The 18 year-old from Lancaster, PA had already shared the stage with IDOL judge Keith Urban at the 2012 American Country Awards — long before he showed up in Nashville to audition for season 14 of the Fox singing competition.
Riley scored a ticket to Hollywood week after performing an impressive cover of Urban’s “Georgia Woods.”
“He’s so cool,” Jennifer Lopez gushed. “You are made for the stage.”
And that is exactly where the teenage heartthrob-in-the-making has spent much of his life.
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“I have two brothers and we had a band together,” he revealed in an exclusive interview with TheTVPage.com.
“My dad was kind of our music director. He would help us out. He plays music as well. So we’d play out al the time. We’d play fairs, festivals. I think we played the occasional bar. We had to really fight our way in to those. We would play clubs and stuff like that. So, yeah, I have had a couple of years or really good stage experience.”
Riley tells me he gave his first on stage performance in the sixth grade.
“It was in a middle school talent show,” he remembers.
“I had never sang in public before but I got some buddies together. I got a drummer and a bass player and we learned ‘Eye of The Tiger’ so I decided to sing that. It was really funny these three little kids deciding to do music. So that was the first show I ever had and the only show I ever played with those two individuals.”
In 2012, Riley shared the stage with Urban when he was invited to perform at THE AMERICAN COUNTRY AWARDS.
“I was just playing guitar,” he says. “He [Keith] had never heard me sing before my IDOL audition. But I went in there and he remembered me!”
Here’s more of what Riley had to share when we met up a few weeks ago in Los Angeles…
Do you think that gives you an edge in a competition like this?
Absolutely. It boils down to your performance, how you sang, if you play anything and how your stage presence is. So I think people with a good stage presence could definitely make it further. But I know if I make it to the later part in the competition, everybody will pretty much be at that caliber [where] they have probably been playing forever… By that point everyone will probably be really good.
Have you auditioned for any other talent shows?
Man, it was probably about a year and a half ago [that] that I tried out for THE VOICE. That was season 5. It was really cool. I didn’t get too far in that one, which was fine. Which made me want to come to Idol. I have made a lot of great friends just in the short time I have been here.
Tell us more about you. What do your folks do? What is your home life like?
I am from Tennessee. My parents are still together which is a weird thing to have to say . I have an older brother. I am the second oldest of five. It is my older brother, me, my younger brother, another younger brother and a sister who is probably going to be single until she is 30 because she has four older brothers. We have actually only lived in Tennessee for about a year and a half now. We moved there from Pennsylvania, which is where i grew up. Lancaster. My dad worked for a dealership. He did paintless dent repair. Took dents out of cars. Hated every day of it. So we moved to Nashville so I could pursue being an artist. And he writes songs, so we were kind of going hand in hand with that. He will write them, I will play them. So that is kind of what we are working on right now.
AMERICAN IDOL airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on Fox.
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