updated 05/20/2011 AT 5:35 PM ET
•originally published 05/20/2011 AT 6:00 PM ET
When Haley Reinhart sang the line “So stick around, you’re gonna hear electric music” from “Bennie and the Jets,” she had no doubt in her mind that she would be doing just that sticking around.
But after her long run on American Idol, the Chicago native, who had wound up in the bottom three four times this season, was eliminated on Wednesday night.
“I accepted it very quickly and took it with a grain of salt,” says the singer, who adds that she’s looking forward to “letting loose” on the Idol concert tour because she won’t have to worry about being judged.
“I don’t regret anything,” says Reinhart. “I got a chance to show versatility and I was proud to do that. I wouldn’t trade that in for the world.”
One thing Reinhart, 20, does wish she’d had a chance to show more of was her goofy personality. “Usually I’m bubbly and joking around,” she says. “It’s hard to get that all out and show everybody who you are in a minute and a half.”
Hidden quirks aside, judge Steven Tyler seemed to be in her corner most of the time.
“Steven really helped me out and made me feel good about my performances,” says Reinhart, who was often a target for the judges and says they seemed to really want to “push my buttons.”
A classic rock lover, Reinhart says working with Tyler on her solo album would be “fantastic,” as would jamming with Sheryl Crow, Corinne Bailey Rae or Esperanza Spaulding. “I would love to do a sultry bluesy rock album and slip jazz in there somehow,” she says.
And though she won’t tell who she thinks will be the big Idol winner in next week’s youngest final ever, Reinhart says remaining contestants Lauren Alaina, 16, and Scotty McCreery, 17, are, “so cute and have country calling for them. It’s a close one!”