Photo: CR: Rodney Ho. Crystal Bowersox
Photo: CR: Rodney Ho. Crystal Bowersox

‘American Idol’ notes: Crystal Bowersox live, Carrie Underwood, Antonella Barba gets 45 months in prison

Originally posted Friday, November 22, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Ohio native Crystal Bowersox was by far my favorite from season 9 by far and was disappointed when she lost to Lee DeWyze in 2010.

Nine years later, I was able to catch up with Crystal in her green room at City Winery Atlanta Monday night and then see her 90-minute concert.

At age 34, the Nashville resident and single mom paints a compelling figure on stage, a cogent blend of authenticity, great storytelling and vocal command.

She also projects hope and optimism reflected in many of her songs ( “Sunshine Brighter,” “Staycation,” “Courage to Be Kind”). As part of her effort to bring the crowd together, she had the audience at one point shake hands, then hug, then say “I love you” to total strangers. And most folks actually heeded her call. 

Not that she doesn’t have issues. She recently funneled some of her darkest times (domestic abuse, abortion, alcoholism) into a new one-woman play called “Trauma Queen.” She launched the play in October at a theater in Franklin, Tenn. and hopes to do it in other cities as well. “It’s exhausting and I love it so f**king much,” she said on stage.

“It almost killed me,” she added in an interview. “I was curled up in a ball for three days at home before I finally emerged.”

I last saw Crystal six years ago on her 28th birthday at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur. She said she got stinking drunk that night on shots and barely remembers it. Since then, she no longer drinks regularly. And as a Type 1 diabetic (as I am), she watches her Keto diet, which is currently low-carb and high-fat, and looks fit and concert ready. 

Her 13-song Americana-inflected set list mixed up some fan favorites (including a requested “Me and Bobby McGee” cover from her “Idol” days and the emotive “A Broken Wing”) with new songs set for release in 2020, which the audience received well. Her new  tune “Dead People’s Things,” for instance, was especially catchy, sly and amusing. 

One of her best songs is “Now That You’re Gone,” a goodbye song for her ex husband Brian Walker. “I wish him well,” she said, adding slyly, “in a van down by the river.” 

At one point, she mentioned how she needs to buy her son Tony a computer for Christmas and encouraged fans to buy merchandise. (T-shirts! Just $20!)

She then recounted how she ran into Santa and Mrs. Claus at a Dairy Queen just as her seven-year-old son was questioning their existence. “I got to more magical years,” she said. (He is now 10 and jaded.) In the audience while she told this story? A man who plays Santa with a real beard. He was first in line to get a photo with a joyous Crystal after the concert.

By the way, she allowed all customers to take free pictures with her after the concert. She loves photography as a hobby. She  set up a professional camera on a tripod and used an app on her phone that allowed her to snap the photos. She then posted them on her website 24 to 48 hours later. 

“I used to do paid VIP meet and greets and they felt weird, elitist,” she said. “I want everyone to feel special.” 

Bowersox is clearly a perfectionist when it comes to her own performance. She had some minor sound issues and had the board operator fix them on stage without pretense. She admitted she didn’t want to be distracted by sound problems while performing.

She also told a story about requesting YouTube take down some videos folks took of her in concert she didn’t like, then felt terrible when she found out this led to some of her fans losing complete access to their channels. So she just encouraged the audience members not to shoot video of her. (So I didn’t.) 

Her suggestion: “Please don’t post on YouTube. I’m an independent artist. I get paid through listens on Spotify. Listen all day there!” 

She has her side hustles, too. She is mentoring the talented guitarist and vocalist 19-year-old opening act Izzy Jeffery, a Fort Worth, Texas singer songwriter who is also living in Bowersox’s basement.  And her Nashville home is available for Airbnb rental when she’s on the road. (She has a nanny who watches her son while she tours.)

Photo: Izzy Jeffery with Crystal Bowersox. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Photo: Antonella Barba mugshot

“Idol” alum Antonella Barba received 45 months in federal prison for drug distribution. 

Before her sentencing, her family and friends filed a court briefing seeking leniency from the judge since she could have gotten as much as 10 years in prison. They blamed “American Idol” for sparking Barba’s downward spiral a decade ago. 

“The American Idol experience brought about a detrimental change in Ms. Barba’s life," the 18-page filing in the Eastern District of Virginia states, according to the Daily News

Barba finished in the top 16 season 6 in 2007. She couldn’t come to terms with not becoming a huge star, the court filing said. 

She was arrested last year in Norfolk, VA for possession of fentanyl with intention to distribute nearly two pounds of the drug. She was allegedly working as a courier for a drug ring. 


AMERICAN IDOL - "Hollywood Week" - "American Idol" contestants continue to vie for their chance at stardom while in the heart of Los Angeles, as the search for AmericaÕs next superstar continues on The ABC Television Network, SATURDAY, MARCH 30 (8:00 - 10:00 p.m. EDT), streaming and on demand. (ABC/Eric McCandless) SHAWN ROBINSON
Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC

Shawn Robinson of Duluth is getting a second shot at “American Idol.” He made the top 20 last year but was cut before the live shows. 

As part of a promotion airing on Sunday’s American Music Awards on ABC, we’ll see Shawn and two others who just missed the live shows - Layla Spring from 2018 (a producer’s favorite) and Logan Johnson (who had addiction issues) from earlier this year. They did their auditions at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles. 

People will vote and the winner goes straight to Hollywood for season 18 in 2020. 


Carrie Underwood introduced a new video for her latest single “Drinking Alone.”

Although it was sent to country radio, the song is one of her least country-sounding tunes to date. Live, she turned it into a jazzy lounge torch song. 

ABC will debut “American Idol” in its third season on the network at its earliest time so far: February 16. That’s about two weeks earlier than the previous two seasons. 

The earlier date for the Oscars of Feb. 9 gave ABC some flexibility. The question: will they simply end the season two weeks earlier or will they add two more live weeks of shows? The live portion of the show feels significantly truncated compared to its time on Fox. We will have to wait for a later date to find out ABC’s entire “Idol” schedule. 

Kelly Clarkson Kellyoke the past week. Some of these were pre-empted here in Atlanta for impeachment-related coverage. 

“Feel It Still” Portugal. The Man.

“Uptown Funk” - Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

“The Story” by Brandi Carlile (one of my favorite songs of all time!)

“Happy” by Pharrell.

Her “Voice” judges join her for “Neon Moon.” And look! It’s Carson Daly on the guitar! How cute! 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.