Four contestants from the Nashville area have advanced to the Top-40 portion of American Idol.
That means these contestants sang in front of the judges a minimum four times, including a group session with our contestants.
Those who’ve made it include: Belmont student Walker Burroughs, Lebanon strawberry farmer Kason Lester, Rideshare driver and “unofficial Mayor of Nashville“ Eddie Island, and dental hygienist turned singer Ashley Hess. We’ll throw in one more, east Tennessee native Drake McCain.
The contestants will now head to Hawaii, where they’ll perform in front of an audience for the first time on the show. After those performances, the judges will send half of the group home.
Here’s Walker’s performance that earned him a spot in the Top-40
We also talked with Walker just before Hollywood week aired.
Kason Lester’s performance did not air Monday night, but he was strong in the group rounds.
Eddie Island played an original song, a big risk for many, but he advanced because of his voice.
Drake McCain sang a Willie Nelson song and absolutely nailed it.
Ashley Hess’ audition did not make it to air either, but she advanced as well.
Scroll down for a list of all the contestants from our area who made it to Hollywood, but were eliminated when Top-40 contestants were chosen.
Kason made quite the splash when he gave gifts to the judges from his family farm in Lebanon. There was jam, strawberries, the whole works. Kason and his brother run the family’s farm, and it’s something he’s done since he was six-years-old. He told the show he would usually plant 30,000 strawberries by hand. After all the talk about strawberries, Kason played a Chris Janson (he actually looks a lot like Chris) song. Lionel liked the growl in his voice, and also called Kason top-10 material. Luke liked his voice, but says he needed to hone in on his “key, signature sound.“ He made it to Hollywood unanimously.
Eddie is different, and we like that a lot. He even has googly eyes on his guitar…that are held on by tape. Before he even sang a note, he was told he had an infectious smile. Then, the rideshare drive started an original song, full of passion and vibrato. This time, Katy did not write Top-10, but she did write down STAR. Luke Bryan invited him to play at his Nashville bar, and Lionel Richie said Eddie has the whole package. Katy said it was a pleasure to be in his presence. All the judges are on the Island now.
Jake moved to town from Massachusettes on sort of a whim. He remembers telling his parents he was moving to Nashville and the nearly immediate sadness they expressed. He said he moved here because he wanted to be around the best songwriters in the world and grow his career. He auditioned first for producers, and then in front of the judges in Louisville. He said he was pretty anxious, but felt he made a good connection with the judges. Mostly, he tried to give them an authentic performance, and he told us he thinks he did that. Jake made it to Hollywood, and we’re excited to watch his journey. He says his biggest influences are Jason Isbell, The Lumineers, and Allen Stone.
I’d like to say thanks and good luck to Jake Durkin on the rest of his American Idol journey!!! It was surreal watching this clip. Nicely done Jake. I’ll be cheering you on the rest of the way. pic.twitter.com/4ezQm4fvZr— Jesse Roper (@jesseropershow) March 7, 2019
Dalton’s time on Idol began with him talking about his son, Nash. Elliot actually moved away from Nashville, where he grew up, to be closer to Nash in Virginia. Dalton played Lee Brice’s song “Boy” and it really touched the judges. Luke Bryan said he’ll “be able to sing the fool out of” some songs and said he really liked his tone. Lionel Richie said Elliot was more of a storyteller than a singer, and he meant that as a huge compliment. Katy agreed with both judges, but wants him to be consistent when hitting his notes. The three unanimously said he deserved to move on in the show to Hollywood. Immediately after they said that, his entire family, including Nash, ran out to Dalton. We cannot wait to see Dalton (and especially Nash) some more.
Ashley is a California transplant to Nashville. She told the judges she got into music late and her dream was to become a dental hygienist because it was a stable career. She sat down at the piano to play “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones. By the third note, the judges were baffled. Ashley recognized, and smiled at the judges and kept going, nailing every last note. Luke commanded her to stop, and then had the judges move their chairs back to the piano so Ashley could serenade them. Lionel asked her to play the song again, and she did, and it was even better than the first time. Ashley made it to Hollywood of course, and was told by Katy that she could “win this whole thing.” Lionel told her she could “knock this thing out of the ballpark.”
|Kason Lester||Jake Durkin||Eddie Island|
There are a couple of performers we have our eye on. One from East Tennessee and another that goes to Belmont.
Our sister-station in Knoxville has a ton of info on Drake and his very, very special role in his family. Read it here. But, we’ll cover the highlights. Drake is the son of a single mother and he has eight sisters and two brothers. He’s the oldest and takes care of the house when his mom is working. He works at a grocery store where he’s known to sing from time to time. And, he has about a five-inch tall flattop haircut. It’s seriously impressive. Drake sang a gospel tune and left Luke Bryan smiling ear to ear. Katy Perry even joined him in singing. The two harmonized as if they’d rehearsed together for hours before his audition. Lionel Richie said Drake had what it takes to go far, and Luke and Katy gave a few tips for Drake to work on before his next performance in Hollywood.
Walker is from Birmingham, but he’s currently a student at Belmont University where he’s studying…you guessed it, music. Walker sat down at the piano for his audition and played a Ben Rector (an artist who also lives in Nashville) song. Katie Perry said his performance was effortless and gave him a standing ovation. She also called him Top-10 material. Walker’s only response was “Good Heavens!”
Since he was playing piano, the trio of judges asked if he knew any Lionel Richie music and he promptly played “Hello.” He made it to Hollywood, obviously.