The audition you didn't see...

By ALEX McRAE alex@newnan.com "American Idol" is technically a talent competition, but one of the show's biggest attractions is the grueling audition process where aspiring stars sweat, strain and fidget under the glare of the judges. This year, songwriter and producer Kara DioGuardi joined the group of judges that already included Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and everybody's favorite "Idol" villain, Simon Cowell.
"Idol" viewers love the two-minute segments where contestants -- some possibly chosen because they have no talent -- try and impress the panel that can make or break a show business career. But getting in front of the judging panel is a lot more grueling than viewers realize. Newnan's Alan Jackson knows. He's been there. Jackson's "Idol" quest began in mid-August, when he joined more than 12,000 hopefuls for auditions in Jacksonville, Fla. After two days performing for literally seconds at a time for "Idol" producers, Jackson was among approximately 150 chosen to compete in a second round of Jacksonville auditions. The second round didn't begin until almost a month later, after Jackson had started the fall semester at Newnan High School. He had to take two days off school in September to travel to auditions at Amelia Island, just outside Jacksonville. The Amelia Island experience was a two-day endurance contest as well, with aspiring stars put through even more pre-audition workouts by show producers. Although contestants only appear before the judges for a minute or two on TV, Jackson says the process is actually a little more relaxed. He says when he finally went before the judges, he spent several minutes chatting with them and loosening up before he sang. "I didn't expect that," he says. "But it was nice. We got to know each other a little, but it was still nerve-wracking." Finally, Cowell said "Let's go" and Jackson sang the Keith Urban hit "Somebody Like You." Then he held his breath as he waited to hear if he was on his way up or on his way out. According to Alan Jackson, judge Randy Jackson lightened the mood when he said in his trademark style, "I feel you, dog. Alan, you can sing, but you need to define yourself a little more. But you have a really good voice." Jackson says judge Paula Abdul was even more encouraging, saying, "Ooh, the girls are gonna love you. I can so picture you with your guitar singing on stage and them saying, 'Alan, we love you.'" DioGuardi was complimentary as well, Jackson says. She said, "Alan, I think you need to find your style, but you definitely have some chops." Then it was on to Cowell, who has crushed many a contestant's hopes. Jackson says Cowell was polite but not as impressed as the other judges. "He told me that with the other three votes I was moving on, but that he wouldn't have voted for me. He said I had a great voice but he didn't think I would stand out in the crowd." As he moved to the Hollywood round, Jackson says he took Cowell's comments to heart. "I think he gave me some good advice," Jackson says. "I took what he said and worked on it. And it really paid off down the road."


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