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Most of the people I met at the Season 10 American Idol audition in Nashville TN were like me and had never been to an audition before. We were all unsure exactly what to expect. So for those of you interested in how the auditions work, this one’s for you.

First, please understand what I learned about American Idol. It is not a singing contest–it is a reality tv show. Talent and look are only 10%. The other 90% that you can’t control is what Fox has in store for the show that season. No matter how amazing you might or might not be, if you’re not what they are looking for–you’re out. Go for the audition itself and a shot at being on tv… not to become the next American Idol. Simply have fun with the whole experience.

I remember as I was leaving–tired, starving, and cranky–I say, “Why did half these parents waste their time bringing their kids down here?” Immediately I wanted to take back what I had already vocalized.

It’s not about winning the show, it’s about hope. It’s about working hard to get somewhere–and then singing in front of 16,000 people who support you because they are you. It was us against American Idol and we wanted to win.

Where else will one young lady that auditioned find thousands of her competitors giving her a standing ovation after she sang? On tv the winners are the star. But at the audition–everyone is.  And I enjoyed meeting every one of you. I’m fueled by the dreams in your eyes. It was like I was Popeye and your passion to win was my spinach.

Three days of build up, long lines, and spending money in Nashville led to my 30 seconds of fame–15 seconds, if it were up to the judges. Despite their “okay, thank you” halfway through–I continued to the end of the chorus on top of my lungs.

As I told the cameraman filming the non-winner exodus, “I sang my heart out. See you next year American Idol for Season 11.”

Below is a true account of our American Idol audition process…

I get to Jennifer’s house at 11pm on Wednesday night. We had to be in line by 7am the following morning to register for the auditions.

11:30pm – “Are you ready to go? Jennifer?”

“Yeah almost. We have to swing by Neile’s house so I can borrow her hair dryer. Mine’s on the fritz.”

I can’t argue with that–she’s got to have nice hair for the audition. I double agree now that I’ve seen Morning Jennifer.

But it was a trick–Neile wanted to surprise me and come to Nashville with us.

We arrived in downtown Nashville TN at 3:30am Central time–at the intersection of Gay St and Church St.

Which way did we go? A decision we faced like a homosexual kid in a Christian family… we went straight.

I parked at the Hilton garage right next door to the Bridgestone Arena(-$14). I thought we were going to arrive much later, but with the time change, it was only 4am.

We were ushered into a 15 foot fenced in section upon arrival. They would fit about 100-200 people in a section, then fence it off and start a new one. Already it was a community effort.

Audition Lines

Audition Line at 4am

A member of the staff through a megaphone tells us all, “Please find a seat and get comfortable. Do not stand. You are going to be here for hours. Find a spot where you can sit or stretch out.”

Most people didn’t listen, but Team Adventure needed sleep. I immediately passed out on my bookbag, Neile to my left, and a little girl to my right–who when I woke up asked, “Did you have a nice sleep?”

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties

Team Adventure

Team Adventure

In the next hour we watched thousands more pile in.

Audition Lines

Line at 7am--a small part of it.

At 7am the line starts moving into the Arena, one section at a time. We were headed to get wristbands and tickets to the audition.

3 Important Things To Remember to Bring With You To An American Idol Audition:

1. Two forms of ID (drivers license, passport, social security card, birth certificate).

2. A release form that you can print from their website which includes a parental consent form if you are under 18.

3. Snacks and water. You will be waiting for hours on two different days where vendors will try and sell you $7 bottles of water.

I get to the inside of the arena at 8am.  A few minutes later I reach the front of the line and a staff member checks my drivers license and passport, looks at but doesn’t take my release form, gives me a ticket, and puts a wristband on my arm.

The gentleman says “Be sure to keep that wristband dry. You need that, this ticket, and your release form to get in on Saturday.”

I turn around to the 2,000 people behind me, holding up my wristband, and scream, “I’m going to Hollywood!” and the crowd goes wild.

I cannot figure out why American Idol would give me such a ridiculously paper thin wristband and say “Keep this dry” in 110 degree heat index weather. I wanted to visit Nashville Shores, a water park, on Friday but could not risk losing the wristband.

I held fundraiser parties during college for my fraternity in which I sprung for the slightly more expensive plastic wristbands. FOX couldn’t give me a plastic wristband too?

So now it was 8:30am on Thursday morning–we were registered for the audition–and had two days in Nashville to entertain ourselves.

3 Ways to Make The American Idol Audition An Affordable Trip:

1. Become a member of–make a profile–get verified–and e-mail people a couple weeks in advance who live in or near the city that the auditions are behind held.

2. Bring plenty of bottle waters or you’ll be caught outside in the heat spending money all day on drinks.

3. Bring a bathing suit, plastic wrap, and duct tape. That way you can duct tape plastic wrap around your wristband and spend your two days swimming at a hotel you didn’t stay at. Like the Hilton. That’s free.

