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HUNTINGTON — When Noah Thompson, a 20-year-old from Louisa, Kentucky, started his “American Idol” journey, he wasn’t confident he would make it past the audition.

Not only did he get a coveted golden ticket, but last Sunday he was also named the winner of the 20th season of “American Idol.”

The story that captivated viewers was Thompson’s hesitancy to go on the show. It was his friend and co-worker Arthur Johnson who sent in a video of Thompson’s singing to the show — much to the disapproval of Thompson.

“I had got started in this competition by Arthur — everyone knows the story. Basically, I got thrown into this competition and it wasn’t my choice. Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful for it now, but throughout it, I hated leaving my family behind,” Thompson said.

Thompson spoke about how nearing the Top 24 he wasn’t sure how much further he could go. Thompson has a 1-year-old son named Walker with his girlfriend, Angel. He described being away from his family as heartbreaking.

“Part of me just wanted to leave the show, but I’m very glad I didn’t,” Thompson said.

“I had a lot of family and friends who uplifted me and made sure I didn’t make the wrong decision. I’m grateful for everyone around me, really,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the judges were the ones who boosted his confidence in his voice.

“They all three really care and truly want the best for all three of us,” Thompson said, referencing his fellow Top 3 contestants, HunterGirl from Winchester, Tennessee, and Leah Marlene from Normal, Illinois.

Thompson spoke about his relationship with show judge Lionel Richie.

“He really, really cared … I love Lionel to death. He really helped me in a lot of ways,” Thompson said.

Thompson said it was Richie’s demeanor and humbleness that he connected with. Thompson now sets Richie’s behavior as an example to follow.

“He’s not out here acting like some big shot. When you talk to him, he just is who he is. I bet that guy hasn’t changed a bit since he became Lionel Richie … I really looked up to that,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s next steps are a reflection of the juxtaposition of his time and victory on “Idol” and his life in Louisa. He says he plans to lay low for some time and said he is especially looking forward to going on a Disney Cruise with his family, which was given to him by ABC.

He might be taking a break for now, but music is the focus of his future.

“I’m looking forward to getting out and playing shows and meeting people and writing some songs — that’s what I’m working on right now. I’m not saying I’m a good songwriter or anything, but you got to start somewhere,” Thompson said.

Thompson is new to songwriting but said he will learn quickly.

“It all takes time. This all has been a huge learning process for me,” Thompson said.

Thompson mentioned some of his influences and how he wants his music to sound, specifically Lawrence County, Kentucky, native Tyler Childers.

“I’m not trying to be a pop-country artist. I don’t want to be a pop-country artist. That’s not me. That’s why I didn’t wear certain clothes. I still wear my boots, my blue jeans and my flannel — that’s just me. I want to be a soulful, rock-country-type deal,” Thompson said.

Thompson has been intentional in staying grounded despite his new fame. He said bonding with fellow contestants and going through such a unique experience brought them closer and made them some of his closest friends.

“I feel like that’s why we became so close. No one truly understood how we all felt. It’s a lot, and we only had each other,” Thompson said.

Despite attempting to stay grounded, Thompson has experienced some of the perks of his success on the show, like flying on a private jet and going on “Good Morning America.” Just a few months after flying on his first plane for his audition in Austin, Texas, he was flying to New York City to go on the morning show he had watched since childhood.

“I’ve been watching ‘Good Morning America’ for the longest time. I always loved it,” he said. “So I was nervous. I’m not gonna lie. I walked out onto the set and was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ but it was really fun.”

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