Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Audition Story - By Paige Cook

Ever wonder what it's REALLY like to audition for American Idol? What you see is not always what you get, and we have four time Idol hopeful Paige Cook here to tell you what really goes on behind the scenes.

Oh American Idol. I have kind of a love/hate relationship with that little show. I've been a fan since Season 1, having never missed an episode. I remember watching Kelly Clarkson in her winning moment and wishing it were me and hoping that maybe, someday it would be. I wasn't old enough to audition for the show until Season 3 but my opportunity didn't happen until Season 8.

I auditioned in Louisville, Kentucky for Season 8 with "Foolish Games" by Jewell. I remember being so nervous I thought I'd pass out. I was told no, but was so thankful that I finally got the opportunity to audition for the show. I auditioned twice in Season 9, in Atlanta, Georgia and Chicago, Illinois. In Atlanta I sang "Cold Shoulder" by Adele and unfortunately was told no, so I headed back north to Michigan and on my way stopped in Chicago to try again. In Chicago I sang "Halo" by Beyonce. The nerves this time were far less, I felt far more confident in my talent and far more ready to take the leap into such a giant show. Unfortunately, again, I was told no. Hearing no the third time was tough, hearing no once in tough, but hearing it three times makes you begin to wonder if this is really something you should be pursuing.

I took that year in between Season 9 and 10 and really thought about whether or not Idol was something I really wanted. On July 1, 2010 my brother, Josh, was killed in a motorcycle accident at just 21 years old, and talk about a wake up call. I knew I couldn't give up on my dream because I may never have the opportunity to try again. Life is too short for what ifs and the maybes. Plus, my dream wasn't just for me anymore; it was for my family, it was for Josh. So two weeks later I was on my way down to Nashville, Tennessee with friends to try my luck again.

Something about auditioning for Season 10 was different than past years. I had a different attitude; I was much more calm, I didn't try to over think it, it wasn't until the day before the audition that I even picked an audition song. I was sitting in the hotel lobby the day before the audition with my friends, Tommy and Cari, practicing a few songs, when half-jokingly I started singing "Why Don't You Love Me," by Beyonce. I had been thinking about that song as an option for a while, solely because of the lyrics, "Why don't you love me, when I make me so damn easy to love? Why don't you need me, when I make me so damn easy to need?" I had been trying for Idol for 3 years now and I felt like the lyrics suited the situation pretty well, lol. Like I said, I wasn't singing it for Tommy and Cari as a serious option at that point, but when I finished singing Tommy almost couldn't contain himself. He told me that was the one and I'd be an idiot if I didn't sing it; it was upbeat, fun, and a song that no one would expect a plain-jane, red-headed, white girl to sing. My mind was made up, I had chosen my audition song and was pretty excited about it.

The next morning we got up early, got ready and headed over to the Bridgestone Arena. We had to wait outside for a few hours before they started letting us in, and oh my goodness was it hot and humid. Not good weather for someone whose trying to look their best, haha. I was so scared my hair would be a curly, wavy mess by the time we got let in. Thankfully it didn't end up too horrible. I went and found my seat and began to wait. In past seasons I had to wait no more than an hour for my turn once auditions finally started, this year I waited longer. This was the first time in 4 auditions that I actually got to sit and watch as other people auditioned. I was able to see what judges were putting the most people through and what judges weren't putting anyone through. I remember the lady sitting next to me was getting so mad because the judge at table 5 didn't put a single person through the entire time we had been watching. She began complaining that if her daughter got him as a judge she would throw a fit. Silly people make me laugh, lol. Finally, it was my section's turn to head down to the main floor. We all lined up and waited to find out what table we'd be sent to. I was sent to table 12, a table that I wasn't able to watch because it was at the other end of the arena from where I was sitting. I was kind of relieved to be going into the audition completely blind, not knowing what kind of judges I'd be auditioning for. Much to my surprise, when I approached the table there was only one man sitting there. In past years I had always auditioned for two people, I was kind of excited that I only had to impress one person this time, haha. There were a few groups ahead of my group, so I was able to watch some people audition before me. The group right before me had one person advance to round 2, which made me nervous. Never had I seen a judge put more than one person through back to back. I tried to ignore my nerves and keep my confidence up, whatever was meant to happen would, and I had to be okay with that.

