‘American Idol’ Gains a Brand-New ‘Spiritual Cowboy’ With Dillon James’ Audition [WATCH]
As auditions continue for the 18th season of American Idol on Sunday night (March 1), the show has revealed one audition performance from a particularly enigmatic country character. 26-year-old Dillon James performed for judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, and from the moment he stepped onstage, his unique look and story had their interests piqued.
In fact, Perry dubbed him "country Post Malone," thanks to his sprawling chest and torso tattoos. Equally attention-grabbing was James' voice: He performed a quavering acoustic version of "Make You Feel My Love." Press play to watch his audition, which was shared ahead of Sunday night's show.
Though it was written and recorded in 1997 by folk great Bob Dylan, that song has a country connection, too. Garth Brooks cut "Make You Feel My Love" in '98, contributing his version to the soundtrack for Hope Floats, and his performance earned Brooks (and Dylan) a Grammy nomination for the song. Kelly Clarkson has shared her own rendition of the tune, too, as have a number of non-country artists.
The judges praised James' performance for his emotional depth, which, he revealed, came from a very real place. In his early-to-mid 20s, the Bakersfield, Calif. native struggled with drug and alcohol addictions that nearly killed him. Now, with the help of his family -- who were also interviewed in footage interspersed into his audition clip -- James is proud to be sober and working at his father's asphalt company.
Through all the struggles he's faced thus far, the singer says, music has been a friend and outlet. The three judges agreed that they could sense James' connection to the song, which impressed them even more than his chest tattoo and cowboy hat.
"I think it was really just done with feeling, and honesty," Bryan reflected after the young singer's performance. "And your voice is a little bit not what I'd expect...it's almost got this Chris Isaak thing going on. I'm in, all the way."
The two other judges agreed, although Perry admitted that she worried a little bit whether James would be able to maintain his sobriety amid the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles.
"What happens if you come to the City of Lost Angels?" she asked. "What are you gonna do to give yourself some help so that you don't spiral?"
"I have a loving family that keeps me grounded, and I have meditation to help me out when I think I'm getting a little blurry," James replied.
"Yes...I love a spiritual cowboy," Perry added, before the three judges voted unanimously to award James a "golden ticket" to Hollywood.
American Auditions continue on Sunday night when the show airs at 8PM ET on ABC.
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