Jacob Lusk carved his niche on American Idol as an emotional performer, who had to believe in the lyrics before he sang a song. The 23-year-old church singer from Compton, CA, was often compared by judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to the late, great Luther Vandross, but just as often as they took him to task for singing too “big” or being pitchy.
But Jacob persisted and made it to fifth place. This week he performed No Air and Love Hurts for Now and Then week, and it brought him to the end of his Idol journey.
Now Jacob talks about how hurtful it was to hear negative comments from his mentor, his hard-luck life and the type of album he hopes to record.
Did you feel like America understood where you were coming from, or did you feel like you fit into the role of being the gospel guy or R&B crooner? Did you ever feel like you fit in, or do you feel like maybe the audience didn’t know what to do with you?
Jacob Lusk: I think sometimes they didn’t know what to do with me, but I think a lot of America got it. I think they got that I was the R&B crooner, soulful, gospel guy. And those lines often times blur. A lot of those great R&B singers like Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, and Whitney Houston got their start in the church. Even Mariah Carey has a lot of gospel roots, so I think they got it and I’m just thinking I didn’t have the greatest performance on Wednesday and I wasn’t really in my element Wednesday and that’s part of the reason why I was sent home.
Jimmy Iovine got up there and said negative things about you like, “I don’t think Jacob’s going to last this week.” How soul destroying is hearing that kind of thing and then having to go out and sing your heart out?
Jacob Lusk: I wouldn’t call it “soul destroying.” It definitely hurts a lot to have someone who’s supposed to be mentoring you … It feels like every time you turn around kind of tearing you down. But, what you have to remember is that you’re not doing it for him. You’re doing it for the people out there in America and they are the people who are voting.
It’’ definitely hard to have someone beat you over the head with a baseball bat and then say, “OK, now go ahead and sing for your life.” But, what I do and what I will definitely continue to do now that the show is over for me is to really give my all and continue to show my heart and continue to do my best to touch people because, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about how great I can sing, or how many rifts I can do, or how good Jimmy thinks I am or how bad he thinks I am. It’s about me really putting out great music that America loves.
On your final performance, the one you did after the camera’s finished last night, I think it was truly, truly you. So for the people that didn’t see it, you sort of took the whole place to church. How did that whole thing come about?
Jacob Lusk: I made a joke months ago out there, right? If I ever get off this show, or if ever win, whatever happens, we’re going to church and it was kind of a joke. And, what happened, I finished singing and I didn’t want it to be a sad, crying moment. I did cry after the show was over, but I said, when these people are here, we are not going to cry, we are going to rejoice. We are not going to have a funeral. Because, I made Top Five and there’s and there’s an amazing group of four people left to choose from, I didn’t want any sad faces. I wanted joy.
You tweeted: “I’ve been through a whole lot more than folks would know in my lifetime.” And, of course, all we see is this very sunny guy who works as a spa concierge and lives in California and sings this vibrant music. Give us more specifics about what you mean by you’ve through a lot of hard times.
Jacob Lusk: My mother and father divorced and my father, as you guys know, died when I was 12 years old. So, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been through a lot of different schools. I was picked on real bad when I was younger and beat up and really getting stomped on at the playground, and had been through bad grades and then having good grades and then moving out.
When I moved out on my own, being the prideful person I am, I’ve been homeless. I’ve gone without. There have been times when I didn’t have any money, didn’t know what was going to happen or what I was going to do. Just moments like that where you really just feel like giving up.
You also have acting in your background. Will you pursue that career now or are you going to focus on doing an album?
Jacob Lusk: My primary focus obviously is definitely doing an album. I just came off of the singing show, so, I’m definitely going to do an album. But, I definitely want to look into doing some theater, maybe some Broadway as well as some film. I haven’t done any film. I’ve done some off-Broadway plays and some gospel stage, but I definitely want to do some Broadway and some film for sure.
What will your album sound like? What kind of elements will you throw in it?
Jacob Lusk: You’re going to hear some traditional R&B, which I feel is missing from the scene. There aren’t any Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye singers out right now. There’s a lot of pop and bubblegum, so that’s what I desire to bring to the table and that’s what I bring naturally. I don’t have to try to do that. That’s what you’re going to hear. You’re going to hear A House Is Not A Home and those love ballads. You’re going to hear that.
American Idol returns tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX when the Final Four perform the songs of renowned American songwriting and producing duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
This summer, Lusk will rejoin the Top 11 when they hit the road for the American Idols Live! Tour.