American Idol: Gabby Barrett Reflects on 'Bittersweet' Finale Results, Talks Maddie and Caleb's 'Love Connection'

American Idol Gabby Barrett

For the third-place finalist in American Idol‘s inaugural season on ABC, one word prevails when describing the experience: “bittersweet.”

That applies, first and foremost, to Monday’s two-hour finale, which found Gabby Barrett rushing off stage a full 45 minutes before we saw Maddie Poppe crowned the winner.

“When they said Caleb’s name first, and it was down to me and Maddie, something in my gut told me Maddie was getting through and I wasn’t,” Barrett told TVLine and other media outlets on Tuesday. “I don’t know if the Lord was telling me, or what, but I was OK with it. I really was. I love [Maddie and Caleb] like they’re my brother and my sister, so to see them advance made me happy as well. Immediately after I got off stage, of course you’re going to have a few tears because you realize, ‘OK, my job is done here. I’m not going to win American Idol. I have to accept that.’ … But you have to pick yourself up and realize not to focus on negative things.”

Speaking of Poppe and Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Barrett said she was well aware of the “big love connection” between them. “We had some love in the air this season,” she said. “They’re very cute together. [The other finalists and I] weren’t going to spill the beans on any of that — we just kept it on the down low.”

Popular on TVLine

One thing Barrett isn’t keeping on the down low, however, is her admiration for this season’s winner.

“I’m so extremely happy for her,” Barrett said of Poppe. “I absolutely love her voice … and I told her she was one of my favorite voices on American Idol this season. She deserved everything she’s getting. … And Caleb is a sweetheart. Everybody deserved to be where they were at. Everybody deserved to win, but there can only be one spot at the end of the day.”

Looking back on her journey, Barrett said her favorite solo performance was Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” which was also the song she related to the most. “I did my first show when I was 11, and now I’m 18,” she said. “It’s been a climb.”

As for her favorite duet, she said she loved partnering with Luke Bryan in Monday’s finale:

And this might not be the last time Bryan shares a stage with Barrett. “He is coming to my hometown of Pittsburgh on June 30,” Barrett told reporters. “You may or may not see me pop up in his set at Heinz Field.”

As for those pesky Carrie Underwood comparisons, Barrett said she’s learned to accept that the public will always try to put an artist into a familiar box — even if it’s not entirely accurate.

“You don’t want to be compared to someone in a way that you’re a replica of them, but if I were to be compared to someone, I would love it to be Carrie Underwood — more like, they can see some of her in me, not me trying to be like her,” Barrett explained. “I actually got to talk to Carrie about it. She said, ‘You’re a blonde, and I’m a blonde. You have a big voice in country music, and so do I. You’re going to get compared to me. But you can’t listen to people who have those types of opinions. … I know for a fact that you sound much different from everyone else in country music right now, and you can bring so much to the country music industry after American Idol is over.”

Your thoughts on Barrett’s third-place finish? Your hopes for her post-Idol career? Drop ’em all in a comment below.