|J.T. Backes (center) with his fan club.|
First Stage: So how early did you have to arrive at the Bradley Center?
J.T.: I tried out with four friends. We arrived at 6 a.m. and believe me, we were not anywhere near the front of the line.
First Stage: Tell us about it.
J.T.: This was American Idol's 10th season, and I sort of thought that the frenzy would have died down after all these years. But there were over 10,000 people at the Bradley Center. Danny Gokey was there getting everyone psyched up. We were asked to ham it up in front of the cameras. Over and over, we were asked to yell, "This is the land of beer and cheese!" I'm sure we'll see that on tonight's show.
First Stage: What did you sing?
J.T.: When it was finally my turn, I sang "Can't Take my Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli. And this is where my acting experience helped. There were two judges and I sang it like I was trying to seduce them. The woman judge really liked it but the guy told me, "That's enough!" They kept me waiting for 8 minutes while they discussed whether or not to cut me.
First Stage: How do you know it was eight minutes. Maybe it just felt like eight minutes!
J.T.: It was eight minutes. I looked at my watch! My legs hurt! I wanted to shout, "If you're going to cut me, just do it already!" I couldn't take the suspense!
First Stage: Then what?
J.T.: They told me I made it. My first reaction was "Oh crap. Now I don't have a ride home!" Then I ran screaming around the Bradley Center waving my ticket. That didn't last too long before they rushed me into meetings. I had to sign a contract, have my photo taken, fill out an application, and WRITE AN ESSAY! I wish I had known I would be writing an essay. I would have prepared something. As it was, I wrote about the significance of music in my life. I wished I had a tragic sob story to tell them but I don't.
|J.T.'s ticket to the next round.|
First Stage: So now you have to go through another round, right?
J.T.: Yes. The next day, I showed up at the Hilton with some of my friends, which Fox encourages. I waited fourteen hours for my turn to audition.
First Stage: How did you know it was fourteen hours?
J.T.: Why do you keep asking me that?! It was fourteen hours. I had a watch. It was a gruesome wait. But I was surrounded by people who love to sing and one guy had a guitar and we all just made friends. It was cool. We were asked to get in groups and sing Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." That song was not meant to be sung by a man, by the way.
|J.T.'s group prepares to sing Lady Gaga.|
First Stage: And then?
J.T.: I was practically the last audition of the day. And when the group before mine came out, five of those people had tickets to move on. I didn't think that was a good sign. But I wasn't nervous. I mean, I'm always nervous, but I've learned to control it. So I sang my best. And they told me that while they liked my style, my hair, and my voice, they felt that my singing was more musical theater than it is American Idol.
First Stage: How did you feel?
J.T.: I was disappointed. And there were like 30 cameras on us at all times. So I had a chance to make a comment. I told the cameras, "This is not the last of J.T. Backes. This red hair is going to Broadway someday!" It was a terrible drive home. That was the night of that horrible flood and the sink hole. It felt like another fourteen hours before I finally got home.
First Stage: Will you ever consider trying out again?
J.T.: Absolutely! It was a great experience and next time, I'll have the advantage of knowing exactly what those producers want.
J.T. Backes is nineteen years old and currently studying musical theater at Viterbo University.