Nick Mitchell isn't ready to surrender the limelight just yet.
A Brookfield native, he used his comedic, headband-wearing alter ego -- Norman Gentle -- to become one of the top 25 finalists on the eighth season of "American Idol." And while most "Idol" contestants who don't win (and even some who do) fade into obscurity with their exit, Mitchell is still fighting for the microphone -- literally.
In May, Mitchell released his debut single "Brit Slap!" -- a tongue-in-cheek pop anthem inspired by British "Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who announced his departure from the show as its
ninth season came to a close this spring. The success of the single and its accompanying music video earned Mitchell an invitation to perform on this year's "American Idol" finale, where Cowell was given a special send-off.
In addition, Mitchell was seen this year on "The Wendy Williams Show" where he served as the "American Idol" correspondent. He's also in negotiations to take part in a Las Vegas show that will feature him and other former "Idol" contestants.
Shortly after his appearance on the "Idol" finale, Mitchell, who splits his time between Los Angeles and Brookfield, discussed his career with The News-Times during an interview at Starbucks on Federal Road. His headband was nowhere to be seen, but Mitchell still exhibited the snappy sense of humor that set him apart on "Idol."
"I'm extending my 15 minutes to 18 minutes. Whether the bloggers want me or not, Norman Gentle is here to stay," said Mitchell before adding, "unless my parents kick me out."
Mitchell is the first finalist in the series' history to be invited to appear in two consecutive "Idol" finales, in 2009 he was awarded a Most Memorable Performance "Golden Idol" trophy.
He appeared again this year as a dancer during Dane Cook's farewell tribute. He trotted on stage with a cardboard cutout of Cowell -- only to be short-circuited when fur-wearing Ian Benardo stormed the stage vigilante-style and released abusive epithets directed at Cowell. As the camera cut to commercial, Mitchell threw aside his companion cardboard cutout of Cowell in order to wrestle the microphone from Benardo. Despite Internet conspiracy theories to the contrary, Mitchell said the attack was very real and he has the bruises to prove it.
"I tried to grab microphone to stop him. I wrestled him down and he pushed me," Mitchell said. "This guy was trying to pull a Kanye West."
Backstage, Mitchell got to talk to Cowell and the brutally honest British judge had nothing but praise for Mitchell's song and video. Mitchell said Cowell told him enjoyed it and said he had a sense of humor about it.
"Brit Slap!" came about after Mitchell met Dennis DelGaudio -- a guitarist who has played with Billy Joel -- and Ayhan Sahin -- a musical writer and producer. The two approached Mitchell and said they had a song they wanted him to sing about Cowell; Mitchell jumped at the opportunity.
The music video, which features a cameo from "America's Top Model" judge Nigel Barker, a cast of Broadway dancers and a stand-up, cutout of Cowell himself, was filmed at various locations on the streets of New York.
Mitchell had a blast filming the video, but there were a few embarrassing moments.
"There's a seduction scene so I did get down to my Speedos and I swear some of the crew threw up, so they cut that out," he said.
The video spoofs many well-known music videos, including Britney Spears' "Womanizer," Lady Gaga's "Telephone," and Beyonce's "Single Ladies." The single is the launching pad for Mitchell's new band, the Gentle Band, a take-off on "Idol" finalist Chris Daughtry's group Daughtry. The group has began doing some limited touring and will be releasing subsequent singles and, ultimately, an album.
During the "Idol" finale after-party, Mitchell got to meet another Connecticut-grown "American Idol" finalist -- Southbury's Katie Stevens, who made it to the top eight before being eliminated.
"She ran up to me and gave me a hug."
Mitchell's advice to Stevens and all non-"Idol" winners is to start promoting your career as soon as possible, because as he learned this past year, "Idol" fame can be fleeting.
"(One day) your wardrobe is $500 for the day and the next minute you're in your parents' basement going to McDonald's," he said.
You can find out how to buy Mitchell's single and where to find his video on youtube by visiting Mitchell's blog at normangentlemusic.blogspot.com.