Let’s skip ahead to Saturday morning…

We arrived at the Bridgestone Arena again at 5am. This time both sets of people from Thursday and Friday’s registration were there in fenced in sections. I took this time to meet and photograph myself with as many future American Idols as I could. Everyone I met was wonderful and excited to take a picture with me.

This is the beautiful Katie Pursley from Georgia who I met and later watched sing Pants on the Ground for a cameraman.

Katie Pursley

Katie Pursley, Mom, and Adventure Paul

Here is Courtney Moore from Kentucky with her friends and family.

Courtney Moore

Mom, Courtney, Friend, Adventure Paul

It took two hours to fill everyone into the arena–divided into sections based on our ticket number.

Stadium Full of People

Contestants filled the inside of Bridgestone Arena

I took this time to travel around and meet more folks who were going to audition.

Grace - Potentially the Next American Idol

Grace - Potentially the Next American Idol

Now it was time to begin. I head back to the stadium and find my seat with Neile and Jennifer. The first hour is spent with a host and cameraman filming the stadium of screaming fans saying “Welcome to Nashville”/”American Idol in Nashville”/”Welcome to Nashville the music city”–this in about 20 different ways until they were satisfied with the timing.

It was cool when they turned all the lights off and replicated The Camera Flash Experiment. I filmed a few seconds in the video below–although it looked much better in person or on their HD cameras.

Then the waiting began. We were in the fourth section and it took 5 hours before we were called. I napped in between Neile and this man who did not get up once. He was there supporting his son to his left who auditioned.

We were sitting by the door where the “non-winners” walked out. The man laughed as I said “There’s my baby” about every pretty girl who walked past. After I got rejected and walked out, Neile told me that he looked at her and said, “There goes my baby”.

People I Sat Next To

People I Sat Next To

The first audition process

In the center of the stadium are 12 judges tables separated by thin curtains. Once our stadium section was called, we moved to the center where we divided into 12 lines. Then, like a roller coaster, four at a time from each line are taken to the judges line.

This is where the strangers I was with started freaking out and getting nervous. I tried to keep them energized and feeling good while we waited the last few minutes. I tried my famous line “Remember, fear and excitement feel the exact same way in your stomach. You’re not nervous–just excited. You’re going to do great!” However, come that point, there was not much I could say or do to ease these kids nerves. I call them “kids” because at 25 years old–I was a veteran.

What did Adventure Paul sing at American Idol?

I had one goal in mind with this trip–to be told NO–only I wanted to be told NO on camera by Ellen and Randy, not in front of three no-name entry level judges who are loosely affiliated with the show. Everyone got to be a judge in this first round–light guys, assistant to the assistant producers, a girl from the vending station.

I sang “Unbreak My Heart” by Toni Braxton–featured below in this video if you’ve never heard it.

I was the last person in our group to sing. Next the judges say in an ultra-melodramatic tone, “Step forward.” Even this part feels like a reality show. I’m waiting for someone to hand me a rose. “You will not be advancing to American Idol,” the woman judge says, “Thank you for coming.”

And just like that the audition was over.

What happened to Jennifer?

Alright, alright–I know everyone cares more about what happened with Jennifer’s audition than mine so here goes…

Jennifer was asked to sing 3 times by the judges at her table. I was at #6 and I believe she was at table #2. First she sang “Till I can make it on my own” which Sandy had worked with her on. Then they asked for one more. Then the male judge said, “Can you sing something pop?”

Jennifer’s an opera, classical, musical singer–not a pop singer. The closest thing she had on the back burner was a song by Paramore. After the rejection–the judge looks her in the eyes and said, “More pop.”

Are you glad you went?

Absolutely I am happy we auditioned. Unfortunately it’s hit or miss. Had I have gone to table #2 and Jennifer sang in front of table #6 instead–perhaps one of the judges had grown up loving Tammy Wynette and loved her performance. And perhaps the people at table #2 would have thought I was terrifically horrible enough to be funny for tv.

What happens if you make it past that first audition?

The people who advanced to the next round were given golden tickets like Willy Wanka (only they did not come with a chocolate bar). Those people (less than 100 out of 16,000) go into a separate area where they audition in front of the shows producers.

FINALLY–if the producers think that you have what it takes to be on tv–you are invited to audition in front of the celebrity judges. This is a shock to many people who watch the show who think that EVERYONE auditions in front of the tv judges. That is how the show makes it appear.

All the crazy weirdo’s that make it on tv and get laughed off and rejected have actually been through two audition processes at this point. I was competing against the NO’s–not the good singers.

Should I go to the next audition?

Absolutely you should tryout for the next American Idol Auditions. Have fun with it.

If you have any questions about our weekend that I didn’t answer in this article–please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Good luck everyone.



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