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Arts & Life


Local Singers Reflect on 'American Idol' Experience

It’s hard to believe that  American Idol has been on the air for over 10 years. And within the course of a decade, the program has traveled to dozens of cities across the country in search of the next big thing in music — but somehow managed to miss Portland.

In seasons past, American Idol producers came as close as Seattle and San Francisco, forcing pop star hopefuls from Oregon to flock to those cities in order to take their chances in front of the often tough and unforgiving group of judges.

Not any longer. Last month, the Idol circus finally came to town and drew thousands of performers to their audition — among them Kelsy Little, a local singer-songwriter, and Kate Neal, a local hip-hop artist known as Kritik.

A day before their auditions, Little and Neal visited Think Out Loud to talk about their musical goals and discuss the journey they both were hoping to take. The next morning, we got up before the sun to videotape their experiences at the Idol auditions at Portland’s Rose Quarter.

Both women had a solid understanding of what they were up against, but had the courage to place their dreams on the line.

Rapper/Singer Kate "Kritik" Neal is active in the Portland music scene.

Ifanyi Bell / OPB

“No matter what happens in there, I’m going to appreciate having had the opportunity to do it,” Neal said as she rode the MAX toward the Rose Quarter. “I think I have what it takes, but sometimes it’s not about even that — so, you know, I get it.”

Kelsy Little traveled to San Francisco last year to audition.

Ifanyi Bell / OPB

Last year, Little flew to San Francisco to audition and said that better prepared her for this time around.

‘“I’m definitely much less nervous because I know what to expect. I’m still nervous because this is something I really, really want and whenever you have hopes, it’s nerve-racking.”

After all was said and done, neither Neal nor Little made the cut. But they took their disappointment in stride.

“Both of us were asked to sing our ‘second songs,’ so that felt pretty cool,” Neal reported a month later, after all the action from the experience had died down. “In the end, they told me that though they could clearly see talent, the competition wasn’t ‘Hip-Hop Idol,’ and I got that.

All in all, Neal felt that the competition was a good experience and it has inspired her to reconnect with her vocal coach to round out her singing in tandem with her hip-hop stylings.

For Little, she says that after this second attempt, she still has the ‘Idol bug.’

“I’d definitely try out again. I probably wouldn’t travel very far to go there again, but if they came back to Portland or Seattle, yeah, I’d definitely go for it again.”

Since the competition, the two have continued to work on their music and have planned collaborations with each other and other Portland musicians. The idea is to build on what they’ve learned for the next time opportunity comes knocking — televised or not.

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