Inside the ‘American Idol’ audition that took this Utah singer to Hollywood
During Jordan Moyes’ ‘American Idol’ audition, Luke Bryan leaned over to Katy Perry and whispered: ‘I want to sign him now.’ It was a huge moment for the Utah singer, but Moyes didn’t know Bryan said those words until Sunday night, when his audition aired.
Jordan Moyes walked across the hardwood floor, stepped onto the “American Idol” logo and began to sing.
For a minute and a half, he strummed his guitar and performed a slower, stripped-down version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” — his own arrangement. He swayed side to side as he sang. And he kept his eyes closed for most of it.
When the 25-year-old singer had about 15 seconds left, Bryan leaned over to Perry and whispered words every aspiring musician longs to hear: “I want to sign him now.”
It was a huge moment for the Provo, Utah-based singer, who auditioned on a cold November day.
Except Moyes didn’t know Bryan said those words until Sunday night, when his audition aired to nearly 7.5 million people. And because “Idol” airs an hour earlier on the East Coast, some of Moyes’ friends knew about it before he did.
“I had gotten texts saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe what Luke said!’ That was definitely the biggest shock (in watching the audition),” Moyes told the Deseret News. “The judges’ table is pretty far away from where you’re standing, and you can’t really hear what they’re saying in between as you’re singing. ... As I was playing, I was just in the moment and very much not paying attention to their reactions.”
When the audition was over, Moyes’ family cheered as he walked out of the room waving the gold ticket in the air. His dad and two older sisters took him to Olive Garden later that night to celebrate. They were dying to know what the judges said.
But Moyes had a hard time recounting it all. The whole audition had been a blur.
Four months later, it’s no longer a blur. Watching his audition unfold on national TV, Moyes took in the judges’ reactions. And it was even better than he remembered.
“It was a cool feeling to finally see it — to finally know that the rest of the world was seeing what happened in there,” Moyes said.
But there’s a lot that didn’t make it on TV. Here’s an inside look at the audition that won over all three judges and took Moyes to Hollywood.
Inside the audition
One thing not seen on TV: As soon as Moyes started playing his guitar, Perry threw her hands up and leaned back in her chair.
That’s the only reaction Moyes registered during his performance. It gave him a boost of confidence to know he had at least one judge’s attention.
After that, Moyes shut his eyes and blocked out everything as he performed — the bright lights, cameras and, of course, the famous musicians watching him.
“They’re beautiful people. … It almost felt like I was on a Disneyland ride and I was looking into the screen and seeing these stars and characters,” Moyes said with a laugh. “It almost feels like they’re holograms that you’re just singing to because you’re standing far away from them at first. It just really feels surreal.”
The audition clip that aired is two and a half minutes long, but Moyes said he spent at least 10 minutes with the “Idol” judges. During that time, he received a surprising amount of mentoring from all three judges.
“They say all those good things (on TV), but they mention things that you can improve on, and ultimately it’s all with the intention of wanting to see us succeed — especially in Hollywood week,” Moyes said. “That was talked about a lot, the things that I needed to do well and maybe improve on in order to continue to go further.”
As a guitarist and songwriter, Moyes channels a style that has done well on “American Idol” recently. For example, singer/guitarist Alejandro Aranda was the runner-up on the show’s previous season and performed seven original songs during his run. But the judges, while loving Moyes’ sound, wondered if that style could go as far this time around.
“In their minds they’re kind of trying to separate between an artist or a songwriter that they want to listen to and then a performer that appeals to the masses on this type of show,” Moyes said. “There’s definitely artists and performers that know how to steal a stage and know how to grab and captivate an audience. And I feel like I’ve always been … the guy that hides behind his guitar and focuses more on the songwriting. A lot of it was them just trying to help me find the balance between the two.”
Of all the judges, Moyes said he connected with Bryan the most. Moyes thought the country singer was the most “lighthearted,” and believed Bryan really understood and appreciated his musical style — a style he developed at a young age listening to his father’s classic rock music. He was in the sixth grade when his dad took him to his first concert to see Tom Petty.
“As early as I can remember, I was super entranced in artists like Tom Petty and Pink Floyd — classic rock artists that were writing really well-thought songs,” Moyes said. “People that were writing meaningful songs with a guitar, that struck a chord with me very quickly at a young age and continues to do so.”
After the audition
Moyes impressed the judges and left his “American Idol” audition with a golden ticket. But his day was far from over after that.
He stuck around the resort in Sunriver, Oregon, doing interviews with producers, filming B-roll footage and signing countless forms. Although he auditioned around 4 p.m., he didn’t end up leaving until 8 or 9. His dad and two older sisters went through it all with him.
“It’s a long day. There’s a lot of waiting around and it adds to the anxiety and the nerves and the stress, so it was good to have them there to keep me calm and preoccupied,” Moyes said. “But I was excited to be there. (It was) something that I needed to do.”
Will Moyes make it past the Hollywood round? The next pre-taped episode airs Sunday, March 22. The live shows were slated to begin Monday, March 30, but “American Idol” recently announced it has canceled rehearsals and sent the show’s remaining contestants home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Idol” producers have not yet made a decision on whether they will continue with the live shows. But no matter what happens, even just the two and a half minutes of exposure Moyes has received on the show so far has helped get his name out in the world. It’ll help when his new single drops on March 27.
“It’s pretty overwhelming and super cool to see,” he said. “I’m a musician with or without the show. But it’s exciting to see how this will translate into my own music.”