This Saturday at 8 pm/ET, Justin Guarini will go country as a competitor on Gone Country 3, the CMT series that challenges celebs from assorted walks of life to take a walk on the wailing side. Does Guarini, the runner-up in American Idol's first season, have what what it takes to croon better than Richard Grieco, Micky Dolenz, Taylor Dane and three other wannabes? TVGuide.com invited Guarini to preview his foray into the genre, as well as make some predictions about Idol's new season.
TVGuide.com: What about pop singing doesn't necessarily translate into country singing?
Justin Guarini: That's a hard question because nowadays country singing is more pop than it has been in a long time.
TVGuide.com: Thank you, Carrie Underwood!
Guarini: Exactly. Country music is not necessarily the twangy phonographs your grandmother used to listen to. It really is pop music anymore, and there's a lot of crossover going on.
TVGuide.com: What was one of the first things you learned about country music by doing this show?
Guarini: One of the greatest things I learned is what country music is about. It's about God, faith, country, service and just having a good time. Those are the facets of country music.
TVGuide.com: But not pick-up trucks?
Guarini: [Laughs] That is in the mix.
TVGuide.com: Do you have any favorite country artists?
Guarini: I do like some of the older music — Hank Williams, and as strange as it may sound Earl Scruggs. I just got [Scruggs' albums] on vinyl, and it's fun to listen to. It's like Dukes of Hazzard getaway music!
TVGuide.com: Who from the Gone Country 3 cast were you particularly excited to meet?
Guarini: I didn't know George Clinton was going to be on this, but once I found out, I was really excited. He's the godfather of funk!
TVGuide.com: Who on the cast spent more time on their hair — you, former Miss USA Tara Conner, or Richard Grieco?
Guarini: [Laughs] Man, I don't know.... I wore a do-rag handkerchief most of the time, so probably Tara.
TVGuide.com: Turning to your work for TV Guide Network: Are there any new bells and whistles we should look forward to in your coverage of Idol's new season?
Guarini: It's going to be interesting. [Fellow Idol alum] Kim [Caldwell] and I are taking on more of the work, and you're going to see a higher production value [on Reality Chat: Idol Wrap, which airs Fridays at 8]. Every year, it's just a lot of fun. Kim and I do our best to make it an enjoyable experience.
TVGuide.com: Are you a fan of the audition rounds, or do you tend to watch them peripherally?
Guarini: I'm actually not a fan of the audition rounds at all. I just want to get to the good stuff, which is the Top 12. That's where the show really begins for me.
TVGuide.com: What do you think new judge Kara DioGuardi has brought to the dais?
Guarini: She brings a great blend of all the judges. Not only has she been a producer like Randy, but she's been an artist herself, like Paula. She's also a writer and she knows great songs, like Simon. She's really able to give her opinion, and she stands up to Simon really well.
TVGuide.com: She stands up to the singers, too. She had that sing-off with "Bikini Girl"...
Guarini: Yeah. She's not afraid to be feisty, yet she has a lot of heart, too. She'll bring even more energy to the show.
TVGuide.com: Any predictions for Season 8?
Guarini: I think that Hollywood Week is going to be filled with a lot more drama than we're used to. There are rumors of the contestants being put in the same house again, so I wonder if they're going to really pump up the drama. But something needed to be done to change things up.
TVGuide.com: You went to junior high school with Pink. What was she like back then? Just as hardcore?
Guarini: She was pretty, sweet.... She was always kind to me, and we sometimes sang together. I could not be more happy for her and what she has done with her career. She is and always has been an amazing singer, and someone who's not afraid to tell it like it is.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, I understand a wedding is in your future?
Guarini: Yeah, I'm getting married [to writer/longtime friend Reina Capodici] in July! I'm very busy. I have my [BlogTalk] radio show that I host on Mondays, I have my own Internet show that I'm putting out, I have Disney's American Idol Experience coming out in February.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, I got invited to Disney World for the opening of that. What's in it for the average layperson?
Guarini: It literally takes you through the actual Idol experience, showing you what it's like to be a part of the show, in one way or another.
TVGuide.com: What, do they put you on a stage and make you sing in front of 40,000 animatronic audience members?
Guarini: [Laughs] You'll see! I do a video introduction to the process, and it's really cool.