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'American Idol' tour brings Chicago's Devin Velez back home

Chicago native Devin Velez returns to his hometown area Monday — part of the nationwide tour of the “American Idol” tour of the season 12 top 11 contestants in the long-running TV reality show musical competition. Velez and the other 10 singers will be performing at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

I caught up with the recent Admiral Farragut Naval Academy graduate as he called from the Charlotte stop on this summer’s tour. He talked about how “Idol” has changed his life, what’s coming next and how he’s continued a relationship with the “Idol” judge who was his biggest supporter.

BZ: How has “American Idol” changed your life?

DV: I’m able to wake up every day and do what I love. … Yes, I’m getting paid for it, but I mean honestly money couldn’t buy the happiness that I feel when I’m on that stage being able to share my heart with the audience. It’s amazing.

BZ: Earlier, you said you hoped to go back to Admiral Rickover and get elected prom king. Did that happen?

DV: I did not. I was in second place. Actually, I wasn’t even supposed to go to prom. I didn’t have a date or anything and had to get a date at the last minute. We were supposed to have a rehearsal for the ‘Idol’ tour — so I didn’t think I could come. Then they changed the date for that, so I could fly home and go to the prom. I literally bought a tux the night before the prom.

BZ: Have you kept in touch with your “Idol” judges — Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson, Keith Richards or Nicki Minaj?

DV: Yeah, Mariah and I have emailed back and forth. … She emailed me a couple of days ago, “Hey hon, I was thinking about you. … I just wanted to see how you were doing. I hope you’re doing well.” I so love Mariah. She is definitely going to be one of those pro contacts that I will keep! I think it’s good to have her not just as a friend, but someone who has been in the business for so long. So, if I ever needed advice, I could just give her a call and know I’d have my questions answered the right way.

BZ: You mentioned signing a recording contract. Is that a done deal?

DV: That is still pending. I do have a couple of people who are standing in line — people who want to sign me. I’m just not sure yet if I’m going with either of them. … I don’t want to just jump into something — that’s my career — and I don’t want to just pick something carelessly.

BZ: Have you been back to your old Starbucks where you once worked?

DV: I have not. I’m hoping to stop by after the tour. I want to go back and visit my Starbucks family.

BZ: You just graduated from high school this spring. Has being on “Idol” postponed college plans?

DV: Here’s the thing. If I get signed [to a recording contract] right after the tour, I think I’m going to have to move straight to L.A. and just start recording. But school is definitely important and I would still like to get a degree in music education. But I also have been thinking about Broadway, has that’s always been another dream of mine — so I could also move to New York and start trying to make it there.

BZ: Thanks to “Idol,” I assume you get recognized on the street — not just in Chicago, but everywhere you go?

DV: It’s funny because those of us on the tour sometimes forget that millions of people watched us week after week. … So when we go out, it is funny when people just freak out and know you. It also means you’ve got a higher responsibility. You have to watch what you say and watch what you’re doing.