It’s been nearly two years since America fell in love with Elliott Yamin on American Idol, but the 29-year-old still has crystal clear memories of his time there, not to mention the people.

“They’re great people, all of them,” Elliott tells Parade magazine. “Simon [Cowell]‘s a nice guy, he’s a good guy. Paula [Abdul]‘s a little nuts but she’s great, and RandyJackson] [‘s a sweet, really cool guy.”

Still, Elliott is ready to distance himself from the show, where he finished in third place. That’s not surprising considering his success as a solo artist. His self-titled debut album and first single, “Wait for You,” were just certified gold.

“I didn’t know how huge the song was going to be when I recorded it but I knew it was going to be something special,” he says. “It feels amazing, it feels great.”

The singer also feel great about his health. Elliott is 90 percent deaf in one year and has Type I diabetes but says he has learned to manage both and not let them be obstacles in his career.

“Music’s something you feel. You have to feel it first before you hear it,” he says. “So that’s something I’ve always felt. It’s always been in my blood. But [my partial deafness] never affected my singing or my musical gift.”

And as for his diabetes, he has learned to recognize the telltale signs of troubles while on the road and correct them immediately with insulin and pumping his stomach. Living with the disease has also encouraged him to participate in Inspired by Diabetes, “a freedom of expression competition where diabetics can share their stories through art, through music, through paintings and so forth.”

“It benefits another program called Life for a Child, which raises money for developing countries around the world where there are kids with diabetes that lack insulin and medical care,” he says. “So we’re also raising money to bring diabetics insulin who don’t have insulin.”

While he admits his diabetes — or, more specifically, his insulin pump — have made it difficult for him to embark on relationships, Elliott is currently taken.

“I have a beautiful girlfriend at home. Her name is Jamie Paetz. She’s a model, she’s 27, and she’s very beautiful. She’s the love of my life.”

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