Exclusive: Perez Hilton Protege Travis Garland To Debut On 'Idol'

Austin Young

Travis Garland, the former boy-band singer whose first solo single will receive an unprecedented national debut on "American Idol" next week, can thank gossip-maven-turned-music-business-power-player Perez Hilton for his good fortune. That's because Hilton, who has brokered his online success into a bevy of business opportunities, used his pull with the mastermind behind "Idol" to help his young protege score the coveted slot.

Garland will premiere his single, the Danja-produced "Believe," on "Idol" next Wednesday night. The single will be released on iTunes the day before, and his debut album will be released on Interscope later this year.

"I have a great relationship - and partnership - with Simon Fuller," Hilton told Billboard in an exclusive interview today (May 12). "He said to me, 'you know Perez, I'd really like to help you break one of your artists on Idol' and I was like 'yeah, that's amazing!'"

Perez picked Garland, a 20-year-old singer from Lubbock, Texas that Hilton had first run across on MySpace. "I think what's really exciting about Travis is that he'll appeal to the young girls that love Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber, but he's older and more mature so he'll appeal to a broader audience."

Hilton claims to have more than 10 acts in various stages of development, including some with Warner Bothers, two with Interscope, and others that he plans to release himself. "I've got my hands all over the place, and I love it," Hilton says. "I'm getting dirty, in the trenches, and doing it and making it happen. I feel like I've been pregnant for a while and I'm giving birth to my first real child."

Garland is no stranger to the fame game: by the age of 17, he'd already joined the boy band Not Like Them (NLT), singed a major label deal with Geffen Records Chairman Ron Fair, toured with the Pussycat Dolls, and recorded a single with Timbaland. But the band was dropped before ever releasing an album, and Garland languished in Interscope's "artist purgatory."

Hilton discovered Garland online and was eager to help revive the singer's career. "I think he's a great singer and a great dancer," Hilton says, "and hot and young. But he's a gifted songwriter too. I am involved on the management side and I'm involved on the label side. So I'm fully involved in him and fully believe in him."

"Perez is like a mentor who uses his power and his influence where it can help me," says Garland. "Perez is extremely hands on. He's a creative type and likes to be involved. I see him once or twice a week, and we're constantly talking on the phone."

Garland believes that the experiences he had in the boy band NLT will be invaluable to his shot at solo stardom. "I've always said that you have to taste failure to swallow success," he says.