When Angie Miller opted to sing her self-penned original “You Set Me Free” instead of one of the better-known songs pre-cleared for performance during the high-pressure Hollywood week of this season’s “American Idol,” she knew it was a huge risk. But the 19-year-old Beverly native approached it from a strategic standpoint: “I wanted to be able to show the world that I could play piano,” she says, “and I didn’t want to learn something [I didn’t know] real quick.”
The song launched Miller from the middle of the pack to serious contention, and while she ultimately lost (getting knocked out the week before the finale), she and the rest of the top 11 got the customary consolation prize of the “Idol” live tour, which pulls into Agganis Arena on Monday. Miller recently chatted by phone in the middle of a 14-hour bus ride between the Chicago and Newark stops.
Q. What is a typical day on the “Idol” tour bus like?
A. We do a show every night, and it ends at 9:30 or 10 or whatever, and then we have meet-and-greets until midnight. So we’re usually up for an hour or two talking about the shows. If there was any person who gave us something crazy, we talk about that. If anyone messed up on the show, we talk about it. (laughs) Then we go to bed usually about 1:30 a.m., or something like that. And bus life, it’s pretty much sleeping. We sleep until we get in at the next place, pretty much.
Q. You were eliminated in third place. Did you have time to process that at all before you had to start preparing for the finale?
A. Not really. But I’m glad. I’m glad that I didn’t go home and have to think about it and feel sad. It was kind of cool, being voted off but then going straight to the studio and straight to rehearsing with Adam [Lambert] and Jessie J.
Q. So other than the fact that you weren't in the competition anymore, there was nothing different about being on the show. You just kept on pushing ahead.
A. Yeah, exactly. Right when I got voted off, I got such good music, started recording my first single and started rehearsing with incredible artists that I always dreamed about working with. So it was bittersweet. (laughs)
Q. Were Adam Lambert and Jessie J your choices, or did the producers keep those as a surprise for you?
A. The first thing that they told me was, “You’re going to sing with Adam Lambert and you’re going to sing your original song ‘You Set Me Free.’ ” So Adam Lambert was the best surprise ever. I had no idea. I love Adam Lambert, so that was awesome. He’s such a great guy. And I was so looking forward to singing my original song at the finale, but then one of the producers came up to me and said, “Ange, I’m sorry to say this, but you’re not singing your original song.” I was like, ugh, wow, dream crushed, that’s terrible. But then he was like, “Because . . . you’ll be singing with Jessie J.” And Jessie J is my musical idol. So it was like I had heard the worst news and then I heard the best news ever.
Q. Did you get to join Jessie J in the UK to perform with her [as she promised in the finale], or is she just a great big liar?
A. Not yet, but it will happen. And I can’t wait for it.
Q. How different is it going to be performing for a Boston crowd when you don’t have the pressures of the show still pushing down on you?
A. Last time I was there, for the [“Idol”] hometown visit, it was nice being home, but I really barely got any time home. There were cameras all around me. I had to narrate everything to the cameras. It was like, “OK, tell them that you’re going into the limousine right now.” “Hey, guys! I’m going into the limousine right now!” “OK, tell them where you’re going right now.” “OK, so right now I’m going . . .” You know what I mean? It wasn’t quality time at home. So I am very excited to go home and have a day off in Boston without any cameras. Being at home and forgetting about the tour and everything is going to be soooo good.
Q. Do you get to push around [fifth-place finisher] Janelle Arthur because you outrank her?
A. Oh, no. Not at all. I'm not lying when I say that we’re all really good friends, and I would never want to do anything like that, ever. I’ve honestly never even thought about that. (laughs)
Q. Well, I hope I didn’t plant it in your head.
A. No, not at all.