It's not easy being Maddie Poppe. In a world of musical copycats and endless pressures to create something that fits into some sort of already established mold, it could be easy for the Top 7 American Idol finalist to fall into that pull to change who she is. But Poppe is dedicated to remaining authentic in every way — she has Kacey Musgraves to look up to.

"I absolutely love her," Poppe tells Taste of Country as she took a break from rehearsals for Sunday's (May 6) episode of American Idol. "She’s someone I have looked up to, because she brings something totally different to country music. When I write, I sometimes think it comes out wrong or I feel like I sound too witty or too immature ... but Kacey is doing that exact same thing and doing it so successfully. She isn’t afraid to show every side of her."

Poppe tends to skirt away from stamping a genre on the kind of music she is creating, she does show hints of the country music upbringing she had as a child.

"My dad was in a country band and a bluegrass band when I was growing up," says Poppe, who performed a country-tinged rendition of "The Bare Necessities" last week. "I think that country sound comes out sometimes when I sing. When I come up with an arrangement, the band often puts a bit of their own twist to it, but I have loved what they have been coming up with. I’ve been so happy about how things have been turning out."

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She says that, growing up, she never knew what kind of music she wanted to play, but all indications are that she shines brightest when she stays true to her singer-songwriter roots. "I just want to be myself,” the 20-year-old says. “I’m not trying to fall into some sort of mold. My dad has always told me not to be anything I don’t want to be. I’m not pure country and I’m not pure pop and I assume that my style of music is not going to be played on the mainstream radio stations."

Yes, she is beginning to imagine what life looks like for her after American Idol.

“I want to stay authentic, because this is something I really want to do after this is done," she insists. Poppe  has established close friendships with fellow finalists Catie Turner and Caleb Lee Hutchinson. "The last thing I want is to be known as is 'that girl on American Idol.’ No matter what happens, this show has helped me to establish a platform and so many kinds of different people have watched me on that platform. My goal is to just to show my fans who I want to be after this I hope."

Does she think she can win? "I’m still insecure in many ways but I have gotten better with that and yes, I’m getting excited," she says, laughing. “My confidence has definitely grown. It helps when I get that reassurance from the judges (Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie) that I am on the right path. You just never know."

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