SALT LAKE CITY — In Jordan Moyes’ eyes, no one loved “American Idol” more than his mom. 

It’s the one show the singer can recall consistently being on the TV in his family’s home outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Sometimes his whole family watched it together. But his mom watched it all of the time. 

And she would drop hints to Moyes, an aspiring musician and her youngest of nine, that she wanted him to audition for the show — but only if he wanted to. 

“For whatever reason, I always pushed that off and never felt like it was the path that I was going to take,” Moyes told the Deseret News. 

But that all changed when Moyes’ mom, one of his biggest supporters musically and otherwise, died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism in June 2018. 

”She was alone in her room and was unable to receive help soon enough to revive her. So it was entirely unexpected and just kind of a shock,” Moyes said. “That was kind of the big wake-up call. When she passed away, I feel like my priorities in general were just reevaluated quite a bit. I felt like I had a need to suddenly do more of what I love and pursue it more fully.” 

So he began to sing more. He wrote more music and released his first EP. He created a tribute for his mom in a song called “Not That Far Away.” He began branching out and playing shows around Arizona, Utah and California. 

And now, Moyes is about to be on the show that brought his mom so much joy over the years. The 25-year-old singer, now based in Provo, finally seized the chance to try out for “American Idol” when the show came through Salt Lake City in summer 2019.

His audition round in front of judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie airs Sunday, March 15. And while he couldn’t talk about the unaired episode, Moyes did say this much: Bryan is officially his favorite judge. 

On Sunday, millions of “Idol” viewers will watch Moyes’ audition. And maybe, finally, he’ll make a name for himself. 

From Provo to ‘Idol’

“American Idol” is Moyes’ biggest stage to date — 8 million people tuned in for the season premiere last month. Before “Idol,” Moyes was largely known in just Arizona and Utah. 

Since moving to Utah in 2012 after graduating from high school, the singer has frequently played the smaller venues like Velour — the heart of Provo’s music scene — and Kilby Court and Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City.

But up until this point, it’s always been more of a side gig. He hopes “American Idol” changes that. 

“Ultimately the dream is to write and play music full time,” Moyes said. “A big reason for doing the whole process is to get some more exposure. ... I’m excited to see what comes out of it.” 

Immersed in Provo’s music scene for the last seven years, Moyes has received some top-notch guidance for his journey on “American Idol.” Jenn Blosil, who performed at Velour for years, made it to the top 14 during the show’s “farewell season” in 2016.

And Moyes is close friends with Utah singer Ashley Hess, who made it to the show’s top 14 in 2019. In fact, the two released a video on Instagram just last week performing a cover of John Mayer’s “In Your Atmosphere.” 

Utah singer Ashley Hess made it to the top 14 on “American Idol” last year, and was a big inspiration for singer Jordan Moyes. | ABC

“She pushed me to kind of go for it,” Moyes said. “And watching her experience on the show last season and how it changed her life and jumpstarted her career has certainly been inspiring for me, and I think it was exactly what I needed to kind of get over that edge and pursue it.” 

Provo’s music scene is a big reason Moyes hasn’t looked back since moving to Utah to study marketing at Utah Valley University (the state’s great outdoors is another). The singer took a break from school the last couple of years to put more effort into his music, but he plans to return this year and finish. 

For former Utahn Ashley Hess, being an ‘American Idol’ frontrunner is surreal and inspiring

“I don’t know if it’s people that are raised in (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and are raised learning how to sing at a young age — I think that has a big part to do it with it, but there’s just a lot of talent here,” he said. “There’s people that enjoy performing and have a serious knack for it. There’s a lot of people in the community that want to help musicians. … Music is just a priority here.” 

Developing a voice

Every time Moyes takes the stage to perform — whether it’s at Velour or on “American Idol” — he’s reminded of how far he’s come. 

He’s played the guitar since he was 6, when his two older brothers placed the instrument in his hands and taught him his first chords. Other than that, he’s never had formal guitar lessons. Playing the instrument feels natural to him, though.

But his voice is a different story. 

“As a teenager, I was terrified to sing for anyone else,” Moyes said. “Singing mortified me — to do it in public or to do it for anyone else. It was my dad mostly that kind of pushed me into branching out and performing and just finding my way in it, learning to love it and enjoy it.”

So in high school, Moyes took voice lessons, participated in choir and began performing at open mic nights. As he started coming out of his shell, he learned something fast: The joy that comes with performing far outweighs the fear.

“I don’t really think that the nerves ever fully go away. But the euphoric high, I think it’s enough to bring people back on stage.” — Jordan Moyes

“I don’t really think that the nerves ever fully go away. But the euphoric high, I think it’s enough to bring people back on stage,” he said. “I wish I could bottle that feeling and I wish more people could experience and understand it.” 

That feeling, along with his faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helped him navigate the stress of “American Idol” — although Moyes did say he’s “a little anxious” to watch his audition unfold on national television Sunday night. 

But above all else, it was his mom — the staunch “American Idol” fan who played piano, sang in church and raised him on a strong appreciation for music — who helped him the most.

“My faith is a big part of my life and it’s something that I found myself relying on for sure, in terms of just keeping me calm and centered and grounded,” he said. “But I also felt my mom a lot through the process as well, felt her presence with me. And that gave me confidence.”

“American Idol” airs on ABC Sunday, March 15 at 7 p.m. MT.