There are many differing opinions about contestants on American Idol, and how deserving they are of the success provided by the show.  Some may say that it is overnight stardom for people who have never dedicated enough time to their craft.  But others will tell you that the talent that arrives on the show is just as committed (if not more) to their music as any other artist who has given their life to pursuing their musical passion.

In the early years of the show, American Idol had been dismissed as nothing more than an amateur talent show.  In fact, Kelly Clarkson's management had once wanted to sever all ties with the show so that she could be viewed as a genuine talent, and not a product of the controversial "talent show".  But things have changed.  People take American Idol more seriously today.  Irrespective of the fact that it is a reality show that can manipulate drama, the artists who make it to the Top 24 possess incredible talent.  Great artists from current and past generations make appearances to help the new artists, and there is a tremendous amount of pride watching these young artists forge their musical careers.

Regardless of the show's success at creating Grammy-winning artists, not everyone is going to get as far as Underwood, Daughtry, Clarkson, or Hudson.

Music Forte had the honor of interviewing Leslie Hunt (who made it to the Top 24 in Season 6) to find out just what Post-Idol had to offer.  Of course, we also wanted to find out what advice she could provide for artists who are doing their own thing.

Music Forte: What's the real scoop with American Idol?  What doors have opened for you since the show, and what doors have closed?

Leslie Hunt: The real scoop is that it's a lot of work!  You never get alone time, there are more auditions before you get to the judges that are not televised, and editing is KEY, which I'm sure is the case for all reality shows.  To answer your other question, more doors have opened than have closed.  It seems like most everyone, no matter what their age, profession or musical taste, is interested in American Idol.  Most everyone finds it to be entertaining (except for me, ironically) and therefore, the odds that my press release will rise to the top are better than they otherwise would be.

Music Forte: How much of your success do you feel you owe to American Idol?

Leslie Hunt: I owe a great deal of my success to the experience of being on the show, not even from an industry or exposure standpoint, but from a personal reformation standpoint.  American Idol helped me realize my potential as a performer and songwriter.  When you get so close to something you've always longed for, but secretly feared, and you realize that you're totally cut out for it, you do whatever you can to get back to that point.  Idol supercharged my motivation.

Music Forte: You brought Jazz to the table on American Idol with Nina Simone's, "Feeling Good", and if I remember correctly when you were voted off, you suggested that Jazz was something you should have avoided.  Do you still feel the same way? 

Leslie Hunt: In hindsight, what didn't work about my final song was not it's genre, but the poorly executed scatting at the end.  I was, and still am, a big Nina Simone fan, and I basically copied her exact scat.  Scatting only works if it's an improvised vocal interpretation of a jazz solo.  The syllables she used didn't work for my voice, so it came across pretty awkward.  Overall, I should've waited to audition until I watched at least one episode and learned what works and what doesn't.

Music Forte: Do you feel that certain genres are less marketable than others in today's music scene?  If so, do you think an artist should ever compromise their integrity to perform what sells?

Leslie Hunt: I don't think it's ever a good idea to compromise musical integrity because most of the sincerity is lost in the process.  If you are inspired to write bluegrass, stick with bluegrass, and don't try to write like Beyonce, regardless of how much better it sells.

Music Forte: Our audience is composed of a diverse group of people all with personal challenges of their own.  You have Lupus and your sister passed away just prior to your wedding.  How do you stay engaged with music when life presents challenges? 

Leslie Hunt: It's difficult, I'm not gonna lie.  I have found that I don't usually write while I'm in the throws of extreme hardship, but rather when things have settled down and I have gained some perspective.  I look forward to my next batch of songs as they will no doubt be rich with content.

Music Forte: You recently became a new mother; congratulations!  How has this had an impact on your music?

Leslie Hunt:  I don't have time!  Just kidding.  I am really, really enjoying being a mother and am trying not to lose myself in my new role. As I am getting more and more used to it, so I'm able to get away more often and take some time for myself.  As a performer, I'm feeling the music on a whole new level.  It's hard to describe, but I think it's because it's not about me anymore.  I'm a conduit and a giver of life, so that translates into my feeling more like of a giver of music than anything else…  If that makes sense.

Music Forte: In Season 6 American Idol, you were introduced as a "Dog Walker".  Are you still walking dogs today, or is music now your full time job?

Leslie Hunt: Ha!  Nope, not walking dogs anymore, and yes, music is my full time job.  I'm living the dream!

Music Forte: What advice do you have for independent musicians who are working to sell their music and create wider recognition?

Leslie Hunt: Hm.  I'm still trying to figure this out myself, but from what I can tell, the old model of "get discovered", "get signed" or "get a development deal" is completely obsolete.  It takes an enormous amount of work and innovation to get heard, and an artist needs to spend a decent amount of time thinking out of the box.  A label won't even consider you unless you can pack a venue any night of the week.  Do it all yourself for as long as you can and have fun, 'cause you probably won't make any money.  Do it for the music, and hopefully the fans will follow.

Visit the Official Website of Leslie Hunt at www.lesliehunt.net.