updated 05/22/2014 AT 11:45 AM ET
•originally published 05/22/2014 AT 12:00 PM ET
If you ask the newly crowned champion – whose unconventional looks and powerful rock sound ultimately won over the audience this season – his answer is a resounding yes.
“I think for me, winning opens doors to all types of shapes and sizes and genres to come on the show and kill it,” he told reporters Wednesday night shortly after his big win. “I’m probably the antithesis of what American Idols have been.”
The Asheville, North Carolina, native, who emerged victorious despite a vocal cord hemorrhage just before the finals, said his look and sound is so different than most American Idol champions that even eventual runner-up Jena Irene Asciutto’s mom doubted he could win.
“It’s funny because Jena’s mom couldn’t picture me as the American Idol, she told me that,” he said. “I mean, seriously, look at me, it’s so crazy to me!”
“I think this is the first season that a rock singer has won,” he also said. “Not just pop rock but actual rock ‘n roll. And some of the viewers that watch didn’t like it because they are used to the show being very nice-looking people and I think that this is so cool … and incredibly humbling.”
Johnson’s win is even sweeter because it comes after two failed attempts on previous seasons. Yet he said those disappointments spurred him to work harder to get himself back on the show.
“After the past seasons, I went home and I busted my butt, wrote music and played out shows and I just worked and worked and worked and worked,” he said. “That’s why I’m so comfortable now on stage as you see me. It’s just a natural thing because all the groundwork I did at home.”
Now, Johnson will focus on a new album to be released in August – while mulling over unconventional ideas including a “zombie rock opera” – and will seemingly take the lessons he learned while on the show with him as he attempts to advance his career.
“You have to embrace the people that love you because you’re making a difference in people’s lives and you’re making them feel something with your music,” he said. “That I think is the biggest key: to stay grounded and focused and stay true to who you are as a person.”