Hollywood Week takes a new twist this Sunday (April 2) when seven American Idol finalists from past seasons return to mentor the season 21 contestants during what is famously a grueling and challenging period. Executive producer and showrunner Megan Michaels Wolflick invited Justin Guarini (season 1), Clay Aiken (season 2), Jordin Sparks (season 6), David Archuleta (season 7), Phillip Phillips (season 11), Catie Turner (season 16) and Noah Thompson (season 20) to return to Idol to lend their expertise in three different areas: confidence, songwriting and stage presence.
Justin Guarini was the very first runner-up, coming in second to Kelly Clarkson in season 1. He is just starting work on his seventh Broadway show and is the author of the book Audition Secrets. He teaches actors and performers about confidence and how to successfully audition. Clay Aiken has run for Congress twice and will be touring the U.S. with Ruben Studdard, commemorating the 20th anniversary of their season 2 finale. Jordin Sparks, the winner of season 6, has graced the Broadway stage in Into The Heights and is working on a new album. David Archuleta has consistently recorded and toured since he was the runner-up on season 7, and made national headlines in 2021 when he came out as gay. Phillip Phillips’s season 11 coronation song “Home” is considered to be the best of all the winners’ initial singles; his new album will be released this summer. Catie Turner has gone from season 16’s quirky songwriter to pop song perfectionist and has a new single out now. Noah Thompson won last season’s competition and has been touring and recording new material since then. He will open for Luke Combs on the country star’s upcoming tour.
Billboard spoke to the returning seven to find out about their latest experience of coming home to Idol.
The seven of you competed on Idol anywhere from 20 years ago (Justin Guarini, I’m looking at you) to one year ago (that’s you, Noah). What was it like, emotionally, to be on the Idol stage once more?
Justin Guarini: It feels like a reunion every time I come back because of that core group of people that was there in the beginning, like (senior supervising producer) Patrick (Lynn). I’ve done a lot of work with Megan [Michaels Wolflick]. I feel so blessed to have been a part of Idol from its inception and to have seen it grow from that little, tiny postage stamp of a stage to this international juggernaut. I always look forward to coming back and it was very special for me because there are contestants this year who weren’t even born when I was doing the show. I’m able to take everything that American Idol gave me over the past 20 years, everything it gave me access to, and come back to help the next generation of performers potentially achieve what I have been able to achieve, or more. It speaks to the power of the show and the power of the gift that it was to my life and my career. I love that when [the new contestants] came in, they were so open and eager and ready to learn and grow and work. That is a testament to Idol itself for choosing the right kind of performers with the right kind of mindset, but also to the performers themselves for really coming into it with the desire to serve and to do their best and to really give as much as they can of themselves.
Clay Aiken: It was surreal. It’s a very different beast than when I was there. We have this really close relationship with the production staff. It was a very small, tightly knit group 20 years ago. Now it is a well-oiled machine, but it is so enormous that going back was shocking to me. There were a number of contestants on the show who were not born when I was on Idol. I kept saying to people that it’s like I imagine Miss America 1940 must feel if she is still alive. Everybody knows what the brand is, what it means and how important it is, but so many people didn’t experience it 20 years ago — at least the [current] contestants.
Jordin Sparks: It was really fun for me. It’s always a full circle moment to come back to the place where you started. I was able to be a mentor last season as well and it was really fun to be able to step into that role. I’ve been asked a lot of times over the years like, “Would you want to be a judge?” At the beginning of my career, I thought, “No, I still have a lot to learn.” But I love the mentor role. I love being able to come in and give whenever I can. Since it has been 16 years, I’ve learned a lot and I feel like there’s a lot that I can give and that I can say to help these other contestants at the start of everything.
David Archuleta: Going back does cause a bit of anxiety. It triggers all those feelings of working hard and worrying if you’re good enough for everyone and if people are going to judge you. But returning as a mentor was healing because I understood where the new contestants were coming from. That goes a long way when you feel understood by someone else when you’re in a high stress situation. And it was great to see the other mentors. I was looking at Clay and Jordin and thinking that these people had such an influence on me. They motivated me to get through hard things and give my best in singing and performing. Then I realized the contestants were looking at me the same way that I am looking at Clay and Jordin, because I’m standing right next to Clay and they’re asking me to give my advice. It was surreal and exciting.
Phillip Phillips: I’ve been back a few times and I always get this sense of stress, especially for Hollywood Week. These contestants are super talented, amazing vocalists and some of them had some really well-written songs. I was there to help them steer whatever story they’re trying to tell. I told them you have to be honest, speak what’s on your mind and do it in the most creative way possible. It was super fun to see all the familiar faces. They were such a big part of my life during that time. I had never flown to a different state. I had never experienced anything like that. I was from a smaller town and so I’ll always remember them. It’s like family. You might go years without seeing each other, but it’s just a huge part of my life and I’ll always have them close to me.
Catie Turner: Whenever you revisit Idol you feel exactly how you did the first time, so I almost time traveled back to being 17 and I was so full of wonder and awe. It was strange in this particular instance where I have to be a mentor and give advice because apparently, I am wise enough to do so, but I was getting nervous for the first round of Hollywood Week. I had a song in my head, I thought, “I need to practice.” I’m sizing up the competition. Once a contestant, always a contestant. It never leaves you.