Finally, it was my group's turn to audition. The judge decided to start with the person on the other end, which made me the last person in my group to audition. I was pretty excited about that, I was able to stay fresh in his mind. It was my turn to audition. I said a quick prayer, asked Josh to put in a good word to the big guy upstairs, and stepped forward. I quickly introduced myself and jumped right into my song ("Why Don't You Love Me" by Beyonce). Based on past experience I expected to sing about 30 seconds of the song before being cut off. Much to my surprise, I sang almost the ENTIRE song before the judge finally asked me to stop. Boy, was I glad I decided to learn the entire song, haha. I was feeling pretty confident, I had a good vocal and regardless of what happened I was proud of myself. Expecting to just step back and wait for the verdict, I was surprised when the judge asked me to sing a second song. I had seen this happen before and often times the person gets put through, so I was excited but super nervous at the same time, I knew I couldn't screw this up. I sang "Naturally" by Selena Gomez & The Scene, and this time he stopped me after about 45 seconds. He thanked me and I stepped back. Almost immediately the judge asked another man who had been walking around the floor of the arena to come over. They chatted for a minute, all the while the new judge kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye. I had no idea what was going on, but after a short while the original judge motioned me back forward and asked me to sing for the new judge. I asked if it mattered which song and he told me to sing "the second one." I felt like I had done a better job with "Why Don't You Love Me" but he was the one in charge, so I was going to listen to him, lol. So I sang "Naturally" again. They stopped me, thanked me and I stepped back. They talked for a short while and then called all four of us forward. In the past when we're all called forward at the same time it usually meant we were all cut, so at that point I had kind of lost all hope of getting a yes, and talk about a bummer lol. The original judge began giving the "thank you for coming, you're all talented but there's so much talent this year and the bar has been raised so high, blah, blah, blah" speech that I had heard three times before and my heart sunk. He then said "so unfortuantely its going to be a no," paused for a few seconds and pointed to the three people next to be and said "for the three of you." The second he said that it was like the flood gates had been opened and I started crying immediately. I couldn't believe that after so long I was finally getting a yes. I couldn't control my emotions, they were already high due to the loss of my brother only two weeks before, and that added to it. After the three other contestants walked away, I stepped over and I remember the judge asking "did you want me to tell you no?" I just couldn't believe it was finally happening. They asked me a few questions about myself, for some reason loved the fact that I work in a hardware store, haha, gave me my "Golden Ticket" and sent me on my way.

Now, let me tell you, after having taken the "Walk of Shame" three times before it felt pretty dang good to take the "Winner's Walk." Everyone in the stadium gets so excited, they start cheering for you, yelling their congratulations; its a pretty awesome feeling. After all the paperwork was filled out and I got my PR lesson and learned when to come back for round 2 I was sent on my way. On my way out, the always so supportive Brian Mansfield from USA Today's Idol Chatter was outside conducting interviews with the "Golden Ticket" winners. I stopped and chatted with him for a while and you can find that interview online.

I went home, back to Michigan, and for the next two months waited for the next audition. Talk about a long but short two months, constantly worrying about if you're going to be good enough to advance again. Constantly wondering what you should sing; should you stick to what worked the first time or try something new? In September I made my way back to Nashville with my sister and my parents. I had a call time of 12:00 p.m. and was pretty excited that I would be able to sleep in a little on the day of the audition, lol. I woke up the morning of the audition and quickly realized that it would have been my grandmother's birthday. She passed away in April 2009 and we had a common interest in American Idol so I wanted to do well for her and make her proud.

I got to the hotel where the auditions were taking place and got in line with the other few hundered people who were there. After about an hour of waiting we were let in, given our stickers with our coveted numbers on them and sent into the holding room where we were given an assigned seat. On our seat was the lyrics to our "city song," which happened to be the ever so timeless, "Rawhide." The sounds of 100 people singing the same song, in different keys, some good and some bad, will never leave my mind whenever I hear that song, lol. One of the show's producers came into the room after a while and explained how the day would work and then warned us that we needed to have multiple songs prepared because some artists won't clear their songs for the show. He then gave an example.. Beyonce. NOOOO!!! I began panicking. My first choice was "Why Don't You Love Me" again because I'm convinced that's the song that got me through. I had another song prepared but I didn't feel it was the right song to start off with, but I guess I didn't have a choice.

It was finally my turn to audition. I walked into a room where there sat 4 producers. We chit-chatted for a second and then I began singing. I sang "Speechless" by Lady Gaga and all the while I was singing I felt awesome. It was the best vocal I had ever had and I was feeling really good about it. They stopped me and asked me if I had a second song prepared. I, honestly, didn't, but winged it and began singing "Cold Shoulder" by Adele, a song that I had known for a while, was still relatively new, and was fun to sing. It went well, not as well as "Speechless" had, but not bad. I was feeling pretty good about my audition, I felt like I had done the best I could do and the rest was up to the producers. They began to tell me that I had a great voice and repeated that about 6 times, I knew that couldn't be good. "You have a great voice, there's a voice there, but there's just something missing and unfortuantely we're going to have to pass." Epic fail. I felt totally defeated, I didn't understand what they didn't like, but I guess that's just all part of the Idol game. I was so close but still so far. Walking out of that door empty handed was not only sad, but almost embarrasing. The look on the other contestants faces waiting for their turn range from sadness to excitement. I didn't want to look at anyone so I just kept walking, found my parents and left. I'm glad I have a supportive and rational family, I can't imagine what it would be like to have a family that caused a scene when something they didn't agree with happened. They told me they were proud of me anyway and we headed back to the hotel. Lucky for me, Dolly Parton was playing at the Grand Ole Opry that night, so to cheer me up my dad took my family and I to see her. It worked, for a little while, haha.

I guess I can't complain too much. Out of the 17,000 people who auditioned in Nashville, I was one of the few hundered that made it through round 1 and I can finally say that I did. That's a pretty big accomplishment in and of itself and just because I didn't make it this time, doesn't mean I won't next time. I'm proud of how I did and had a great experience, and not everyone can say that. I look foward to trying again and bettering myself in the future.

If you have a dream, go for it, I can't stress that enough. You never know what could happen.

Watch Paige Cook on Youtube and follow her on Twitter @PaigeMusic. Buy her original music on iTunes Unplugged Heart - Paige Cook.