Sonika Vaid on American Idol: “I Really Feel Like a Changed Person”

AMERICAN IDOL: Top 4: L-R: Host Ryan Seacrest announces eliminated contestant Sonika Vaid on AMERICAN IDOL airing Thursday, March 24 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Becker/ FOX. This image is embargoed until Thursday, March 24,10:00PM PT / 1:00AM ET

After being saved by the judges two weeks in a row, Sonika Vaid left American Idol in 5th place. In a satellite interview with reporters on Friday afternoon (3/25), Sonika chatted about how her Idol experience helped her loosen up and let go. For the first time, she has the confidence to put college aside, at least for now, and pursue a music career. She also shared the songs she would have performed if she had made the Top 4.

Check out the full interview below.

What’s next for Sonika? I’m still in college. I’m a biology major. I definitely plan at some point to finish my degree. I think for right now I’m going to focus on music. This whole experience has really opened my mind up to 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, watching Disney channel. I love the music that they put out. I plan on writing songs. Prior to all this, I’d written a few songs. But now, I’m definitely going to take songwriting more seriously and really think about releasing a few singles or even an album one day.

How much experience did she have prior to auditioning for American Idol? I [didn’t have] any experience. When I would sing in high school it was very quick–I didn’t really focus on performing. It was more like being heard. That was the way, in high school, how people started to realize who I was.  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!”

Why did she become so emotional after she was eliminated? Was she prepared for the news? It wasn’t so much that I didn’t think I was going to get cut. I always prepare myself for that. I honestly thought sometime around Hollywood week I was going home, for sure. 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 coming to an end. I’m still going to keep in touch with them, but I won’t get to see some of my best friends every day. That’s sad. Also, being able to work with the band–on Idol you really get to work with a lot of amazing people. It was a very in the moment thing. I feel like I saw it coming, because I had been in the bottom for the past two weeks.

There are some contestants who have never landed in the bottom. Because of that, did she feel like an underdog? If so, did that add stress or extra pressure? I don’t really have the biggest social media following at the moment, 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 belonged there. We all get along so well, that we don’t really think like that. We’re one big family and we treat each other equally. I felt like I was part of the gang.

Did knowing that she could leave this week make it difficult to prepare songs she might not get the chance to sing? Every single week I prepare myself to get cut. But I always try my hardest to put my effort into my songs that I get every week. There always is an opportunity of “Oh! You’re getting saved!” or “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 and when I practice on my own.

Was the process of choosing songs difficult? How did she choose her songs? It wasn’t that difficult for me. There were moments where–I sang some pretty well known songs where I feel like it 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 picked songs that I really feel and that I connect to . Even if I can’t say the story of the song is true to me, there’s some songs where I relate to the melody or like the chords even. It doesn’t have to be the words necessarily.

What songs did she have picked out for next week? Next week were the judges picks and Scott Borchetta’s picks and then my hometown song.  My hometown song 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 would have been cool. The other one was “To Where You Are” by Josh Groban . That was for my grandfather who had passed away when I was in eighth grade. It was more a dedication song than a 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.

Was her hometown celebration going to be in Weston or Martha’s Vineyard? It was going to be in Weston.

Did she feel like a Disney princess in some of the outfits she wore? Oh yes! Even for the dark songs. When I sang Evanescence they put me in this beautiful gown that made me feel I was going to the Oscars. The dress I was going to wear for “Love Me Back to Life” was just breathtaking. I’m a little sad I didn’t get to wear it. It’s really beautiful. They [the costume department] worked really hard on it too.

What did she learn from Steven Van Zandt and Sia this week? Sia, she’s really nice. She’s a sweet person. She said, “You have a beautiful voice.” She said I was very marketable. Which is kind of insane, because it’s coming from Sia. She’s one of the greats in my opinion.  She said, “Now that you have the singing down, you need to really enjoy yourself.” There was a moment [when she mentored me] I’m not sure they would have shown you. I sing a note in her song “Love Me Back to Life” that she wrote for Celine Dion, I hit it, but it didn’t feel passionate. I think it’s just because I was nervous about it. She gave me that hint of advice–just let it go, let it pour out of you. I did it two seconds later and it just felt different. She gave some really good advice.

