Why ‘Idol’ winner Maddie Poppe wishes she could get a ‘do-over’ of her duet with boyfriend Caleb Lee Hutchinson: ‘I was so awkward’

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo Music

The “American Idol Live!” summer concert tour — featuring this year’s American Idol top seven plus a special guest, Season 8 winner Kris Allen — kicks off this week, and many fans will be buying tickets mainly to witness the onstage chemistry between the cutest couple in Idol history: winner Maddie Poppe and runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson. (From Justin to Kelly ain’t got nothin’ on these two.)

Poppe and Hutchinson secretly paired up during this past season’s Hollywood Week, which filmed back in January. (“He was like totally like, ‘Maddie, we’re going to have the cutest kids!’ I was like, ‘We’re just friends, Caleb,’” Poppe recalls. “The first day I was like, ‘Yeah, no, I’m going to marry you.’ It freaked her out, and then I conned her into it,” Hutchinson chuckles.) They then waited until the Season 16 finale to officially declare their relationship status, sealing the deal with an adorable duet of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/“What a Wonderful World.” But while their romance is still going strong more than two months later, Poppe confesses — much to Hutchinson’s shock — that she wishes that their duet could get a “do-over.”

Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe (Photo: ABC)
Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe (Photo: ABC)

Poppe explains during an exclusive interview with Yahoo Entertainment that when she and Hutchinson reached the song’s final line, she wasn’t sure which note he planned to hit — so she backed off and clammed up. “I went, ‘What a wonderful…’ and then I just stopped singing. I wish I could redo that part. I felt so awkward; I looked so awkward when I watched it back. I’m like, ‘Maddie, just hold his hand!’ I was so awkward.”

“That’s something only you would have noticed. I think everybody was too busy weeping over the beauty of it,” Hutchinson interjects snarkily. “I thought it was heavenly. Thank you for hating it! I appreciate it.”

Poppe also admits she wishes she could redo the top 14 week’s “Walk Like an Egyptian” and her first performance of her coronation single, “Going Going Gone.” (“I cringe when I watch that… I know I could have done better, and I don’t like that that’s out there on the Internet now.”) But the more go-with-the-flow Hutchinson insists he has “no regerts,” saying: “Yeah, I just don’t care. I have the attitude about it that it’s done and it happened how it was supposed to. You can’t sit around and think about anything about how you would change it.”

Hutchinson actually received much harsher critiques than his girlfriend did on Idol, which often upset the protective Poppe more than it did Hutchinson himself. (“I would watch him backstage and I’m like, ‘Wow, that was so good!’ Then they’d be like, ‘That was my least favorite performance of yours,’” she recalls ruefully.) But Hutchinson shrugs, “There were a few times where [the judges] gave me some real criticism, but I think it was helpful. … I agreed with a lot of what they said. I think if you’re scared of some criticism, you’re never going to make any progress. My experience is singing for folks in restaurants who would rather eat their steak than listen to me sing; I’ve been doing that since I was 11. I was so open to the fact that I’m not going to be the best singer to be on national television singing to millions of folks at home. I was never like, ‘Man, I can’t believe they were mean to me!’ I was like, ‘All right, write it down, put it in the old noggin, and use it for what it’s worth.’”

Hutchinson remains humble — joking about he’s “writing songs in the basement” while Poppe is working on her post-Idol album with pros like Julia Michaels, Anne Preven (who co-wrote Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”), fun.’s Nate Ruess, and Christina Perri — but right now, he and Poppe are looking forward to the tour, on which they’ll maybe get a shot at some those “do-overs” without any TV pressure.

“Let me tell you something: After the show’s over, it’s like a bittersweet thing, but there’s this sigh of relief that I no longer have to worry about the outcome,” says Hutchinson. “It’s a beautiful thing. I felt like 100,000 pounds leaped off my shoulders. We’re going to start our careers — and if something goes downhill with mine, I can be Maddie’s rhythm guitar player.”

Check out Maddie and Caleb’s chemistry-filled, incredibly entertaining Facebook Live interview below for more talk about their album recording plans, whether they they’ll ever write or record together, bonding with Kris Allen and Kermit the Frog, the differences between their Idol experience and their previous respective unsuccessful appearances on The Voice, and if they’ll ever get to take that Hawaiian vacation.

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