I’ve spent weeks worrying myself sick over this day. I couldn’t pick a song, convinced myself I wasn’t good enough, didn’t look good enough, and didn’t sound good enough. And what if I bombed, having to go home and tell everyone I failed? Worse, what if I got chosen to move onto the next round? Would I have to say goodbye to my job and my church and my life? Even if for only a few months for filming, that’s a long time to put your life on hold. I really just didn’t know what to expect. I knew I’d have a decent chance, or at least better than most, just because the producer I’d spoken with before knew I was coming.
At 3:30 in the morning, my alarm went off. Needless to say, I hit snooze.
At 5:15AM, I found myself outside the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta. Thankfully, I started talking to two other auditionees who helped to ease my mind.
By 7, the first group was being allowed into the building. My number was 610.
7:30, I registered and was told “good luck” by the hottest British man I’ve ever seen. Then proceeded to trip over a cello case. And onto my face.
At 9, I began the long journey of finding a restroom. I made a few wrong turns and ended up in a kitchen area for employees only. This big, scary lady comes out of nowhere. In a deep Bertha voice, she says, “You lost?” After crapping my pants, I decide to go back to the holding room and wait it out.
By 9:30, the announcement was made for 600-650 to start heading back.
At 9:31, I panicked.
At 9:32, my guitar strap broke. And I had a stroke.
By 10, we were in the last room before the audition room. About twenty of us were sitting in three rows, waiting for our 90 seconds to shine or flop. Some girls were frantically singing with their headphones in, while a couple of us with instruments quietly strummed in the back. (At this point, we got the chance to see inside the CNN newsroom where all the media magic happens. That was pretty cool.)
At 10:20, my number was called along with ten others. I had another stroke.
Ten contestants were piled into this room. Some chairs lined the wall, and off to the front was a yellow X to stand on, a camera that would film my every moment. I was the very last singer in the group to go. By the time I’d listened to the other people sing, I wasn’t sure I had any right to be there anymore. They were all so talented.
11:12, I went on.
The producer was so nice. I was visibly shaking, stuttering, and couldn’t get my words out. We were instructed to say our name, where we were from, and what song we would be doing. I’m assuming it was for the camera, because they had all of our information on a paper in front of them. I told them in my paperwork that I get nervous (yes, it is bad enough that I felt the need to warn them). The producer knew it, gave me a minute to get my breath, and told me to remember to breathe through the song, too. I laughed.
If I had done any other song, I would have bombed. But at the last minute, I chose a song I’d been playing for years and knew like the back of my hand. Thank God I did. I applied every weapon I had in my arsenal. And ninety seconds of fasting, cold sweating, and desperate praying later, it was over. So, how did I do?
I learned something from the experience, and it was something the Holy Spirit had been telling me all along. I just hadn’t listened. I realized that I enjoyed nothing about the last two months; the constant worrying, the late-night practices, the guinea pig gigs, and the useless, useless lyrics I had to pour through. I hated every moment of it. But I was so caught up in doing a good job that I didn’t even realize that I was beginning to detest the gift God had given me. I perverted it into something He didn’t design it for. After I left the audition, I walked over to a nearby park, got my guitar out, and played for anyone and everyone who wanted to stay and listen. Sometimes, I just played for myself. And of all the things we did in Georgia, I enjoyed those few moments with my guitar on a park bench more than anything.
My audition went great. I sang better than I’ve ever sang before. I don’t think I made it… Last time, they wanted to keep me behind and talk to me, and I got asked all kinds of questions, where nobody else was asked to stay. This time, I walked in and right back out. It was nothing. So, I doubt I made it. I might be surprised come April, but for now, I doubt it. Still, I know I did well. Great, even. (Oh, hell… I rocked it out. Can I say that? Just did.)
No matter what the outcome is, I can’t say this experience is something I care to repeat a third time. When you get into competitions and publicity stunts and TV shows, pressure is created that will destroy your love for what you do. God has something for me planned out. Something big. But for now, I’m totally content just to strum some Hillsong in the privacy of my own home.
So, there you have it. That was AGT 2016. And thank you, everyone who put up with me the last two months as I slowly turned into a bundle of open nerves.