‘American Idol’ Runner-Up HunterGirl Is Shocked by Her Success On the Show

HunterGirl is still in shock that she not only made it onto American Idol, but that she was the runner-up. The Tennessee native never dreamed she would make it onto the reality TV talent show, let alone make it to the end of the competition.

“I can’t believe it,” HunterGirl admits on Live with Ryan and Kelly. “If you had told me a year ago that I’d be sitting here talking to y’all, I would have told you, you were about crazy.”

HunterGirl always knew she wanted to be a singer, and was already recording and performing her own music, when the opportunity came to perform on American Idol, ultimately earning the first platinum ticket from judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.

“Whenever I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to sing,” HunterGirl reflects. “I sing all the time, grew up singing in my grandpa’s church. But I always wanted to do this and so I was trying to do whatever I had to – working hard to make it happen.”

HunterGirl grew up idolizing Season 4 winner, Carrie Underwood, which is why she was in shock when she got to meet Underwood in person, when the superstar served as a mentor for the Top 5 contestants.

“Oh my gosh, I lost my mind,” HunterGirl recounts. “I remember walking in – I walked in and I just looked at her and I was like every word to your song, I just forgot it because I’m freaking out right now because I was having to sing for her!”

It was Underwood who became the guiding light for HunterGirl, who was only seven years old when she watched Underwood be crowned the American Idol champion in 2005.

“I was little, I know I was young, but just watching her on TV, it made me think like maybe I could do that someday,” the 24-year-old says.

With the grueling TV schedule behind her, HunterGirl is ready to get back to work and do what she loves best: sing.

“I’m excited to get back to work again, go back in the studio, record new music, playing as many shows as come my way,” she says. “I’m just so excited. This past year has probably been the best year of my life. I’m just putting out new music right now.”

The Tennessee native already released her debut single, “Red Bird,” which HunterGirl wrote with Austin Goodloe and Matt McKinney, inspired by a deeply personal experience she had after she had already made it onto the Idol competition.

“It’s a really personal song for me,” HunterGirl concedes. “Growing up, my mom always said that whenever you see a red bird, it’s a sign that somebody’s watching over you. And so whenever I was going back home to watch the first episode of American Idol, I was freaking out, I was scared. I was like ‘I don’t think anybody’s gonna like me, I don’t think I’m gonna sound good.’

“I was driving back home, and I started praying,” she continues. “I was like ‘Hey I know that you know everything’s gonna be okay God, but could you just let me know?’ And a red bird flew in front of my car. So, I was just, like, started crying – because I cry all the time – and then I got back to Nashville and wrote that song. So, full-circle moment.”

Noah Thompson was crowned the Season 20 winner, with Leah Marlene taking the third spot.

Find “Red Bird” and all of HunterGirl’s music here.