Winning American Idol isn't the only surreal thing that happened to Caleb Johnson Wednesday night.
The singer from Asheville, N.C., also got to rock out with his idols KISS on not just one, but two songs. (Watch it here!) "It was really humbling and such an honor," he told reporters Thursday. "Literally they're icons of rock. I grew up listening to them. They're the nicest and funniest people I've ever met.. They had great compliments for me, and it was such a fun an incredible moment."
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Afterwards, his younger brother Houston also got to meet the band on stage and demonstrated his devotion by wearing KISS-style makeup. Why did Caleb pass up the opportunity to pay tribute by painting his face? "[Laughs] What was so funny is that the producers jokingly asked me [to do that]," Caleb said. "I said, 'I don't think I could pull it off.' It was funny the members of KISS are so tall that I literally look like a hobbit compared to them on stage. They're these massive guys. Houston is a huge, huge KISS fan and so when I found out I was singing with them I had to bring him on stage because I knew he would be thrilled to death... I think it's something that we'll both never forget."
Check out other highlights of the call with Caleb:
Plans for his album: "My record will be a heavy, soulful, powerful rock 'n' roll record," he explained. "I'm a big album fan. I love full albums, not a single-pop-based record, but a legitimate rock 'n' roll, all-killer, no-filler record. My record will be really heavy and convicted, a powerhouse monster record... I'm working with other writers and I'm getting the band together. I want to form a band and those be my band of brothers... I can't wait to release a really kick-butt record coming out Aug. 12."
Love for runner-up Jena and the prom: "She is absolutely amazing. She's a phenomenal singer and performer and has a huge, huge heart," he said. "She's sweet, funny and kind. We had a weird and amazing connection, and had so much fun together. She's incredible." As for being her date for senior prom, he added, "It's going to be really funny, a little bit awkward, but it'll be a blast. It'll be a night I'm not going to forget and she won't forget."
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On slowing down to address his health: "I have to not go 100 miles an hour," Caleb said. "This whole process has prepared me for what's to come. I have to take it very gently and not overdo it and conserve my energy and strength. I'm in the big leagues now and have to take care of my instrument. My voice is not fully back. My voice hasn't healed 100 percent. There's still a minor hemorrhage. The doctors say to give my voice a rest for a couple of days."
What a difference a year makes: One year ago, "I was out in shows with my band three to four times a week, doing gigs, hustling and writing," he said. Caleb had already tried out for Idol twice before and made it as far as Hollywood Week. Apparently, the third time's the charm but not until he got more experience. "I took time off to write and tour with my band," he said. "I thought let's give this one more shot, let's see what happens and go all out with guns blazing. It's crazy I took the title home. It's insane."
Heart of rock 'n' roll still beating: Caleb is proud of being a winner whose strength is rock. "I am thrilled to death," he said. "Idol is a pop-based show with pop music, so it was really cool that I was well received by the judges and the audience and the other contestants. I got to do stuff like Rush and Led Zeppelin but also stuff like Adele and Arethra Franklin. When I did 'Skyfall,' it showcased more that whatever song I do, I can put my stamp on it."
Advice to Idol auditioners: "[My advice is] to rest and sleep and be prepared," he said. "Have a couple songs in your back pocket; they could ask you to sing up to four songs. Have no nerves and kill it. Believe in yourself 100 percent and keep yourself grounded and stay focused. Make sure your artistry comes through... Whatever passion you have, you should max it out."
Props to Ryan Seacrest: The Idol host took a huge risk by singing Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting" during the finale, but Caleb was a fan. "I actually really enjoyed it, especially the note he ended on," he said. "I thought he did pretty well."
Are you glad Caleb won?
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