Spartanburg’s Caleb Kennedy’s dreams of becoming the next American Idol are one step closer as he receives the coveted “You’re going to Hollywood!” from Idol judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie.
Video of Kennedy’s American Idol audition – and the big news – was pre-released by the show Thursday in advance of Sunday’s airing.
Kennedy, a Dorman High School sophomore, has become known around town not just as a young and talented singer, but also as a serious songwriter.
“He’s 16 years old and the kid’s got it,” said Drew Spencer, a local musician. “He writes more songs than anyone in this area.”
He wowed the judges when he belted out in his gravelly voice one of his original songs, “Nowhere.”
“You better finish that song ‘Nowhere,’” Perry said. “Because that song is going to take you somewhere.”
Somewhere being straight through to Hollywood.
“’Nowhere’ is what got me to where I am now,” Kennedy said in an interview with GoUpstate in November when he made it through the first rounds of Idol auditions. “When I write songs, I want to make somebody feel something. I want my music to tell a story.”
Fans have told Kennedy he sings with the soul of an old man. Kennedy sometimes feels he lacks confidence in his voice, but Bryan told him, “”Your voice tells a story far beyond a 16-year-old kid.”
And his songs do tell a story. One of his mother’s favorite songs is “That’s My Papa,” which Kennedy wrote in honor of his grandfather. “I told my mama I’d be like that man. He’s got bloodstains on his skin. He’s got calluses on his hands. He’s a nightly news and a newspaper kind of man … He’s gonna work until the day that he dies. That’s my Papa.”
Richie agrees that Kennedy has the gift of storytelling even at the age of 16. “You have mastered at the young age of 16, a storyteller’s voice,” Richie said. “The three of us think you’re it.”
Watch Kennedy’s Idol audition Sunday on ABC at 8 p.m.
Ashley Dill is a native of Spartanburg and has been on staff for the Herald-Journal for 14 years. She covers community news and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ashleydill_shj.