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Inside the ‘American Idol’ audition you didn’t see

Just a few months after celebrating their first wedding anniversary, Grayson and Lizzy O’Very ended up becoming competitors on ‘American Idol’

Grayson and Lizzy O’Very, a couple from Ephraim, Utah, auditioned for “American Idol” and got tickets to Hollywood. Lizzy O’Very will appear during Sunday night’s episode of “American Idol.”
ABC

Like most couples, Grayson and Lizzy O’Very talk about their future — their dreams, their passions and their hopes.

Unlike most couples, though, those conversations led to the husband and wife becoming competitors on “American Idol” — just a few months after celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

It’s a dynamic that has the potential to be harmful. But the O’Verys aren’t your typical competitors.

They’re quick to compliment each other. When Grayson O’Very talks about how he sang an original song for his “American Idol” audition, Lizzy O’Very interrupts to add how impressed “Idol” judge Lionel Richie was by her husband’s performance. And when Lizzy talks about her own audition, Grayson interjects to reiterate just how good of a performance his wife gave.

“We’ve come to realize that at any moment we’re being competitive with one another, it’s because we are not being awake to one another, and we’re not paying attention to one another and trying to understand the other person,” Grayson O’Very, a 23-year-old music major at Snow College, recently told the Deseret News. “I think those problems exist anywhere — I don’t think you need an ‘American Idol’ competition to try to present a situation where two people in love are competing to achieve their dreams.”

And while “American Idol” is a competition, Grayson and Lizzy O’Very are in such different lanes musically that they don’t even consider themselves to be each other’s competitors — Grayson O’Very places himself in the “alternate pop” camp while Lizzy O’Very ascribes to the more “dreamy and ethereal” sound of singers like Aurora, Enya and Bjork.

But there’s at least one thing these genres have in common: Both are a far cry from mainstream — so much so that Lizzy O’Very didn’t think she’d make it past the first round of “American Idol.”

“We knew that it was a shot in the dark going on ‘American Idol’ in the first place,” the 20-year-old singer said.

But to their surprise, both Lizzy and Grayson O’Very had successful auditions in front of celebrity judges Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. They both walked away with golden tickets to Hollywood — making them two of six Utah musicians who have made it on “Idol” this season.

Many of those musicians, including the O’Verys, will appear on Sunday night’s episode, which marks the start of the show’s second round, Hollywood Week.

But because “American Idol” has a lot of contestants to fit into an allotted amount of time — the audition round alone lasted for five episodes — the O’Verys’ initial audition for “American Idol” got cut and never ended up on national television.

Ahead of Sunday night’s episode, here’s an inside look at what happened during the O’Verys’ “American Idol” debut, and why the moment was so life-changing for the couple.


The audition you didn’t see

Lizzy and Grayson O’Very entered the room together.

That helped to slightly reduce the nerves. But even still, standing in front of the celebrity judges, Grayson O’Very had a hard time processing what was happening.

“It felt like to me it could’ve been like a virtual reality moment, like I was just there with some goggles on,” he said. “It felt surreal. … But it was real.”

They were each prepared to sing a song on their own and perform one together. Perry asked them to start with “Easy to Be,” the one song the O’Verys have written together that represents a combination of their sounds.

So Grayson O’Very sat at the piano, and Lizzy O’Very pulled out her accordion. And they both began to sing.

“Easy to Be” initially came out of a songwriting competition at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah. But in many ways, the song — which is about taking a big step forward — was a great fit for an “Idol” audition.

“It’s easy to be standing in an open doorway and not make the step, and just stay there. It’s easy to look through there and to see the world ahead of you without taking a step,” Grayson O’Very said of the song. “The whole concept behind the song was like … we need to launch ourselves into our artistry. So it was cool to be able to sing that for the judges. To say, ‘This is what we’re doing; we’re wanting to take flight here. Can you help us?’”

After singing “Easy to Be,” the O’Verys then performed their own songs. On the accordion, Lizzy O’Very performed a song she wrote called “Sun I Will Rise” (O’Very said she’ll also be playing the accordion on Sunday night’s episode). And on the piano, Grayson O’Very performed his original song “Numb.”

And then it was time for the judges’ reactions.

The way the O’Verys tell it, the general consensus was: “You guys kind of just came on a rocket ship from a different planet.”

The judges were complimentary of their talents — Richie said he could see a little bit of Elton John in Grayson O’Very while Perry especially resonated with Lizzy O’Very’s “dream-pop” sound — but they were taken aback by all of the different styles coming from the O’Verys. No song was like the other.

“We definitely threw a lot at them,” Lizzy O’Very said with a laugh. “We have those different genres, and that really became even more clear as we were on ‘American Idol.’ Their big note to us was making sure there’s a place for us on the ‘American Idol’ stage.”

In the end, Lizzy and Grayson O’Very each walked out of the room with a golden ticket to Hollywood. But they got something even bigger out of the audition — inspiration.


Growing closer — and apart

Since their “American Idol” audition, the O’Verys have grown apart — musically speaking, that is.

They’ve been focusing more on their individual careers, working on marketing themselves and showcasing their unique styles.

“We don’t want to be a duo, a partnership, with music, but we want to be here for each other individually in our artistry,” Lizzy O’Very said. “That’s where we feel like we shine and have the most fun.”

Both musicians plan on releasing EPs this year. Lizzy O’Very has dropped out of Snow College to spend more time writing and recording, while Grayson O’Very plans to graduate in a little over a year with a degree in commercial music. As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, they both hope to start securing solo gigs at venues throughout Utah.

Lizzy O’Very is pictured during a Hollywood Week episode of “American Idol,” which airs Sunday night on ABC.
ABC

But as they’ve started pursuing their own musical paths, the O’Verys have also grown closer as a couple.

From the beginning of their relationship, the O’Verys — who met at a Snow College music major orientation meeting in 2019 — had a strong connection. Their conversations skipped over the usual small-talk and went straight to the deeper subjects. In August 2019, the couple got married in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ temple in Payson, Utah.

“We grew really, really close very quick,” Grayson O’Very said.

So in many ways, taking a big step like auditioning for “American Idol” so early on in their marriage isn’t too much of a surprise. After getting married, it didn’t take them long to realize they had similar dreams of making it in the music industry. After that realization, it didn’t take them long to decide to go for it.

“We like to move fast,” Grayson O’Very said with a laugh. “It’s the best support system you could ever have. Even from the beginning, Lizzy has always been one to teach me how to dream more. And since we’ve gotten married, we’ve been dreaming a lot.”

Note: The “American Idol” Hollywood Week episode featuring the O’Verys will air on ABC March 21 at 7 p.m. MT. The second Hollywood week episode will air March 22 at 7 p.m. MT.