“It could have been so different. He didn’t want to die.

‘American Idol’ contestant Cay Aliese with his father, ‘America’s Got Talent’ and ‘The Voice’ contestant Nolan Neal, who died in July 2022. (Photo: Facebook)

“Seeing my dad in the music industry made me not want to pursue music for a long time,” Cay Aliese, 24, confessed on Sunday. american idol. “But ever since he passed, I feel like all I want to do is make music. … I’m just sad because it could have been so different. He didn’t want to die. He was a light for others, but he couldn’t find that for himself.

Avid talent show watchers probably remember Cay’s dad, Nolan Neal, well. He first came to The voice Season 10 with a tragic backstory. A few years earlier, the Nashville troubadour – who signed with Hollywood Records and Virgin Records in 2006, and briefly fronted rock band Hinder in 2014 – had a heated phone conversation with his own father about his struggles in the world. music. and hung up in anger. His father tried to call back several times, but Nolan refused to answer, and the two never spoke to each other again: Nolan’s father committed suicide shortly after their falling out. The guilt-ridden singer-songwriter then began to ‘spiral downward’, partying so hard he damaged his voice and lost his recording contract while he was making his album.

Although Nolan did not shoot any Voice chairs the first time around, when the tenacious musician returned for season 11 a few months later, he was a four-chair hit and looked like he was on course to win the whole show – before getting cut in one of the most shocking knockouts of The voice history. In 2020, he returned triumphantly to television on America’s Got Talent and poured out his pain in an original ballad titled “Lost” (the first song he wrote after getting sober, which he was at the time), and he received a standing ovation. AGT Judge Sofia Vergara, whose younger brother has a well-publicized history with drugs and alcohol, even tearfully told Nolan, “I know the disease of addiction very well. My family is completely full of this horrible disease, and I completely understand. And being here tonight and hearing this song, for me, gives me a lot of hope.

Nolan was again shockingly eliminated in the AGT Season 15 quarter-finals, and in July 2022 he died of a drug overdose, just months before Cay’s American Idol hearing. Sunday, Cay said Idol Judge Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan that her father “kept ruining” his professional chances due to his addiction and was “in and out” of his life for much of his childhood, “but the only thing that I always connected with him was music. … That was my favorite thing, sharing music with him.

Cay explained that trying to Idol — the talent show she said “got her heart,” as opposed to AGT Or The voice — felt “like I was honoring my father and closing his chapter, but starting my own.” She then shared an original dedication to her father, “City of Nashville,” which she wrote about the “music city where [they] made our memories” and “went out in the studio having fun, writing songs about everything we did.

Interestingly, Katy was “on the fence” about Cay because she “didn’t think the emotion was there”, and Lionel also told Cay, “You have a voice, but I gotta ring it. like you care that you are going to do this. I understood their point. Unlike a lot of bad luck Idol singers who barely manage to pass their auditions without bursting into tears, Cay had a guard, a kind of flat affect – probably the result of years of having to treat and protect himself as the child of an unreliable parent. . But I think the emotion is in there.

For example, last year, Nolan’s Facebook page posted a video of Cay singing Nolan’s original “Send Me a Butterfly” at what appeared to be his memorial service, and it was certainly a Idol– worthy performance. That same year on Instagram, Cay posted another original ballad about his late father as well as a confession about his own urges to turn to drugs and alcohol during this difficult time of grief. And in January 2023, she posted, “This is the first year I know I can’t call my dad. This is the first year I will never have an argument with him again. I know I won’t get a call from him asking me about Jesus or wanting to write a song together…. I just wish things had been different for my dad. I wish I could go back and change some things. But I can’t. So I’m walking this grieving process the best way I know. And that’s thanks to Jesus + writing music. Dad would be so happy to know that I’m making music right now. moment.

In that same Instagram caption from January 2023, Cay wrote, “2022 broke me” and “I don’t know what 2023 will bring,” but for now, 2023 will bring her closer to her own musical dream — because the judges finally believed in his potential enough to award him a golden ticket. “If my dad was here, he’d be happy,” Cay said in that bittersweet moment. “I hope he encourages me. Doing this gave me a chance to honor my dad and walk a path my dad couldn’t walk.

