Bobby Bones talks ‘American Idol’ mentoring, filling in for Ryan Seacrest and what ‘Dancing With the Stars’ taught him

Between his victory on “Dancing With the Stars” and successfully filling in for ailing “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest in early April, the show’s mentor Bobby Bones continues to gain reality show cred. In  fact, a Gold Derby poll found that 82% of the singing contest’s  viewers thought Bones did a fine job as a substitute host. Most either thought he blended in fine and kept the show moving or considered him to be a great change of pace and did himself proud.

“Billboard” recently spoke to the iHeart nationally syndicated country radio DJ who shared  more than a few insider nuggets that might interest “Idol” fans about the current crop of hopefuls on the show.  Bones also reveals how his time on “Dancing With the Stars” provided him with an insider’s perspective when it comes to how to win over fans of reality competitions. Here are some highlights.

What hints did he give to the “Idol” contestants who are in the Top 6?

Wade Cota told me, ‘I’ve never been trained. I’m up against people [who have].’ I said, ‘There’s a beauty to that, because you’re not doing what everyone does and the greats don’t. The greats set their own.’ Laci Kaye Booth has no idea how good she is, because she’s never been around people that actually tell her how good she is. She’s completely uncomfortable against what she sees as far greater talent. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell her that not only does she deserve to be here but she deserves to be there at the very end.”

SEE ‘American Idol’ recap: Top 8 become Top 6 on Night 15 of Season 17 [UPDATING LIVE BLOG]

What about fan favorite Alejandro Aranda?

“I talk to them about their vulnerability. Alejandro struggled with the concept of Disney Week. He said, ‘Disney songs? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do if I have to sing a Disney song.’ I told him, “You don’t have to win every week. If you’re running in the forest from a lion, you just have to outrun the slowest guy. The lion’s only going to get one of them, so as long as you survive these weeks you’re super uncomfortable with, you’re good. By the time the semis or the finals come around, you get to dictate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.” Alejandro did a song from “Coco.” He struggled until the last minute, and then he went out there and pulled it off.”

He shares how last minute his recruitment to fill in for Seacrest was — and the advice one “Idol”  judge gave him. 

“I was working with the contestants on their duet week. And one of the producers said, ‘Trish needs to see you.’ I asked him to hold on a second and he said, ‘No. Trish needs to see you now.’ The show was starting in seven minutes. I’m thinking I’m about to get fired. And Trish said, “Take your mic off. Walk out in the alley.” Then she tells me, ‘Ryan is sick for the first time ever in the history of the show, and we have to start the show in less than 10 minutes. Can you do it?’ I said I could. There was no rehearsal. I said, ‘All I need is stage directions. Just tell me to walk right or left so I don’t walk into a camera.’ It was a benefit to me that there wasn’t time for me to freak out. … Lionel Richie pulled me aside and I’m thinking this is nutty – I’m a kid from Mountain Pine, Arkansas and I’m getting mentored by Lionel Richie. So he’s giving me advice and he told me about the time Dick Clark called the Commodores and said, ‘We need an act.’ ‘We weren’t ready, but they called us and we did it and it turns out we were, and so are you.’ And then he pushed me in the back and said, ‘Go get ’em.’ I walked up and boom, it was ‘American Idol’ time.”

What he learned about reality shows like “Dancing With the Stars” as the champ with the second-lowest score in the history of the show.

“I won because I was the people’s favorite dancer, and that’s what I work with these Idols on. There have been 1,000 singers before you that are as good or better than you, but you’re not trying to be the best singer ever. You’re trying to be the people’s favorite singer. If you’re just going to line people up and have them sing their brains out, you’re going to get schooled by some opera singers that no one’s ever heard of. That’s not the game. The game is human relations.”

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