Tyler Grady surprised the judges with his voice, but does he have what it takes to make American Idol’s top 24?
As soon as Tyler Grady stood before the judges on American Idol, the jokes stopped. Both his look and sound earned him high praise from the judges. His rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” even led Simon Cowell to comment that it was “an audition he would remember.”
Grady, a sophomore psychology major, auditioned for a spot in Season 9 of the show. His audition aired Jan. 12, and he appeared to be a contestant simply for comic relief. He was set up for ridicule with clips of him dancing and explaining his fall out of a tree that resulted in the casts on his wrists.
“He is incredibly talented across the board,” said Ruth Ost, director of Temple’s Honors Program. “He sang ‘Let It Be’ for [the Honors office]. I’m an old Beatles fan, and his [rendition] broke my heart. He’s so real. He just puts it all out there.”
There are rumors and speculations across the Internet pegging Grady as one of Idol’s top 24 finalists. Grady is unable to comment, and he, along with his band mates in Wailing Waters, are under confidentiality agreements until the top 24 are revealed tomorrow.
Grady has been passionate about music since he was young. The members of Wailing Waters have known each other since they were students at Lower Nazareth Elementary School. They first began playing music together in eighth grade.
“It all started in health class,” said Travis Hobbie, lead guitarist and vocalist for Wailing Waters. “The five of us wrote a song about drug effects.”
“The talent show that year was our first real show,” Hobbie said. “Grady had always been big into hockey. We handed him sticks and told him to play the drums.”
The band’s MySpace describes the group as “a dynamic rock pentasome steeped in old timey rock n’ roll.” Hobbie said that the band’s style changed since they first started out as a folk band.
“We’ll cover anything from Kings of Leon to Marvin Gaye to The Killers,” Hobbie said.
As Wailing Waters became more serious, Grady took on the role as lead singer. The band has featured heavily in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia region and has won several competitions, including the Mayfair Festival Band Battle, the Croc Rock Band Battlefest and the Nazareth Day Battle.
“Back in the day, people thought we were weird,” Hobbie said. “But we didn’t change. We were always true to [who we were]. If Tyler had deviated, if he had changed to what people wanted [him to be], maybe [guest judge] Victoria Beckham and the others wouldn’t have liked him as much.
“That’s one thing I can say about Grady. He knows himself and he was always true to himself,” Hobbie added.
Ost said she never watched American Idol regularly until now.
“He’s as sincere as he came across on TV,” Ost said. “He’s an absolutely terrific student and person. We’ve had a lot of good conversations. He came to school interested in neuroscience. I think having a backup plan as a clinical psychologist if you don’t make it on American Idol is pretty good.”
“He’s just genuinely nice,” Amanda Neuber, associate director of the Honors Program, said. “He has a positive way of looking at the world.”
Grady’s friends and classmates are excited to see him on TV.
“This is crazy,” Grady’s former classmate Meredith Randall said. “I never really watch American Idol, but I guess I need to now.”
“I have watched every episode of every season,” Neuber said. “I’m crawling out of my skin, I’m so excited. I screamed when his face popped up on TV.”
Other people are getting excited too. Since the day his audition aired, Grady has been gaining a growing fan base. His Facebook page has accumulated almost 5,000 fans. He has more than 400 followers on his new Twitter page, as well as fan groups like “Team_Tyler,” “Gradys_Ladies” and others.
Grady’s population is helping Wailing Waters grab attention as well.
“We’ve definitely seen our hits on MySpace go up,” Hobbie said. “We just got on iTunes and people have been buying our stuff. We all feel good. We’ve been working at this since eighth grade … Now we’re getting some real notice.”
But his bandmates are trying not to get ahead of themselves.
“We don’t like to think about what might happen,” Hobbie said. “There’s a song we like called ‘Let’s Live For Today.’ That’s our mindset.”
No matter how far Grady gets on American Idol, his life has already been changed by the exposure he’s received, Ost said.
“He’s passionate about music,” Ost said. “There’s no stopping him.”
Summer Beckley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.