In the coming months, Time Warner Cable Arena in uptown Charlotte will play host to a few of the country’s most famous singers: Carrie Underwood. Madonna. Justin Bieber.
But first, in the coming days, that same venue will welcome thousands of singers you wouldn’t know from Adam.
Many will be average. Some will be awful. A few will be great. And maybe, just maybe, one will be a superstar.
Beginning Sunday, wannabes will fill the sidewalks outside the arena to register to audition for “American Idol,” the singing competition that has been one of Fox’s highest-rated television shows for more than a decade. On Tuesday, they’ll be ushered inside to perform, a couple songs up their sleeves and visions of fortune (or maybe just 15 seconds of TV fame) in their heads.
We spoke to two “Idol” producers and compiled a list of six things you need to know about the first-ever Charlotte auditions.
1. That’s right – this is “American Idol’s” first visit to Charlotte. North Carolina has produced two winners (Scotty McCreery and Fantasia Barrino) along with finalists like Clay Aiken, Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry. But in 11 years, “Idol” has never set foot here.
It’s a dream come true for Brian Robinson, a 1994 graduate of Independence High School and N.C. State alum who is now a senior producer for the show and has been fighting for years to get “Idol” to visit Charlotte.
“Oh my God, I’ve had so many discussions,” he says, laughing. “I’ve said, ‘This is the place to go, and this is why,’ and so I’m very excited that we’ve finally come here. … It’s exciting for me to have a hand in really showing off Charlotte and showing what a great place it is and all the beautiful things that kind of make up this city.”
2. The producers expect big things from us. Last year, about 9,000 people auditioned in Charleston, one of the show’s biggest turnouts ever. In 2005, the Greensboro auditions yielded Pickler (from Albemarle), Daughtry (McLeansville) and Bucky Covington (Rockingham). “Based on the North Carolina ‘Idols’ so far, I think that we can rest assured that Charlotte will come out on top when it comes to talent,” says Robinson, half-jokingly. (If his prediction comes true, he very much looks forward to telling his colleagues “I told you so.”)
3. Wait, how is it “Idol” picked Greensboro before Charlotte? Two words: Hurricane Katrina. Memphis was originally to be a host city that year, but scores of refugees from New Orleans wound up there. “We didn’t want to take up hotel space,” says supervising producer Patrick Lynn. “So I called the local Greensboro (Fox) affiliate and they rolled out the red carpet for us. ... The way you’re treated in the South is just like no other.”
4. Steven, Jennifer and Randy will not be here next week. Producers, vocal coaches, and other “Idol” staffers “will weed out the crowd,” Lynn says, but this is just the first round of auditions. “Idol” will return later in the year and by then “we have their story, we know who they are, we know if they can sing well or not.” During that second round, executive producers then evaluate returnees and decide who will sing for celebrity judges Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.
5. But the cameras most definitely will be here. Shooting begins the minute the line starts forming, and the lines on Sunday and Tuesday mornings will be big. “Not only will (a crowd shot) be on the show, it’ll probably be one of the first shots that you’ll see when the Charlotte episode airs,” Robinson says. Host Ryan Seacrest and Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery of Garner will be on hand Tuesday morning, with snippets of their appearances all but guaranteed to air.
6. And here’s some good advice for those planning to audition: Don’t be intimidated. “A lot of people get in line and they see people singing with all kinds of people around them, and they get intimidated by it. Don’t let that happen. You’re not auditioning for people in line, you’re auditioning for us,” Lynn says. “There are people in line that consider it a competition from the moment they show up. And they want to intimidate you and get you to go away. Just relax, do your thing and audition for us.”