"It was never about winning for me," America's Got Talent finalist Courtney Hadwin tells PEOPLE

By Karen Mizoguchi
October 01, 2018 05:32 PM
Credit: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Courtney Hadwin captivated viewers on season 13 of America’s Got Talent with her love for 70s music and Janis Joplin-style vocals.

Despite controversy during the competition, the 14-year-old from Durham, England, quickly became a fan-favorite. Even winner Shin Lim admitted post-show: “We all thought Courtney was going to win from the get-go.”

Though she failed to land in the top 5 of the NBC reality competition, the teenager tells PEOPLE, “It was the best experience of my life,” adding, “I didn’t see myself as a fan favorite at all. I just felt so lucky to be there in the final and to be in the top 10 doesn’t really feel like losing to me.”

Week after week, Courtney impressed fans and judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel — who named her his Golden Buzzer winner — with her soulful renditions of Tina Turner’s 1988 classic “River Deep – Mountain High,” Steppenwolf’s 1969 hit “Born to Be Wild,” James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.”

Credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

When asked if there were any songs she regretted or wished she performed, Courtney says she left her heart and soul on the Dolby Theater stage: “I actually enjoyed every song that I sang and I feel proud of every performance that I gave. I was able to be myself all the way through.”

Staying true to herself and her musical taste also garnered her some famous fans. “I’ve had some messages from some famous people which have been so unreal that they know who I am. I had support from Paloma Faith, Luke Evans, Stevie van Zandt, Jojo Siwa and Sharon Stone. It was amazing that so many big names had been talking about me,” Courtney shares.

Courtney Hadwin
| Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

However, some were already familiar her due to her previous appearances on The Voice U.K., in which she landed in the top 10 as well.

The Voice Kids U.K. was great, but it wasn’t a big show like AGT,” she explains, adding that “the size of the audience, the show, the production, but mostly the exposure” were completely different.

“People know who I am now and what I can do, and it’s all thanks to AGT. It was never about winning for me. I just love to perform, and that’s it really,” Courtney says.

As for what’s next in her career, Courtney and Cowell talked about her future, reportedly to sign with his record label, one day after the AGT results show.

“I had a meeting at Simon’s house as well and met his dogs,” the singer confirms. “It’s been so busy since the final, but I have heard from Simon and Howie, which was really nice.”

On the prospects of signing a record deal, Courtney says, “That would be my absolute dream, but I’m just taking things one step at a time and working on some original music at the minute.”

Courtney will join Lim during his string of headlining Vegas performances at the Paris Theater at Paris Las Vegas from Nov. 2-4. Also featured will be fellow season 13 finalists: comedians Vicki Barbolak and Samuel J. Comroe as well as violinist Brian King Joseph and trapeze couple Duo Transcend.

Season 14 auditions for America’s Got Talent are currently underway, and interested acts can register at www.AGTAuditions.com.