Matt Sayles, Invision/AP
Candice Glover, left, and runner-up Kree Harrison react after host Ryan Seacrest announces Glover as the winner at the "American Idol" finale on May 16.

The votes are in. The ballots are cast. The lights were dimmed, the crowd waited on pins and needles and a new “American Idol” winner was announced:

Candice Glover.

“I still can’t even believe I won,” the South Carolina native said during a conference call the day after. “I kept thinking about how I’ve auditioned twice before.”

And she wasn’t even close to winning. Glover didn’t even make the top 10 in years past.

“I made the top 72, then the next year top 60. I was hurt and brokenhearted when I got cut.”

But she kept feeling the urge to come back.

“I just wanted to make the top 20 so I could get votes and gain a following. For some reason, I thought, ‘maybe this time it will work.’ I’m so glad that it worked!”

The R&B powerhouse who describes herself as mostly “laid-back and reserved” shared the finale stage with country girl runner-up Kree Harrison.

“I’m so stinkin’ proud of her!” Harrison gushed about fellow contestant “Candy.”

“I mean, have you heard her? She’s incredible.”

The fact that Harrison is so completely supportive of Glover’s win just goes to show how close the bond really is between contestants, despite the underlying “competitive” nature of the show.

“Right before we’d all walk out on stage, we would just dance around and be silly and take in the moment. It’s really cool to share that experience with such an amazing crew and cast.”

And the 2013 Season 12 Idol hopefuls aren’t skipping a beat. The Idol tour kicks off in a month, barely giving the top 10 time to pick their songs.

Both Harrison and Glover are recording albums and have new singles on iTunes right now, as showcased for the first time on the Idol finale stage.

So what can we expect from the completely different (or “apple and orange”) singers on their upcoming albums?

“I’m very different with some of my creativity,” says Glover. “Some of the ideas I have are really odd … I like to surprise people, like when I did the Drake song. I need to take those ideas on full force and not hide behind trying to do what I think America will love. I’m different and I need to embrace it.”

While Glover will embrace a more R&B feel as showcased with her new single “I Am Beautiful” for her debut album out July 16, Harrison is staying true to her country roots.

“I’d hate to put myself in a box right now … I am more of a traditional artist, but I really just want to stay worldly. I’d love to be on country radio.”

Harrison found out recently that she will be performing her single, “All Cried Out,” at the Grand Ole Opry this summer.

“When Keith Urban told me, I cried,” she said. “I couldn’t have written the single better myself. It’s 100 percent me.”

The Tennessee native lost both her parents at a young age, and while she said it was incredibly difficult, she is looking forward to the future with a positive attitude.

“Everything I’ve been through makes me who I am, and that comes out in my music,” Harrison said. “It’s a choice. You can choose to live happy, no matter what happens to you. This is the sweet after the bitter.”

As for Glover, she used visualization to help get her through the tough times.

“I used to close my eyes and just imagine being on stage with the crowd of people in front waving their hands.”

And now she’s living her dream.

“I’m so proud of her,” Harrison repeated. “And even though I don’t have the title of ‘American Idol winner,’ I have the title of ‘runner-up’. I’m over the moon about it. I feel like I’ve got the world in my hands.”

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.