SPOILER ALERT! If you’ve been waiting all day to catch up on the finale of America’s Got Talent, stop reading now. If you have seen the finale, or aren’t bothered by spoilers, read on for our Q&A with the season 5 winner.
Last night saw an America’s Got Talent finals that included a 10-year-old opera-singing prodigy and a man named Poppycock, so some were surprised to hear America voted 30-year-old Michael Grimm as the winner. But when you remove all the bells and whistles, the soulful, silky smooth, singer from Mississippi was consistent week after week, proving to the judges that he wasn’t just another guitar player (he even lost his signature hat at their request!). The lovable Grimm took some time out of his hectic day to call EW and attempt to process his big win. Read on for more about his future music plans, commitment to give back to the Gulf Region, and promise to buy his grandparents a house (Aw).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! How does it feel to be the winner? You looked pretty surprised when they said your name.
MICHAEL GRIMM: Oh, I was very surprised. I mean, I really didn’t expect to make it all the way to the end. To be next to Jackie in the final two there, I knew it was over for me, because Jackie — she’s just a powerhouse. And I knew for sure [that] she had it, but it was a big surprise to me when they called my name out. I was prepared to bow out gracefully!
When it came down to Prince Poppycock, Fighting Gravity, and 10-year-old Jackie Evancho, did you ever fear that you might be at a disadvantage as a singer in the finals?
No. I just kind of did my thing, and I never really compared what I do to [the other finalists]. Like you said, they’re all different acts, so it’s hard to compare myself with that. They’re all very, very talented. As far as what I was doing — yeah, maybe once I thought about it, like, “Maybe what I’m doing should be on American Idol or something.” But, you know, it’s not easy to get in the doors, and I tried out last year for this and it didn’t work out. This is my second time, and I got in. America’s Got Talent gives me the opportunity to do what I do instead of becoming a pop singer.
Did you ever consider auditioning for any other shows?
No, you know, I thought about it, but I said “No, I’m not going to do American Idol,” because, once again, I’m not a pop singer. Even if America’s Got Talent wasn’t on, I don’t think I would try out for American Idol. It’s a great tool for starting people’s careers and [for] kids, but I’m just not a pop singer.
What was your most memorable performance from the show?
Winning it? [Laughs] That would be the most memorable moment.
Any specific song you performed? Which was your favorite?
They all were pretty much my favorites, but I’d say if there’s any of them that I gravitate towards more, it would be the first one I did called “You Don’t Know Me.” Actually, it’s an old country song, but Ray Charles did that version.
What was the most helpful piece of advice or criticism you received from the judges?
They told me: “Stay being yourself, don’t change.” That’s one of the things Piers was telling me, and Howie, and Sharon. Sharon wanted me to take off the hat there for awhile, but in the end she wound up buying me a fedora.
A fedora, really?
Yeah, they all were telling me to stay true to [myself], don’t change, and keep doing what [I’m] doing. And that’s great advice, because you can easily listen to them when they’re telling you not to do what you’re doing and [to] go and do something else. But I like that. I like that they told me that because I know me. I’m 30, so I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now, and how do I change after that long? That was the best advice that I got, because it was something that I needed to hear.
How are your grandparents? Were they in the audience last night?
They weren’t at this last one. They were in town last week, but then [my grandmother] got sick. She got a little cold while she was in town and couldn’t make it out for the next show. I tried.
I’m sure they’re so proud and so excited.
Oh you know it. Extremely. I called her last night she was boo-hooing and had press by her house, you know, along with all the family. She’s definitely getting a lot of love right now, and I can’t wait to get down there and get her into this house and start on that.
Do you know where you’re going to buy her a house?
It will be back in Hancock County, Miss., of Pearl River County, where she currently lives.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you go home?
Well I live in Las Vegas. [I’ve] been out there for 10 years, so to go back home [to Mississippi] would mean to do gigs, to take care of my friends and family, and try to help the community with certain things. It’s not coming up fast enough from the destruction it had five years ago [with] Hurricane Katrina, and then we had the BP oil spill. There’s a black cloud over the area and a lot of people are gloomy, so this is bringing a lot of smiles to their faces right now. They need it. If I go back home, it will be to sing for them, to do whatever I can, to bring more happiness and peace for the moment.
And you’ll be on the upcoming America’s Got Talent live tour?
Yes ma’am, can’t wait for that. It’s going to be exciting.
What do you hope your music career looks like in a year from now?
Well, I’ve had an album that I’ve always wanted to cut, I just haven’t had the money to do it or the label with their connections and everything. [It’s been] mainly money, [and] now I have the money and now I have the labels interested, so I feel like I’m going to get to cut the album that I’ve been wanting to cut. [It’s] a compilation of my material, my own originals, and we’ll check out a lot of other songs out there. But I know the genre, I know the route I want to go on this album, what it looks like, and smells like, and sounds like.
For those who are just getting to know you, how would you describe what kind of artist you are and what kind of music you perform?
I am a blue-eyed soul singer…but I have brown eyes! [laughs]