Now I Know (From Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul)

Now I Know

by Blake Lewis

     Okay, I’ve got a big confession to make: I knew practically nothing about American Idol before I auditioned.  I didn’t know millions tuned in each week.  I didn’t know  they had theme nights and celebrity mentors and guest judges.  I didn’t even know who had won when or who won what.

     I just didn’t know.

     I didn’t know about the night the three divas — Jennifer, Fantasia, and LaToya–were in the Bottom 3, or about Constantine’s rebellious rock.  I didn’t know Carrie Underwood grew up on a farm.  I would have totally come in last place in an Idol trivia game.

     Honestly, I had never even seen a full episode before I auditioned.

     Oh, I’d caught a performance or two as I walked by the TV at a friend’s house.  I remember watching Elliott Yamin.  He had that neo-soul sound I love.  He knew who he was as a vocalist.  I liked him a lot.

     Other than that, I didn’t have a perception about American Idol one way or the other.  Well, maybe I did–I thought it was a bit cheesy.  But hey, I didn’t know

     My friend Josh called me the night before the auditions hit Seattle.  “Hey!  The American Idol auditions are tomorrow.  You have to come!”

     I thought it over a bit and asked myself, Why not?  After all, I had the same chance as anybody else.  I had nothing to lose.  I had just quit my job doing construction to focus on music full-time and was living with my family again.  I told myself, If you make it, you make it.  If you don’t, you don’t.

     There was only one problem–I missed the registration.  I was a bit disappointed, but later that night I was playing a show at the Triple Door in Seattle, and Josh called me again.

     “Hey, I just went to Key Arena and registered for American Idol.  You can go there right now.  There’s no one in line,” he said.  “It will take you two second and then tomorrow morning I’ll pick you up at five, we’ll make some sandwiches, and we’ll go audition.”

     I didn’t realize it was a conversation that would change my life forever.

     The next few months were pretty much a blur.  They were so full, so exciting, so packed that the details get all mashed together in my mind.  I did some beat-boxing–that I know–and I did a lot of singing.  I met some of my biggest inspirations, which was awesome.

     It was cool to sing with Rudy Cardenas again.  We’d been in two different Seattle-based a cappella groups–Kickshaw was mine and M-Pact was his.  Rudy was the friend I could trust, the friend I confided in.  My low point hit when he got cut from the Top 24.

   I had a great time writing a song with Chris Sligh and playing guitar with my man Chris Richardson.  But even when it was down to the top 10, I still didn’t really understand what the American Idol experience meant, outside of the little bubble we lived in as contestants day and night.

     Then I made it into the Top 3, and flew back to Seattle to film the homecoming piece of the show.  When I landed at Boeing Field, I started to get it.  That’s when I finally began to understand. To know.

     Everywhere I went, there were hordes of people.  Westlake Center was packed, people filled the plaza.  Seeing all of those faces, those fans, those friends–all those who came to see me, to appreciate my art–that was really tight.  And my mom and dad were there, of course.

     I was getting it.

     I met Pat Monahan of Train.  I beat-boxed with Sir Mix-A-Lot.  We hit all the FOX affiliates for TV interviews and went to four different radio stations.  I had a house party with seventy friends.  It was all incredible and overwhelming.

     On the return flight, I sat and thought about it all.  You see, I put myself and my goals out there to the universe all the time.  I believe that things happen for a reason, and if you project yourself in a positive way and just be true to yourself, then good things will come back to you.

     Just hold on and stay true, even through times of struggle.  Never stop imagining, wishing, and planning.  Someday those wishes will start to take shape.  It’s amazing. It works.  For me, American Idol was absolute proof, validating that it can happen to anyone.

     Trust me; I know.

     Now I really, really know.

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