FT MYERS FLORIDA WEEKLY

Back to American Idol

After a false start, Nick Fradiani nabbed reality show stardom


BY ALAN SCULLEY

Nick Fradiani probably finds a little more meaning in the saying “never say never” these days.

As singer/guitarist of the Connecticut based band Beach Avenue, he appeared on the NBC television talent show, “America’s Got Talent,” in 2014 and that experience soured him on the whole concept of music competition shows.

“We got through the first round, and when they eliminated us before the voting, I was like I don’t want to do these shows anymore,” Mr. Fradiani recalled in an early June phone interview. “I remember I said that to my drummer. ‘I’ll never do another singing reality show thing like that ever again. I just want to keep writing and doing my own thing.’”

Last year, though, Mr. Fradiani found himself auditioning for another such show, “American Idol.” This time, he didn’t get cut in the preliminary rounds. He didn’t get voted out in the early rounds that were televised during the recently completed season 14 of “Idol.” He didn’t get voted down at all.

Mr. Fradiani emerged as the season 14 champion, taking the crown in the final over Clark Beckham.

Winning “Idol” was about the last thing crossing Mr. Fradiani’s mind when he decided to audition. He was actually approached during his time on “America’s Got Talent” by some personnel who had connections with “Idol,” and promised he could get in front of some executive producers of “Idol,” rather than having to do the standard cattle-call audition.

Still, Mr. Fradiani was lukewarm to the idea. Besides, Beach Avenue was making progress, having released a couple of EPs and starting to build a following around the Northeast.

“I said no at first because of the band,” he said of the invitation to audition. “And then I talked to some family and friends and they were like man, this could be something you regret… I kept fighting it and then I was like ‘Why not? It is a cool thing. I could get maybe a chance to get in front of those judges. That’s kind of cool.’ That’s literally how I went into it. I had a show the night before in New York with my band and then the next morning, I woke up tired and hardly any voice and I sang for the judges at like 11 o’clock in the morning, I think. And that was it.

“It’s amazing how a decision like that can change your whole life,” Mr. Fradiani said.

Now he’s has been busy co-writing songs for his debut album and rehearsing for “American Idol Live,” the tour that for years has followed the completion of each season of “Idol.”

Mr. Fradiani, as this year’s “Idol” champion, will have a featured role in the show, performing his own set near the end of the evening.

But this year’s tour will be different from the previous outings in two major ways. Instead of featuring the latest season’s top 10 finalists, as the earlier tours did, this year’s outing includes only the top five finishers. Mr. Fradiani thinks this change will make for a better show because each performer will have more time on stage.

“This year, you’re going to really get to see us as the artists we’re trying to be outside of the show, after the show,” he said. “And it will kind of be a little more intimate in terms of I’ll have a little set toward the end that I’ll be doing of multiple songs. I’ll be doing some original songs. I’ll absolutely do my single that’s out right now (“Beautiful Life”), as well as a song that I wrote before ‘Idol.’

There will be some songs from the show and I’ll be able to kind of talk about why I chose some of the songs. I just think you’re going to get a lot more of a personal, you’ll feel more connected to the contestants than you were from the years past or from just watching the show.”

Some of the intimacy of this year’s show will come from the other major change in the tour. Instead of visiting arenas, “American Idol

Live,” for the most part, is booked into theaters and halls. The smaller venues would seem to be another outcome of the declining popularity of the long-running show, which at its peak was easily the most popular show on television, reaching more than 30 million viewers for season finales for seasons four through seven. By contrast, season 14’s finale in May drew just over 8 million viewers.

“American Idol’s” producers have announced that next season will mark the end of the show. They’ve promised that it will be a unique season for “Idol,” one that will have an element of celebrating the show’s history, while also having contestants vying for the final “American Idol” crown.

Mr. Fradiani will be trying to buck the recent trend of “American Idol” winners who have failed to make much of an impact with their debut albums

In its early years, the show lived up to its promise of being a star-making endeavor, producing three bona-fide stars in Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson — while other “Idol” alumni, including Phillip Phillips, Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Scotty McCreery, Ruben Studdard and Jordin Sparks, have had considerable success.

But the winners from the previous two seasons — Caleb Johnson and Candice Glover — whiffed with their debut albums,whilethreeotherchampions, David Cook, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze haven’t sustained the decent success they enjoyed with their debut albums.

Mr. Fradiani thinks he has one major advantage over recent “Idol” champions — the enthusiastic support of his record label, Big Machine, and its president, Scott Borchetta.

Big Machine became the new record label partner of “Idol” for season 14, after RCA/19 Entertainment had served in that capacity for the first 13 seasons.

Mr. Fradiani thinks Big Machine is more invested in his future than RCA/19 might have been with some of the other recent “Idol” winners.

“This guy (Borchetta) is not a guy who likes to lose. He’s a very, very competitive guy,” Mr. Fradiani said. “You know, he put himself out there this year, and he really did have to put his money behind this and I am signed to him. So he wants this to work just as much as I want this to work, and that’s so huge to have that.”

Mr. Fradiani thinks his biggest talent is his songwriting, but how much original material makes his debut album is an open question.

Big Machine has already had Mr. Fradiani writing with a number of outside tunesmiths, but at the same time, Borchetta has been quoted as saying his team’s main job on behalf of Mr. Fradiani is to hunt down the best songs they can find from outside songwriters — a comment that doesn’t exactly sound like a vote of confidence for Mr. Fradiani’s songwriting skills.

Mr. Fradiani has accepted the situation, knowing outside material from established songwriters might give him his best shot at achieving his goal of getting songs on top 40 radio.

“It’s going to come down to which songs are the best songs,” Mr. Fradiani said. “If I’m not making the cut on those, then that’s what it is. And right now, I need to start my career at a really high level, and then I’ll get more opportunity (to record originals). But the one cool thing is they’re giving me that shot (to write) right now, so that’s all I could ask for.” ¦

>>What: American Idol Live

>>When: 7:30 p.m., July 12

>>Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers

>>Tickets: $73.31-$41.51

>>Info: 481-4849, bbmannpah.com/index.php