So, I had my fifteen seconds of fame at American Idol tryouts in Oklahoma City. If any of you have ever watched the show or the auditions, it’s completely different.
Overall, the experience was amazing. My aunt and I spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting while crowds were moved around. Waiting through group screenings. Although it was tiring, there were loads of characters that made everything fun, and good number of hipsters, and I saw music and styles that I didn’t even know existed.
You know you’re there when there’s a guy with red latex pants, a giant scarf, and spiky hair singing to a group of people. It’s not Oak Ridge.
Anyway, I registered at the Chesapeake Energy Arena (where the Thunder play), and walked in. They asked for my ID, and gave me a bracelet with forms to fill out. One of the forms was a story sheet that explains yourself with a list of questions about your life. I filled it all out and rehearsed my version of “Imagine” by John Lennon for most of the day.
We had stayed the night before at the nicest hotel in the area, and I figured that some of the American Idol officials were staying here. I asked several times jokingly to the guy at the front desk if Ryan Seacrest was here. Each time he hinted at me, “I can’t give away that information”. Though eventually I did see some of what I thought to be some of the staff in the halls, because they had some Idol accessories on.
Some of the people in Oklahoma were shocked to see so many musicians walking around the city, and a few actually seemed pretty annoyed by it. When my aunt and I went on a little boat tour, a few people wanted me to sing. So I did, and they said it was good. This old guy actually said he had a lot of confidence in me, which was pretty cool.
Knowing that I’m nocturnal, it was hard for me to fall asleep. I also knew that this whole experience would require a good eight hours. I actually only managed to get three and a half, which somehow would have to do.
My aunt woke me up at 4, and we made our way to the stadium. We walked through a few streets to see lines of thousands of people conversing and singing in little groups. We sat down at the end of the line by a gate, and met a few people. After a few hours, we stood up and got to see Ryan Seacrest, this being a little after dawn. He had a megaphone in his hand, while other camera crew people told everyone to chant goofy stuff like “We’re ready for you Ryan!” and cheer excessively. We took around two hours of takes, which was relatively annoying. Around this time there were people getting shots of the whole crowd and a helicopter flying above us. I also noticed some news vans and radio station booths interviewing people.
Finally they directed the crowds of people to walk in the stadium, which took a bit. We walked in and found our seats first, wanting to sit down for a few minutes. There were American Idol designs/logos/signs all around the arena, and the feeling in there was really unique. We bought some drinks and snacks, and waited there with my forms until someone did something on the center of the arena. All the producers were in a big crowd, and they talked to us about what was going to happen. Of course they had another big entrance for Ryan Seacrest, who just did a lot of pointless inspirational chanting, “Are you ready, Oklahoma City?!” “Is the next American Idol in this arena?!” etc…
After some more crowd shots and people cheering, they finally rolled out the booths. There were twelve of them, with one, two, and sometimes three producers per booth. By this time, we’d been here for five hours. So people from each section started walking down in rows to each booth, and started singing. Everything was on it’s way. If I can remember, the first person to get a golden ticket was a really buff black guy who sang in a really high pitch. Most of the time though, people had to walk to one of the crew people to get their wristband removed, and end their journey.
The turnout of some of these auditions was pretty lame. I mean I enjoyed being there, but there were people with amazing voices that weren’t given a ticket because they were either boring or didn’t have ties with any of the producers beforehand. (During the chants, they walked around and gave interesting people who grabbed a lot of attention stickers. I’m guessing they signified them as important, because most of the sticker people made it through)
We were the second to last section, and each section took around thirty minutes or so to clear. I eventually walked around with my aunt, and the scenery around the stadium and at the concessions was the coolest thing ever. In each corner were people practicing, singing together and having a good time. It kind of reminded me of the ending to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas“, because some of the people who were eliminated were singing in groups as well. It just shows that a huge number of people here actually love music, and are just waiting for their chance to show it. Oh and yeah, the bathrooms were probably the most popular place to sing.
So, skip forward about six hours of hanging out in our seat, talking about the competition, and singing around some friendly people next to us. Our section was up, and I was nervous as ever. They took my release forms, and my seat ticket. I waited in a long line, until I was directed to Booth #8, which had famous pianist Michael Orland and some important British lady. I made a deal with the girl that sat next to me the whole time, that if either of us won the entire thing, that person would give the other a thousand dollars. Pretty good odds. I noticed while being in line, that barely anyone was now receiving tickets. They gave maybe one or two in the whole thirty minutes of me being in line. That made my confidence go waaaaay down.
Our group of four people was finally up, which consisted of the girl I sat next to, some really cute girl with freckles, and a really quiet girl (probably around 70% of the people auditioning were girls). The British lady called me up, and I sat there shaking with my arms to my side.
Michael Orland goes “So Levi, you know there’s a jeans company named after you, right?” I laughed nervously and nodded, and they asked me what I was going to sing. I stood there and sang the “Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts” chorus for about twenty to thirty seconds. I was so pleased with the way I sounded, and I couldn’t believe I wasn’t screwing up. It felt so natural. I was complimented and nodded to. I waited for the rest of my group to sing, and to hear my fate. Ironically, every girl in the group messed up part of their lyrics one way or another, had pauses, stuff like that. Michael was pretty harsh on them, and sounded annoyed by their nerves acting up. They all had pretty voices though, along with a good majority of the arena full of talent.
They had a long whisper conversation, which seemed pretty weird. I saw Michael look at me a lot, it was awkward and made me feel even more nervous. Buuuuut, it was a no. They told us that we all had great voices, but needed to form them up a little.
I walked away pretty happy with myself, which was completely opposite of what I thought I’d feel like. Most of the girls were quiet after that, and my aunt and I walked down towards the exit. We got to see a cameraman interviewing the really quiet girl in our group, she was bawling pretty hard and the cameraman of course thought of it as good footage. We drove back to the hotel and I fell asleep, woke up and felt pretty good.
All in all, I’d guess 3% or so were given a ticket. They obviously had to give tons of tickets to really goofy/interesting/outrageous people, as well as low quality singers to give a good mix for the celebrity auditions. It’s pretty lame, but that’s the reality in reality television.
This isn’t the end though, I may sound a little mainstream but I’m going to pursue this voice that I was given and improve it. After all, I only started singing a few months ago – all of it being to myself, and having no training whatsoever. Don’t count Levi Briese out.