Noah Thompson on His Journey From Small Town Boy to ‘American Idol’

Noah Thompson
Q&A
ABC/Eric McCandless

It pays to have good buddies. It did for Noah Thompson, whose friend Arthur encouraged him to audition for Season 20 of ABC’s American Idol. Never in a million years would the 20-year-old construction worker from Louisa, Kentucky think he would end up winning the damn thing. Host Ryan Seacrest announced Thompson earned the nationwide vote over HunterGirl during the live grand finale on May 22. In many ways, this blue-collar young dad personifies living the American dream.

It has been a whirlwind few days for the budding country superstar. So much, in fact, that Thompson rushed to pick up a computer an hour outside of town for Zoom interviews. We caught up with the Idol champ — from a little bit away from where he lives because his home doesn’t have WiFi — to talk about his journey and what is next.

Noah Thompson

ABC/Eric McCandless

How is it being home?

Noah Thompson: More than anything I was just looking forward to being home and taking this all in. I wanted to be with my family for a bit. It’s a big deal for all of us, not just myself. It has been amazing.

After you won, you flew directly to New York for Good Morning America and Live with Kelly and Ryan. Had you been to the “Big Apple” before?

No. I’ve never seen bigger buildings in my life. All of this is so new to me. I’m just taking it all in as best I can.

It certainly has been a rollercoaster ride for you. There was the competition itself, but you had to also battle COVID in the middle of it. What got you through?

Just thinking about how I was doing it for my family. I was thinking about Walker, my little boy. I was doing this for him. That is what kept me going throughout most days. It was a lot of stress. More than anything though it was fun. We had a good time getting to hang out with each other.

Was there one piece of advice that stuck with you?

I remember Lionel Richie looking at me when I was on stage and telling me for the rest of my life to step on that stage with my big boots and own the stage. I will never forget that. Carrie [Underwood] gave me a good piece of advice. Even though it was on a monitor, she told me what she does when she gets on stage, which is living in her own little world. She is not there with the people. She doesn’t think about them in that space. That was a realization for me.

NOAH THOMPSON, MELISSA ETHERIDGE

ABC/Eric McCandless

During the finale, instead of dueting with a judge, you got to share the stage with Melissa Etheridge.

Melissa is awesome. She is one of the coolest people I have ever met in my entire life. I loved her to death the moment I met her. Walking into the room, I gave her a big hug. She is so down-to-earth and an awesome person. I felt they couldn’t have paired me up with a better person.

What kind of bond did you have with the other contestants?

I came into this competition not knowing if I would like anybody. These people were coming from all over. Truthfully, I think I made some of the best friends I ever have in my entire life — people I will always be close with. That’s how we all felt. You don’t know what is going to happen. We all became a little family. We’re all cheering for each other. I feel like that’s the best attitude to have coming into a competition like this.

Was there anyone you were surprised reached out to you?

When I performed the Larry Fleet song, he messaged me and said I did a good job. That was pretty cool. He is one of my biggest inspirations. Kameron Marlowe is an awesome dude. I consider him one of my friends now. I like all those guys.

You now have your own sign in town, joining country music legends on US-23 in Lawrence County. How surreal is that?

There are no words for it. I dreamed of being on the Country Music Highway sign for a long time. It’s not on there yet, but it will be soon. To also have my own sign is an amazing feeling.

RYAN SEACREST, KATY PERRY, NOAH THOMPSON, LUKE BRYAN, LIONEL RICHIE

ABC/Eric McCandless

What kind of artist do you want to be?

I’m still trying to figure that out. I really, truly got thrown into this competition by a buddy. I grew up listening to rock and roll. I grew up in church also. I think I’m a mix of things. I’m not just one genre. Definitely it’s going to be country, because that’s what I went in the competition with. I’m excited to sit down and write some songs and put some stuff out.

Tell me about your single “One Day Tonight.”

I loved the song when I first heard it. I thought it had a great melody and was catchy. I feel like people feel a connection to it. People are loving it — No. 1 on the iTunes charts right now. It blows me away.

Are you planning to make a move with your music career just taking off?

I’ve been talking to some people. If I’d go any place, it would be Nashville.

If you had your choice, who would you like on your debut album?

Probably Chris Stapleton. I got a lot of people in mind when I think about that.

What are the next couple of weeks going to look like for you?

I’m looking forward to playing some shows and getting out there more, traveling around. Hopefully, that is happening pretty soon.

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What did you take from your Idol experience?

I tried to take in every bit of advice I possibly could from the judges and the vocal coaches. I tried to use it and grow from it.

What does it mean to you to know you’re an inspiration to people as an American Idol?

That was what was so surreal to me. I remember seeing these little kids when I went home for that concert. They were so excited to see me. I just thought that was amazing. When we were in LA, we were stuck in this bubble. We would go perform and go back to the hotel. That was really what it was for the most part. Coming home and realizing there are so many people supporting you, it’s so cool.

You reunited with your family, including your young son, but there is a life ahead on the road and in the recording studio for long periods of time. How are you preparing for what’s ahead?

I’m going to try my best to figure it all out. I am young and definitely didn’t expect this to happen at all. I’m so excited and grateful for it. I’m going to do my best to see my boy and family as much as I can. Hopefully, they can hit the road with me.