, I’m sure the producers could find someone better for at least that much money.

  16. Davey says:

    I’ve been voting for Alex and Sam out of the remaining five and now I’m not voting anymore. I don’t care who of the remaining four wins. Earlier in the competition I voted for Majesty but then she lost her mojo.

  17. jga94 says:

    Thanks Miachael Slezak for the interview….this is probably one of the times when Sam is “most open”—-I think he’s just not into this interview things or maybe he just does not want to diss people. I noted that some of Slezak’s questions were sort of “baiting”…like baiting to say something about the “bad mentoring they got” or some machinations on the part of the producers….or maybe it’s in their contracts….

  18. ara says:

    I liked Sam best among the contestants but he sure seems not to have much to say. I thought he was just inarticulate but it seems worse than that. How is he able to write his own songs, I wonder?

  19. ara says:

    Hangout video quality still sucks. :-(

  20. trina says:

    ITt is unfortunate that Idol producers chose to push a spot light on a shy teenager that he wasn’t comfortable with then exploit it when it was obvious. He seems like a good kid and likeable like Phil Phillips. I’m glad he made it through to the top 5 – he certainly deserved it. Idol doesn’t do enough actual mentoring to be helpful – that is obvious in song arrangement and choices – with the magnitude of songs in the world we keep hearing the same songs each season instead of some variety and songs that these “KIDS” are comfortable with. Let’s face it – they are still kids (except Taylor Hicks that year – that was just unfortunate) and not experienced in choice and arrangement or having a band play over them. HELP them stop HINDERING them. Help with wardrobe, Help with constructive criticism. And everyone can complain all they want, at least Keith and Harry offer some technical advice and info that will help in the real world. Jennifer has her moments but the guest mentors every week are just cheerleaders (Jason Mraz you were helpful – Randy? Why are you there Dawg? What happened to JImmy – he was sometimes insightful.) Sam’s elimination is the end of the road for me – I do not care about any of the last 4 standing and hope they all lose.

  21. RD says:

    Wow. 30 minutes of watching paint dry is more compelling than that interview. I feel sorry for Slezak for trying to make his subject interesting and failing.

  22. Clara says:

    It’s a shame you seem to influence readers. You’re really a douche. Uncool how blatant your bias was and how you tried to use Sam to diss the producers and Randy. Do it yourself. I’m glad Sam showed you what kindness and and humility look and feel like.

  23. Wolfpack100 says:

    Sam woolf I love u I’m glad u have impsire me to get out of my shell love u sam woolf FaceTime me sam it’s Undeadragexd my bro mad it for me love u I will miss hearing u sing :……(

  24. Wolfpack100 says:

    I love u sam woolf thank u so much u change me into somebody who I’ve wanted to be but was to scare to do it FaceTime me Undeadragexd my bro made it for me

  25. arlene fields says:

    If you close your eyes and listen to sam woolf sing its heaven. Then when you open your eyes you see this adorable young boy with a guitar. Respectful humble. What a mistake this boy should have been the american idol