These are the other successes of Sunday Idol auditions:

Dany Epp, 23: “The one who got away”

Dany’s mother Denise has been huge Idol a fan since season 1, so she had to be a “fourth judge” for the day and sit on the panel alongside Lionel, Katy, and Luke. Dany presented a clean, pretty tone with just a bit of rasp, and while she really pushed herself to the edge of her range, she had impressive control; Luke described Dany’s voice as “real and emotional” and coming from “a great place”. Katy admitted she was “prepared” when she found out Dany would do one of her own songs, but eventually liked Dany’s cover so much she even started singing. Amusingly, Denise was the only “judge” to offer constructive criticism, advising Dany to work on her eye contact. “Your mother is right !” notes Lionel. But this audition was “four for four” – four yeses, including Denise’s.

Amara Valerio, 25: “Break your windows”

A few years ago, Amara was asked to perform the national anthem at her high school, but a bully named Sarah snatched the mic from her. “You got Kanye! Katy gasped, after watching a video of the awkward editing incident. Katy then asked Amara to channel her outrage from that moment into her cover of Jazmine Sullivan’s angry breakup anthem…and Amara did more than enough to make it happen. Idol‘s Class of 2023. “Sarah, you’re done playing with our daughter,” Katy said, assuring Amara, “You’re going to Hollywood, and nobody’s going to play with you there!”

Hannah Nicolaisen, 23: “Making you feel my love”

When this former college volleyball player claimed that she “started figuring out how to play music about a month or two ago,” I sensed a setup. (For what it’s worth, there are videos on Hannah’s Instagram from 2018 that show her playing music.) But no matter how long Hannah has been doing this seriously, after trading her dream of volleyball against a musical dream, the woman is clearly a natural. “You have done everything to tell this story. It’s something you can’t teach. Your unique voice is something we pray for in this business,” Lionel told him.

Reette Thorns, 20: “I believe”

Like Cay, Reette endured an unstable childhood due to her mother’s lifelong struggle with addiction. But she indulgently dedicated Fantasia Barrino’s season 3 coronation song to her mother, declaring, “I believe in you, and together we can go through anything.” To be honest, I don’t know if Reette would have gotten a golden ticket without her gory story – the core talent was there, but she was very uptight and screaming during the anthemic chorus of this powerful ballad. However, Lionel – who hugged Reette sobbing and gave her one of his handkerchiefs when she was done – told her: “The first note you hit was perfect, and the rest was nervous. … You hit me, and that’s the whole name of this company. Katy, who offered to be Reette’s “stage mom,” said, “We believed in it. Was it Perfect? No. But perfection does not exist. I suspect Reette’s time in Hollywood will be brief, as I don’t think she’s quite ready for prime time…but at least she’s been able to tap into her raw emotions in a way that Cay didn’t.

Tripp Taylor, 18: “I believe in my soul”

This deep-voiced, self-proclaimed old soul from South Carolina completely killed his Ray Charles cover. Lionel and Tripp joked that Lionel had taken a DNA test to find out if he was Tripp’s father due to their physical resemblance – and Tripp later jokingly called him ‘Uncle Richie’ – but in reality , the strongest circumstantial / anecdotal evidence that Lionel and Tripp could be blood Tripp’s excellent performance was linked. Talent is in Tripp’s DNA, that’s for sure. “I really like your mic attack. … You have your own tone, with just the right amount of grit and grit,” Luke said. all. … You have the it factor,” Katy said.

Colt Glover, 21: “Rock salt and nails”

After hearing the sturdy, effortless Flatt & Scruggs cover of this natural-voiced whiskey, Katy declared Colt “top 10” materials. And while Katy said that path more than 10 times already this season, his prophecy seemed believable this time. “You are the best country singer we have seen so far!” she cried. “I am Really glad you’re with us,” added Luke. I think with his sandpaper voice, to mention his Opry-worthy name, Colt has star potential in Nashville.

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