Just to be clear, I didn’t audition for the real American Idol. I’m too old and really don’t dream of being an American Idol to begin with. Puppet work is not in my genes.
Our family was trolling around Hollywood Park at Disney World today and there was a gal going around asking for people to audition for the American Idol Experience. I asked what the age requirement was because I would have enrolled Lorelai if I could. Sure enough you had to be at least 14 years old…bummer. Then I asked what the age topped out at; she said, “we don’t ask.”
“Well I’m too old” I laughed and she assured me I wasn’t.
Lorelai wanted me to audition so an hour or so later when we passed by the audition kiosk she pulled on my arm asking me to do it. I’ll admit, I was curious, so I walked up to the guy that was taking names. Was I a Disney employee? Nope. Had I done it before? Nope. I guess I’m ok to audition.
The workers here at Disney World are super nice, everywhere we go actually in the Orlando area people are super nice…maybe it’s the sun because I don’t see ‘nice’ in Seattle.
The first gal asked what I was going to sing and she let me know no originals. I figured as much but since we are in the holiday season I had an ace card in my back pocket.
“I’m going to sing The Christmas Song.” I said.
“Oh cool” she said. “Go ahead, start when you are ready.”
My version of Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is much much different then the original so it had some flare to it. She liked it.
“Very nice voice” she said, “didn’t expect that to come out of you. Now pick a song from the list here and sing it acapela.” I scanned the list and sure enough there wasn’t anything I was familiar with. She reminded me that they are looking for those with a high voice (of course they are) and be aware of that with the song I choose.
Then something caught my eye: I Can Only Image by Mercy Me.
“I want that one” I said as I pointed to the sheet.
She pulled out her instrument to give me the key and handed me the lyrics.
Nailed it. Yep, I know this song. Christina and I used to rock out to it back in the TJR: days. The judge was impressed.
“You made it to the next round” she squealed.
The next round? I thought. Aren’t I in Walt Disney World? What did I get myself into?
Paperwork, and more paperwork ensued, it was as if I was signing my life away, I needed another song and the first judge was convinced I could nail Home by Daughtery.
Now came the ‘big time’ judge. The judge that matters the most. I had to sing both Home and I Can Only Imagine to him. He wanted to know which one I would start with. “The weak one I said.” Which was Home.
I did better than I thought with the range of that song but my familiarity was obviously lacking. He noticed that I Can Only Imagine was much better. He waited with anticipation; it was almost as if he was giving a drum roll, then played Ryan Seacrest on video congratulating me on a job well done. I had made it to the next round! I didn’t know why everyone was so excited for me but when I opened the door six people were cheering as I left the room. The American Idol Experience was just beginning.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous calling Lindsay telling her she had to be along with the kids for another hour or so in Disney World. As she always does she said, “go do it.” So I did.
The way the American Idol Experience works is three contestants battle in one of the five time slots for a total of 15 per day. The winner of each time slot advances to the finals.
We got hair and make up, vocal coaching, professional sound check on one of the best stages I have every performed on. Four or five HDTV video cameras filmed pretty much practice and the live show. It was unreal.
One of the girls was singing in her fourth American Idol Experience. Fourth? Really? I wanted to give her a hug and reassure her that she doesn’t need American Idol. Maybe, start a band?
The second girl, a worship leader at her church, was a phenom in my opinion. She sang Natural Woman and was the for sure winner. So talented.
We were done with the sound check and with that sound system I felt like I could hit any note I sang. My vocal coach suggested that when I come to the middle of the chorus with the Hallelujah part jump the octave. I did and again nailed it. Strong, gnarly and my rock and roll growl came through loud and clear without any pitch problems. Fun stuff.
Back to the green room to hang out with those that I was competing with. They were awesome, it was like we were really on American Idol. I’m not a fan of American Idol but the way we were treated was an experience I’ll never forget.
We met the Ryan Seacrest character, or the host of the show and he was great. Made us feel right at home. We walked out on the stage and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. Dang, it was like five Salt shows rolled into one. My ugly mug on the big screen and a camera in my face took some getting used to but I was made for this…well, 20 years ago I was made for this.
The judges were hilarious. You had your Randy, Paula and Simon. All doing their thing. The ‘Simon’ judge was witty and hitcha below the belt. The audience booed pretty much every time he said something.
My new found friends went first and the second one once again was exceptional. She won, and if she didn’t this was a sham.
Now it was my turn. I walked up like I always do, owning the stage. I was so stoked to crush it that my stage presence was a little over the top. By the time I ended it was obvious that I ran out of breath. Just before that tho when I jumped the octave like my vocal coach suggested the crowd erupted. Man, what an experience I just ran out of gas, who knows what the outcome would have been if I ended strong. I could hear Pete Carrol in my head ‘it’s not how you start…’
Now it was time to hear from the judges. O joy.
The Randy wanna be judge: “How you feeling?” he asked. I laughed letting him know I was out of breath. “I know man, what happened at the end?” He said. “Dude, be yourself, don’t go over the top. When you stand still you have a powerful voice, just let things come naturally. If you make it in the finals, don’t do that again, and please, your socks, do something with those socks.” The crowd laughed. So did I. Funny is funny.
The Paula wanna be judge: “You were great and have an awesome voice but you need to tone it back some. Just relax.”
The Simon wanna be judge: “With a Christian contemporary song sung like that you’ll need much prayer to make it to the next round.” (Insert boos) 🙂
The gal that should have won, won. I was relived and she deserved it. Truthfully, I didn’t really want to do another performance; not tonight anyway. There is a reason I started songwriting. I’d rather sing my own stuff then perform the work of others.
It was great to hear so many compliments though. This was top notch stuff and Disney doesn’t let just anyone on stage. They take it seriously and have sent 19 of their daily winners to final rounds of the real American Idol. If you win the whole thing you get a ticket to the front of the audition line for the real deal.
My voice isn’t done yet, just out of shape. I’ll need to get it fine tuned for the release of the four song EP coming from Christina and me, so this was a great confidence boost…not to mention another ‘music’ story to tell my future grand kids. I mean you might as well enjoy life…right?
If you like to sing and are at Hollywood Disney check out the American Idol Experience and be a star for a couple of hours. It was lots of fun.