By People Staff
Updated April 13, 2010 12:00 AM
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AP

When Brooke White makes her return to the American Idol stage on Wednesday, another artist will make his debut along side her — singer-songwriter Justin Gaston.

If the long-haired, seemingly shy, skinny-jeaned guitarist looks familiar, it may be because the 21-year-old has garnered a bit of fame as a model, a contestant on Nashville Star and ex-boyfriend of Miley Cyrus. Now, Gaston is one of the featured aspiring talents on the Web show If I Can Dream, seen on Hulu.com and Ificandream.com, and he can’t wait to show off his musical chops to a wider audience in a duet of the show’s theme song.

“I was very, very happy when they told me I was going to be singing on American Idol,” Gaston tells PEOPLE. “I love the show and I’ve been following it for several years. It’s amazing to actually get the opportunity to go up there and sing on that stage.”

For Gaston, who has been playing gigs at the L.A. club The Mint, the Idol stage will be his biggest platform yet. “I did model for about two years but for me, my passion is music and that was always the case,” he says. “Modeling was a way to be out here in L.A. and pursue my dreams of becoming a musician. So to me, this has been amazing and I’m really, really enjoying this process.”

Although some have told Gaston his sound is something like the “Beach Boys vibe mixed with John Lennon,” he says, “I personally would never compare myself to greats like that.”

Of his musical influences, Gaston says, “Growing up, I listened to a lot of country music … I’ve been listening to a ton of the Beatles for the past couple of years, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. I got a lot into Cat Stevens lately, guys like that.”

While living in the If I Can Dream house, Gaston has jammed with Idol contestant Alex Lambert but spends a lot of time writing music, inspired by the success of past Idols. “I loved Kelly Clarkson‘s first album,” he says. “I thought she was amazing. Carrie Underwood is brilliant. I really love those two, and Daughtry‘s good too. It’s great to meet with the Idols because they went through a similar experience and it’s just cool just to hear how it went down on Idol, their thoughts about it, where they are now after.”

When Gaston is not out performing, his life is caught 24-7 by the If I Can Dream house’s cameras. “From what my brother tells me, my parents watch me all the time,” he says. “He’s always like, ‘Yeah I was going to watch you but Mom and Dad wouldn’t give up the computer, so I couldn’t watch you.’ I would be talking about stuff and I would get a text from my mom, like I said something about getting another tattoo and she’d be like, ‘Please don’t do it!’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, crap!'”

Adds Gaston: “If my mom wants to know, no I’ll never get another tattoo!” –Cynthia WangAP