updated 05/12/2006 AT 8:15 AM ET
•originally published 05/11/2006 AT 4:10 PM ET
It wasn’t only the audience that was stunned by rocker Chris Daughtry’s exit from American Idol on Wednesday: Chris himself was “shocked.”
“It was definitely a gut-wrenching moment,” he said Thursday. “I wasn’t expecting it, not even a little bit.”
If fact, the singer said he thought Ryan Seacrest, who abruptly announced that Daughtry had been cut, was kidding. “I thought he was building it up to be like people thought I was going home and then say, ‘Chris you can sit down.’ I thought there was going to be some sort of ‘just kidding’ factor there.”
After receiving so much praise from the judges and fans during the competition, Daughtry said it’s hard to imagine not being the next American Idol.
“It’s weird because you have all these people telling you for weeks now, ‘Oh man you’re gonna win this thing. You’re gonna win this thing. This is your thing to win. ’ And when you have so many people telling you that, you automatically assume this is what American wants.”
Asked why he thought he got cut, Daughtry said, “The only thing I can think of is maybe everybody just thought I was shoo-in and didn’t vote.”
The Idol judges – and the other finalists – were also taken aback by the news, said Daughtry. “Everyone was pretty much speechless. Randy was saying, ‘Don’t worry about it man you’re gonna be fine.’ Paula was crying too much to really say anything. And Simon was pretty shocked. He said he didn’t see this coming and he just wished me the best of luck.”
The luck has already started. The band Fuel has offered him a spot as their frontman. They first hinted that they were eyeing Daughtry in March when the group’s Web site said they were looking for a singer and liked his performing style.
“He’s perfect for Fuel,” the band’s manager, Paul Geary, told PEOPLE on Thursday. “He has the right voice, the right look. It would be perfect.”