May 14, 2009 12:00 AM

After missing the cut to compete in next week’s splashy American Idol finale, Danny Gokey had a message to fans: “People need to vote,” he said during a conference call Thursday with reporters. “This competition is not over yet. I have a feeling it’s gonna be a very tight race.”

An early favorite, the judges and millions of viewers had expected Gokey to go up against glam rocker Adam Lambert in the finale, but the Milwaukee music teacher and worship leader, 29, said low-key strummer Kris Allen deserved his shot. “One thing I admire about Kris is he’s very mellow, and that’s one character trait I’ve always wanted,” Gokey revealed. “I’m an intense person.”

But Gokey wasn’t shocked by last night’s turn of events. “I was confident in the fact that it was it for me,” he said. “Did I want it to be? No. I wanted to go for the gold. I’m a competitor by nature.”

What hurt him in the end? Gokey thinks it could have been his inability — unlike Lambert and Allen — to put his own spin on his song selections. “You have to change up every song,” he said. “It kinda stinks because at this point, it’s more than singing. People want to see an old song made fresh again.”

Despite being a frontrunner, Gokey had been plagued by insecurities throughout the competition. “There were times I just didn’t want to go out on that stage,” he said. “I felt maybe unprepared or I felt like man, is anybody going to like what I’m doing? I over thought the process.

“I felt like I had so much pressure on me in the beginning of the show,” he continued. “I had to outdo myself every week. I was like, man, I’m still growing as a musician yet expect so much to come out of me, and I felt like at times I just wasn’t there yet.”

The Idol said he didn’t begrudge judge Simon Cowell‘s Tuesday-night plea that vote for Lambert. “That’s what he believes is going to make the most money,” Gokey said. “I didn’t get into this thing for the money. I didn’t get into it so I can live this glamorous lifestyle. My goal is so different, and maybe it didn’t line up with what they see as a pop star.”

What’s his goal? “Maybe it sounds so big of me and cocky even, but I’d like to start a movement with my music,” he said. “The dream I have is to revolutionize the culture, to change ‘s hearts. I want to entertain but at the same time, I want them to come out of their zone for a bit. My whole testimony is overcoming the impossible in my life and I want to tell if I can do it, you can do it.”

Gokey’s wife Sophia passed away four weeks before his Idol audition, and going forward, Gokey plans to honor her in his music. He hopes to record a soulful album that mixes R&B beats with “a hint of a Latin vibe” in honor of his wife, who was Puerto Rican. He also plans to focus on growing Sophia’s Heart, the foundation he started because of his wife last year, perhaps using proceeds from a planned line of eyeglasses. But Gokey, who estimates he now owns at least 50 pairs of glasses, doesn’t just plan to craft a line of specs: “I would love to be an eyeglasses model,” he said. “That would be so cool.”

First, though, he will appear in next week’s finale and then head out on this summer’s tour, where he’s looking forward to showing a side of himself he felt he held back on during the FOX show. “The coolest thing now is I can take my guard down,” Gokey said of his elimination. “Because I don’t need votes … I can just talk openly and freely to the I sing in front of, and I’m excited for that.” — Shawna MalcomMichael Becker/FOX</

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