On a typical, unassuming day, Lambert High School graduate Adriel Carrión, 18, woke from a nap to find that an American Idol casting producer had messaged him on Instagram. Being a fan of American Idol since he could remember, he quickly replied and began the process that would lead him to standing on the audition stage in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.
Carrión began his singing career at Lambert, singing at events such as pep rallies, dance recitals and fashion and talent shows. The singer said that the first time he sang in front of a big crowd was at a pep rally.
“Everybody [at Lambert] was so welcoming and so kind to me and they showed so much support for me,” Carrión said. “I love that school. They’re just amazing – the staff, the students. I made so many friends there and they all supported me.”
Carrión graduated from Lambert in 2020 and is a freshman at Kennesaw State University. He said there was a big difference between singing on stage for his friends at school and singing on stage in front of talented musicians.
“I stepped into that [American Idol audition room] with just three people … Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan,” Carrión said. “I’ve been in a room with 4,000 people, and I felt like I was in a room with 4,000 people again with just those three … judges there. They’re just so big, and I wanted to just do my best.”
Before Carrión could get to the audition with the judges, he had to first go through three rounds of auditions on Zoom with casting producers from the show. He said after the third audition, he was told he would be auditioning in front of the judges next and they wanted him to have a “funny story.”
“I was supposed to go in and be like a funny character but then actually sing good,” Carrión said. “I was supposed to do some impressions of Shakira and Cher.”
During the Zoom auditions however, Carrión’s family was “hit hard” with COVID-19, leaving his mother in the hospital on a ventilator for a month. American Idol producers spoke with Carrión about changing his story to center around the struggles his family went through. While his television audition was not aired, he will be featured in episodes coming up.
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“When you walk into that [audition] room, it’s nothing like you see on TV,” Carrión said. “It’s so bright and there’s just lights everywhere. It’s such a crazy experience, it was like walking into heaven or something.”
Carrión said that he heard the judges’ voices before he saw them. He remembers walking into the audition room and seeing Katy Perry “eating a chocolate bar or something” before she looks at him, and he remembers feeling starstruck.
Carrión sang a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” for the judges and said they liked the first part of his song. He said that he got two “Yes” votes from Perry and Richie, but received a “no” from Bryan, who said he didn’t think Carrión was ready.
“Even though I got a no from Luke Bryan, I still love him,” Carrión said with a laugh. “He made up for it in Hollywood Week.”
In Hollywood Week, Bryan met Carrión backstage after his performance to tell him that he did a good job and that he thought he had improved since the audition. Carrión said Bryan was “just so kind” during Hollywood Week.
During the audition, Carrión’s mother was able to come into the room and share her story about her fight with COVID-19. She also got to meet Lionel Richie, who she’s a big fan of.
Carrión received a golden ticket that sent him to Hollywood Week where he sang Radiohead’s “Creep” for the genre challenge.
“[Getting the Golden Ticket] meant so much to me,” Carrión said. “I’ve been chasing this for so long and where I see myself in the future, I want to hopefully be making music and connecting with people and that Golden Ticket was just that one step closer to being able to do that and sharing my voice.”
During Hollywood Week, Carrión said he had to keep reminding himself to “take it all in, because this opportunity only comes once in a lifetime.”
Since he was a little kid Carrión has dreamed of standing on the American Idol stage. He said that he loved growing up and watching American Idol every single week with his family and finding inspiration in artists such as David Archuleta, Haley Reinhart, Jennifer Hudson and “of course Kelly Clarkson.”
“I don’t think I can remember a time when I wasn’t watching American Idol,” Carrión said.
Adam Lambert, runner-up in season eight of American Idol, was a big role model for Carrión and his artistic style. Carrión describes his style as a mixture of pop and rock with influences from his favorite artists Lady Gaga, Freddy Mercury, Prince, Michael Jackson and Billie Eilish. He said he really likes Billie Eilish and likes to make music like “that sort of dark pop that [Eilish] does.”
Going forward, Carrión said he is excited to explore new opportunities that might pop up from being a contestant on American Idol. He said he wants to stand out amongst the crowd of singers and be unique in his own way.
“I see many opportunities coming out of this [American Idol experience], and hopefully I can keep growing as an artist, traveling, doing music, making a family in music and being able to connect with people on that level,” Carrión said. “I would really, really love to be able to do that.”
Carrión said he hopes that people at home will continue to watch this season of American Idol and support all the talented artists this year.
“Just keep watching and see all these amazing artists,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of friends [at American Idol], and I think this is going to bring a lot of opportunities for me and all the other amazing, talented people. I’m so excited to see where this goes.”
American Idol airs at 8 p.m., Sunday and Monday on ABC.