Last week, “American Idol” picked its final 11 contestants, and tonight — Thursday, March 19 — that gets whittled down to the Top 10, who will perform.
At a Los Angeles party on March 11 after the top 12 episode, I got to ask judge Harry Connick Jr. (at far right above with, from left to right, judge Keith Urban, Fox Television Group co-chairman/CEO Dana Walden, and judge Jennifer Lopez) about how the performers can deal with the pressures of the music industry without losing their souls.
“Well,” he said, “if it comes up, I’ll tell them that they need to practice and work on their craft and be as protective as they can, in terms of how well they do their job. The better they are at their craft, the easier it’s going to be to protect themselves.
“When I came out [into the music business], it wasn’t like I was doing anything that was particularly popular, but I knew exactly who I was, so it was easy for me to be myself and never have to worry about changing, all the way up to today.
“It’s a matter of honing your craft and keeping yourself focused, and then it doesn’t matter what anyone says or how anything’s going to affect you, because you are going to do your own thing anyway.”
Faith plays and has played a role in the lives of many “American Idol” contenders — especially to 12 singer Clark Beckham, whom I’m profiling today over at my Pax
Culturati blog at Patheos Catholic, click here to see that — so I asked Connick about faith, particularly about singers who, like Beckham, start out singing in church.
“Those are two completely different things,” he said. “A lot of people came up singing in church, and faith plays no part in their lives. Sometimes, it does.
“To me, I’m Catholic, so it’s important to me. It does what it’s supposed to do for me, so I’m glad to have it.”
Asked about his pre-performance prayer ritual, Connick said, “We say a prayer every night, me and my band. My guitar player, Jonathan [DuBose Jr.], he’s a reverend in his own church, so believe you me, I’m not going to pray in front of him. I let him do all the praying.”
I also grabbed a moment to talk to contestant Rayvon Owen, a graduate of Belmont University, a private Christian institution in Nashville, Tennessee, and asked about keeping on track (BTW, I asked him to strike a thoughtful pose for this photo, but it lasted only until the shutter clicked, then he broke out into a grin).
“I actually moved to Los Angeles before the show,” Owen said, “and I plan on staying here. In the past, a lot of artists have made the mistake of going back to their hometown, maybe a smaller area, that’s not really entertainment-focused.
“My goal is to stay here, also get involved in film and television, doing acting and all that. I really want to take advantage of the contacts that I’ve already made prior to the show, as well as the exposure.”
Here’s his Top 11 performance from the first live show on March 12:
Images: Courtesy Fox; Kate O’Hare