DeAndre Brackensick brought a smooth R&B style to the eleventh season of American Idol. Alternating between a crystalline falsetto and bluesy growl, the 17-year-old San Jose native consistently elicited an enthusiastic response from the live audience. Ultimately finishing in eighth place among the ten finalists, DeAndre displayed a naturally charismatic stage presence that suggested even more talent than Idol viewers were already treated to during his weeks on the show.
That talent will be on full display as DeAndre and the rest of the season 11 Idol finalists hit the road for American Idol Live! The tour kicks off in Detroit on July 6 and will make a total of 45 stops throughout the country. As he and the other Idols begin preparing for the concerts, DeAndre took time out of his schedule to chat about his experience on the show and his plans for the future.
Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished so far this year. Are you getting ready for the tour?
Yeah, we just started rehearsing. I’m really excited. It’s going to be amazing. We got the checklist for everything, and everything’s put in order. It’s going to be great.
Any nervousness about the big crowds you’ll be playing to?
Not really, because we’re not being judged. We’re just doing what we do. The people are coming to see us, no need to really be nervous. It’s more that I’m honored. It’s more humbling than nerve-wracking.
What can your fans expect to see from you?
Mainly you’ll see who I am. I didn’t get to show that on the show as much. You’ll get to see everybody the way they want to be seen as artists.
Did you have much performing experience before American Idol?
Before my first season of Idol, I had been doing shows since I was seven. I do Polynesian revues. Singing backyard shows, Hawaiian weddings—I grew up doing that kind of stuff.
By “first season,” you’re referring to season 10, during which you reached the top 40. How did you reflect on that experience?
I’m just really grateful that I did get cut last year, because I wasn’t ready. I’ve been doing this [performing live] for a while, but it’s a whole different world when it comes to the Hawaiian community. I’m so used to sitting behind a mic with my ukulele and singing traditional music. To branch off from that and connect with the crowd, it was foreign to me. So I was glad I got cut from season 10. I think this year I proved to myself that I was ready. I’m proud of where I got to.
Were you a fan of American Idol before you decided to audition the first time?
Yes, since season three. I’ve been off and on with it, but I love the show. Fantasia was my favorite from past seasons. My inspiration to do it again this year was Naima Adedapo, part of my Idol family from last season. She’s like my big sister, I talk to her all the time. She’s the one person that really motivated me to try again.
Who are your biggest influences as a vocalist?
I’m a huge fan of reggae, so Bob Marley’s number one. I love R&B and I’m a big fan of Eric Benét. I got a chance to meet him on show, which was amazing. I also love Maxwell. Pattie LaBelle is a huge inspiration to me, as well as Smokey Robinson.
Is recording an album a big goal for you?
That’s a really big goal for me. I’d love to record further on. But if it’s not happening at the moment, I’m interested in anything that comes my way, whether it’s modeling, acting—anything. I’m just so blessed and honored to be in this position. I’m grateful for what I have now, but I’m really pushing for my music.
In terms of an album, are you thinking more of a modern sound, or more old school?
Much more old school. I call it R&B, but with an island flavor to it. Double R&B, I call it—reggae, rhythm, and blues. That’s what I’m trying to go for.
I loved your version of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster." Which Idol performances do you feel were your best?
The song I got cut on, “I Like It” [by DeBarge], that one I really loved. Also my wild card song, “Georgia on My Mind.” And Hollywood Week, I got a standing ovation on that song too, so I really think that was one of my best performances.
You made the rounds after getting cut, any post-Idol TV appearances that really stand out for you?
On The Tonight Show I got to meet Kristin Chenoweth, and she was really cool. And Jay Leno’s whole band, performing with Rickey Minor—that was a lot of fun, being in that environment again with a live band after being cut.
What advice did the Idol judges give that you feel will really stick with you?
Well, Randy and Steven told me to just stick with being me, you know? Because throughout the Idol experience you get a lot of voices telling you what you should do. I think that’s what happened with a lot of us this season, the ones that got cut a little early. We just listened to too many people instead of listening to ourselves. That’s just one thing I’m really thinking now.
Following your own instincts.
Exactly! We know who we are, but having other people tell you can be just a little off. Because you at least want some input in what you do. Because of the limits of the TV show, and being so new to it, we just tend to listen and go with it. Which is good, but we lose sight of, “Hey this is my time, why am I not doing what I want to do?” That’s what I love about the tour, we can do stuff that we maybe weren’t able to bring out on the show.
Your last name would make a great band name, because it sounds like an adjective. You hear people say, “Oh man, that band is so sick!” That’s when you say, “We’re not just sick—we’re BRACKENSICK!”
I like that! [laughs] I never even thought of that!
Keep it in the back of your mind, but remember—if you use it, I want credit!
Studio versions of DeAndre Brackensick’s American Idol songs are available on iTunes. For more information about seeing DeAndre and the other season 11 finalists on tour, visit the official American Idol website.