HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Singer Diana DeGarmo attends FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images) Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

‘American Idol’ notes: Diana DeGarmo interview, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Atlantan Shawn Robinson, Dexter Roberts on ‘The Voice’

Originally posted Saturday, March 9, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Former Snellville resident Diana DeGarmo last released an album as a teenager in 2004 soon after she came in second on season 3 of “American Idol.” 

It wasn’t exactly what DeGarmo wanted but she was only 16 and contractually obligated to follow RCA’s lead with “Blue Skies.” They wanted her to be “pop rock,” which didn’t seem like her at all, she said. 

“It was a lovely album,” she said in a recent interview, “with some great songs, put together by huge producers and huge writers. It just wasn’t me.” 

She ultimately focused on a successful career in music theater (”Jeckyll & Hyde,” “Hair,” “9 to 5,” “Hairspray”) with some film and TV credits (“The Young and the Restless”) thrown in. She now lives primarily in Nashville and New York and at age 31 feels it’s time to release another record called “Gemini.” 

“I finally knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it,” said DeGarmo. “I didn’t care what anybody else thought.”
She financed most of it herself but after some unspecified medical issues last year that cost her some of her savings, she opted for a Kickstarter campaign to raise about $26,750 to fund vinyl pressings and a three-city tour.

“I was terrified,” DeGarmo said. “It’s scary to ask anyone for help because I’m a do-it-yourself person. Asking for help for me is a sign of weakness. I was honest with my fans. I wasn’t trying to line my pockets. 2018 nearly killed me I had two surprise surgeries at the beginning and end of the year. The bills kept on coming even with health insurance.”

Fortunately, she said she is now healthy again. “My body is functioning properly,” she said. “I feel like a completely different person inside.”

In the end, her fans came through on Kickstarter. About 250 people contributed nearly $30,000.

“I cried out of pure shock,” she said. 

The album and tour will be happening later this year though she’ll need more money to come to Atlanta.  

DeGarmo had released an EP in late 2016 while touring overseas and it was well received. She got the itch to do more and hooked up with songwriter Dylan Glatthorn.

“We ended up making  a very cohesive cool album unique to me,” she said. “It melds my Southern country roots and my musical theater career. I call this style big band country.”

She put together an 11-piece band. “I never do things small,” she said. “I didn’t want to hide myself behind anything. We had horns and background vocals. It’s my New York life, my Nashville life, my Atlanta life all mixed together. I think it’s truly the beginning of many new records for me.”

She loves performing live and hopes the album reflects that. 

“I knew what I wanted to do,” she said. “It wasn’t going to be cheap. I have champagne taste on a beer budget.” 

Also: “I’ve always been an independent spirit. I finally decided to actually believe that.”

DeGarmo said she now cares less what others think or worried about offending folks or fitting into a particular box. “I know I’m a good person at heart,” she said. “I’m never going to make everyone happy. I have to make myself happy. If I can do that, I can hopefully make others happy.”

She has now been married to fellow musician and “Idol” finalist Ace Young for nearly six years.

They were both up in New York recently to audition for pilot season. Young, she said, did shoot something in Atlanta not too long ago. She hopes to have an opportunity to do so herself down the road while continuing her pursuit if musical theater. 

When she comes to visit her mom, she doesn’t typically stay there but usually friends. Her childhood room, she said has been changed into a guest room with just a few reminders of her childhood past. “It’s not a shrine to me, thank goodness,” she said. 

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AMERICAN IDOL - Coverage. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) SHAWN ROBINSON
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

Shawn Robinson, 22, of Duluth, was the second Georgian to appear on “Idol” this season on Sunday night and the first from metro Atlanta. (Later, a country singer from Elberton Clay Page popped in as well. He wasn’t bad but probably won’t make it too far in Hollywood.)

Based on his “Idol” audition Sunday night, the Duluth resident has a pretty soprano voice singing Jessie J’s “Who You Are.” “Your voice is butter,” Lionel Richie said. “I am in love with your personality.”He comes across very sweet and bright and positive.

In an interview, Robinson said he’s a pop singer with R&B/gospel leanings. Among his idols: Chance the Rapper and Ariana Grande

He credits his mom Renee Peters for getting him into music and Borean Christian Church in Snellville to honing his skills. “I am passionate about my craft,” he said.

Robinson, a 22-year-old Home Depot sales associate and Georgia State University student, first tried out in 2013 at age 16 but was cut right before seeing the TV judges. He took a little break from music until about 2017 and posts regularly on Instagram

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Both Jennifer Hudson (who will play Aretha Franklin in a 2020 biopic) and Kelly Clarkson performed during the Grammy Aretha celebration which aired Sunday night on CBS. Here are clips:

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Dexter Roberts, a season 13 seventh-place “Idol” finalist from Alabama, got a four-chair turn on “The Voice” season 16 with Randy Houser’s “Like a Cowboy.”

“Your low stuff was so rich,” John Legend said. “Everything was perfect.”

Adam: “Any one of us regardless of genre know when it’s transcendent is truly spectacular... I don’t want you to pick me. That would be far too daring and far too bold.”

Kelly: “Males. Maybe I have some sort of repellent but you just don’t pick me. You’re probably going to pick Uncle Blake.” She says he’ll be competing with other country singers on Blake.

Blake: “I’ll have to pull myself out from under the bus on my skull... Country artists know who they are and know where they come from... I don’t cross genre.” 

Naturally, Dexter chose Blake. 

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Catie Turner’s new single “Prom Queen.”

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Idol ratings: The show’s overnight ratings for its first three episodes hit 8.7 million opening night, fell to 7.8 million on Wednesday and 7.2 million this past Sunday night. This compares to 10.5 million, 8.4 million and 7.8 million a year ago. Given the general downward trend of all broadcast TV shows, these numbers are not surprising. 

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Clay Aiken’s Tweet of the week(ish)

 Apparently, there is this idea that you be paired with someone born on your birthday in a horror flick. And Chrissy chose Clay. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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