Has Sonika heard ANYTHING AT ALL about a summer tour? I have no idea. No one’s told me anything yet.  There’s always surprises, though!

Being one of the last performers on American Idol, what advice would she give to performers about using avenues like Idol? I would say don’t be afraid to put your music online, on Youtube, Instagram and Vine. There’s so many ways now that you can be heard. I think it’s very important to put yourself out there and stay true to who you are. Being someone who didn’t 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. Justin Bieber started from Youtube I think.

What was the best take away–advice, criticism– from the judges panel? The best piece of advice that rang true throughout the entire season is the act of letting go. I feel like I’ve started to let go a lot more. As I watch myself back, I feel and I see how much I’ve changed. I’m not trying to sound full of myself when I say that. I really feel like a changed person.  This whole experience has shaped me and pushed me to limits I thought were never possible.

What can we expect from Sonika as an artist going forward? Disney is always the thing that I’ve dreamed of . I’m not sure if that will be an option, but that would be really awesome.  I really like pop, mixed with a little bit of R&B. But now that I’ve sung rock on the show (Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life”) that’s always an option. But pop is something I’m going to stick to.

Considering how the voting has turned out every week, has she noticed a pattern that the girls have trouble getting as many votes as the guys? (laughs) Everyone thinks that, I think. The guys are very talented. They do deserve it. So does La’Porsha all four of them deserve to be there and are all so talented. I wish them the best. The cute guy thing…I never thought of it like that.

What is her favorite love song or ballad to perform? From the show, “I Surrender” is a really good one. In terms of love songs, I would definitely say, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion–a really iconic love song.

What were her favorite performances from the show from this season? “Bring Me To Life” was probably my favorite performance. Only because that was the performance that really made me see that I can do this–that I do have the confidence somewhere in me to really perform and push myself to the limits I never thought were possible, and get out of my bubble.

When she sings love songs, how does she channel her emotions? Being away from my family is…I miss them a lot. I channel my love for my family. That energy goes into all the love ballads and the songs that I sing.

Would she consider leaving Massachusetts? Maybe moving to Nashville or Los Angeles to pursue her dreams? I definitely think it’s in the cards. That’s a possibility. I have to 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!

What would she name her first album and why? Maybe “Infinity” or something like that. I think it’s a very powerful word. I wrote a song called “Infinity.” It’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve written. It’s empowering, I think. It’s about living life to infinity. It makes me feel limitless, almost.

Is she a prolific songwriter? Before college, yeah. I used to write a lot of songs. I think I have 15 songs written. Maybe 10 of them recorded. I kind of stopped before college because…college! Lots of homework. I don’t have time for it. I’m definitely going to pick that back up.

Does she compose on the piano? I do compose on the piano, yeah. I play by ear. That’s always something I’ve enjoyed doing. Playing by ear.

MacKenzie was on both American Idol and The Voice. He said that Idol allowed him to be more himself. Does she agree with MacKenzie’s assessment? 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. They make you feel like you can push yourself, and it’s OK. They strive for us to be the best that we can be. You couldn’t ask for anything better than that. It was just a great experience overall. No regrets at all.

How did she come up with the two songs she was planning to sing this week (“Love Me Back to Life” and “Because the Night”). Did she ever feel pressure from the producers to sing particular songs? Sometimes they will give us the ability to choose our own song and sometimes they will suggest songs for us. I never really had a problem with any suggestions because they were so spot on. Scott is 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 that I would have sang next week (“I Will Always Love You”) is very smart too. It’s right in the ballpark.

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About mj santilli 30669 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!