While thousands came out to audition for American Idol, St. Louis’ Evan Cole, 15, was one of 190 performers chosen to advance to the second round in Hollywood, airing this Wednesday and Thursday at 7pm on Fox. It was previously taped, so while he knows how he fared, we the viewers do not, and he’s spent the past several weeks unable to talk about the outcome. But despite his future (or not) with American Idol, he’ll always be a local boy at heart who got his humble beginnings at The Muny and busking outside Cardinals games.
You currently have over 64,000 “likes” on Facebook. Did that increase after you auditioned?
Just after three seconds on TV…you’d be amazed what it can do.
What’s it been like not being able to talk about the results of this week’s show?
It’s difficult. People ask every day, ‘What happened, Evan?’ And it’s kind of hard to hold back.
Tell me about how you got started in show business.
I’ve been performing at The Muny since I was 8, first as a Muny Kid, then as a Muny Teen. I would not be where I am today if it hadn’t been for those experiences.
How did you handle the adrenaline during that first audition for American Idol?
I’ve got to tell you, I was so nervous. I don’t remember much about the audition, but I do remember how it felt rushing outside with the golden ticket. It’s nerve-wracking to be in front of celebrities, and this was my first time. All I could hope for was the best.
What did you do to prepare?
I listened to the songs I was going to audition with (“Shut up and Dance,” “Ain’t no Sunshine”), and I kept practicing until I got them down. I kept saying to myself, “I am meant to be here, this is what I’m meant to do. This is my passion, and no matter what happens, it will be a great experience.”
Did anyone give you advice beforehand?
Justin Guarini (runner-up to Kelly Clarkson in American Idol’s first season) played Joseph in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Muny when I was 12, and he actually reached to me on Twitter before I went to Hollywood. He was really supportive of me, congratulated me, and said that American Idol was not the end-all be-all, and if you don’t make it all the way through, it’s not the end.
You’re not much older than the show itself (it first aired in 2002), so you’ve grown up with it your whole life. Do you think the show inspired you to go in a particular musical direction or be on the show?
I’ve always wanted to be on American Idol. I was a big fan when David Cook (season 7) and Adam Lambert (season 8) and Chris Daughtry (season 5) were on. They’ve really influenced me. It’s a combination of their presence and vocals that I admire—a lot of rock ‘n’ roll and pop. I took a lot of their style and interpreted it to make me better.
Do you think it takes a certain kind of personality and drive to be on American Idol, or is it purely singing talent?
You have to have the whole package. Adam Lambert started out in musical theater like I did, so I looked back at his audition. Simon Cowell was like, “I’m not sure about this, it’s too theatrical.” He almost gave him a “no,” but he has transformed so much, and now he’s just an incredible rock star.
What gave you the idea to busk outside Cardinals games?
I’ve always seen people on street corners busking, and I wanted to put myself out there. A couple years ago for Christmas my mom and dad gave me a starter piano, and my sister gave me a tip hat. So I try to play most home games now. I have raised $1,500 so far for Water for South Sudan, and am hoping to raise enough to help them build one well.
How do you think that busking helped give you confidence to audition for American Idol?
It’s been an incredible training ground. I learned to believe in myself, especially when people aren’t paying attention to me. Some people just walk by, others have been really wonderful and become fans, even friends. They never get tired of the songs I play.
And what songs are those?
I mainly do soulful pop. It’s kind of my root. My influences are Billy Joel, Elton John, Gavin Degraw, a lot of MoTown—Dobie Gray, Bill Withers and Otis Redding.
What’s next for you?
I’m sort of in the off season—most of my gigs are in the summer time. I’m currently working on original music.
Anything you want to tell the readers?
I want to thank my fans for all the support. I hope to make St. Louis proud.