Hundreds of singers lined up outside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, hoping to display the talent and verve that would bring them to the “American Idol” stage.
The singing competition is preparing for its 18th season with auditions in cities around the country. The show aired on Fox for 15 seasons and is now on ABC. Winners get recording deals.
Singers started gathering in Raleigh before dawn on Sunday, preparing to impress producers who could send them to the next round of judging. North Carolina contestants have had good runs on the show. Fantasia Barrino of High Point, Scotty McCreery of Garner, and Caleb Johnson of Asheville have all won, the News & Observer has reported.
Some brought guitars and electronic keyboards. There was at least one ukulele. Experiences singing in clubs, in church choirs, in bands and school talent shows, and life stories led the hopefuls to the “American Idol” audition line.
Emmanuel Perry, wearing a gray suit and bow tie, waited to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” or “Lord I’m Available to You” for a producer.
Doctors didn’t give Perry much of a chance to live when he was born at 27 weeks, said his mother Tammy Perry. Now 23, her son weighed less than 2 pounds at birth, was on oxygen for the first two years of his life, and at one time, took nutrients through a feeding tube.
“They said he would never read, walk, talk or write,” said Perry, who lives in Wake Forest. “He’s doing everything they said he wouldn’t do.” He now sings in the church choir, she said.
The name Emmanuel means “God is with us.”
“All of that transpired for him to be here today,” she said. Whatever odds are given, there’s destiny for your life. Don’t give up because it looks really bad.”
Alexis L. Jones traveled about two hours from Pembroke to wait for her chance to audition. Jones, 17, said she has been singing since she was 8 at school, church and talent shows.
She got a few tips on auditioning from another Alexis Jones - Alexis R. Jones - who auditioned for “American Idol” last season and made it to Hollywood, though she did not advance to televised rounds of the competition.
The singing Joneses know one another. They are both Lumbee and did a show together at the Cape Fear Regional Theater.
The 17-year-old Jones said her experienced counterpart advised her to be herself, look the producer in the eye, and to be patient.
Jones was prepared to sing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Stand By Me.”
“I have a very powerful voice,” she said.
Power was helpful at these auditions, which were held outside under tents so close that singers could hear each other perform.
Patrick Lynn, a senior supervising producer for the show, said producers were looking for performers with “that wow factor.”
“You have to have the confidence that you’re the best,” he said.
Lynn said he advises people who want to audition to make eye contact and perform with energy. Singers staring at their hands “is not something people want to see on TV,” he said.
Over the years, Lynn said he’s found that people who have experience singing for friends, in local coffee shops or other public spots are the most successful at auditions because they’re used to people talking and moving around during performances.
“You have to be able to push through that and make people listen,” he said.
Some singers got the good news they were moving to the next round of auditions.
Jamal Sutton, 27, wore a jacket his sister designed that had “I am an Idol” painted in one corner. He performed “I’m Going Down” by Mary J. Blige.
Sutton, an assistant manager at a law firm, said he’d wanted to audition for years, and the producers coming to Raleigh gave him the chance.
Sutton, who lives in Raleigh, thinks his personality got him through the first round.
“I sing with a lot of passion,” he said. “That was on display.”
Daniel Bridges, a 20-year-old NC State University student, said, “It was not necessarily my vocals but my energy” that boosted him to the second round.
“I have a lot of energy,” said Bridges, who also works at a Chick-fil-A. “I’m like a firecracker at times.”
Bridges performed “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations and an acapella version of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
Lynn said he enjoys traveling to find talented singers - parking the “American Idol” bus and inviting all who want to come.
“This is one of the last great free events in our country where anybody can try out,” he said. “This is my favorite round. I never get tired of this.”