Noah Thompson: I was shocked they asked me to come back and be a mentor, considering I was the kid who came into this competition without a clue of what was happening. It was an honor to talk to these kids. A lot of them had similar backgrounds [to me]. Not only that, they’re scared to death. They got thrown into it by parents, friends or whoever. I looked in their eyes and knew what they were feeling. I told them not to worry about the cameras. Don’t focus on the camera crew and everything going on around you. Just enjoy your time. If there was something I could’ve told myself when I was there, it would’ve been, “Enjoy it more and make more friends.”
What was it like to be a mentor instead of a contestant?
Justin: I had an absolutely awesome time mentoring because it really is one of my most favorite things to do. Besides performing on stage, besides doing all of it, I love taking people who are about to break through and let them discover the things about themselves that will help them to stand out.
Clay: I have a son who’s almost 15. There were contestants who I mentored who were 17, 18 and 19, so I had a paternal instinct and compassion for some of these kids more than I ever would have thought I would have. I’ve heard (former mentor) Bobby Bones say that it felt like therapy when he was the mentor, and in a way, it is. I worked with a lot of kids on confidence. If you want to be successful on Idol or any performance realm, you have to be able to project a certain degree of confidence. We’re attracted to those folks who are confident or at least can make us feel that way. So I told them, “You have to find that confidence or you have to find an ability to fake it.” When I was on that stage 20 years ago, I didn’t really have it, but I did learn how to fake it. So I really felt like a parent talking to some of these kids about that. I’m not a crier, but my heart was warmed quite a few times, let’s put it that way.
Jordin: The whole experience of mentoring was a blast. Normally you sit across from somebody and ask them a few questions, but this was more intensive. There were categories and I got to do stage presence, which I love. Right away you can tell if somebody is very nervous on stage or if they’re comfortable, if they have only been doing it for a little while and if they’re holding things back. It was really fun to talk them through some of those things as well as to just see them perform. I love hearing new voices. I love seeing the hunger and the wonder in their eyes and it was really special for me to be on the other side of that because I remember being where they were, standing there thinking, “This is so crazy, and I can’t believe that this is happening to me and everything could open up for me if all the variables line up.”
David: I wasn’t sure how I was going to mentor. I had done some judging for local competitions, but to be at American Idol where I got my recognition and where my career took off, nerves always come when I go back to that world and that stage. To be able to go back and mentor the current contestants, I felt like I was talking to my younger self when I was 16 and 17 on season 7. It was therapeutic for myself, but also it was so nice being able to understand how the contestants were feeling. I helped them do affirmations and some breath work and helped them find that confidence in themselves, helping them feel connected to themselves so their heart can fully come out and that they can connect with the audience because that makes you feel confident up there. I feel like that’s the most essential part of being in a competition like American Idol.
Phillip: Most of them came in with a song that they had written. I sat there uncomfortably with all the cameras and listened to their songs, because I still get uncomfortable with cameras. I tried to help them figure out a better melody or explore different parts of their vocal ranges. I remember this one young girl, she was 15. She went to the piano and was incredibly talented. I didn’t start writing songs until I was about 17 and 18, and if she wrote all that by herself, she’ll do very well. I said that she might win it just from that song. When I started writing songs, I didn’t know how to write a song. I was just writing it because some chick hurt my feelings and it made me feel good to write it down. That’s where it has to start. Once you start really learning how to write a song, it actually becomes difficult because you start second-guessing yourself in some ways. “Maybe I can do it better that way.” Sometimes you just go with what you were originally going with and keep on the right track.
Catie: I have never mentored before, unless mentoring friends through bad relationships counts. It was challenging because a lot of these contestants walked in and I thought, “You don’t need me. Why am I giving you advice? You’re killing it.” It was so hard to find little things I could give them pointers on because they were so good. Songwriting is so subjective to each and every person. There’s not a universal rule of what good songwriting is. So I was struggling to find what to say and eventually I got the hang of it. I realized I actually could say some things of substance. I did not know I had that in me. Under pressure, you will surprise yourself.
How would you compare this season 21 Hollywood Week to your own?
Justin: When we first started, it was an age of innocence, because nobody knew what Idol was. And yet I saw people who didn’t get the response they wanted during Hollywood Week [and they] would get bitter and be salty. But the kids who are doing it this year seem to be open, kind, loving, ready to work and have a vulnerability that surprised me, frankly, because when I did it, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know what this thing was going to be. We didn’t know the possibilities. Now, after 20 seasons, people know exactly what the stakes are in Hollywood Week. They’ve seen season after season after season and they know what to expect and they know how to “put it on.” And yet the vulnerability that the kids that I worked with showed their willingness to just play full out and almost not care how they looked on the camera. It wasn’t about being on the camera. It was about, “I’m going to be fully present and open here and if I start to cry, then I start to cry. Whatever it is, I’m going to go all in on this and I’m going to be with you, Justin.” That to me was astounding, because it would be so easy to fake it and put it on and to do the things that the camera loves or that the judges will love or that the audience will love, and I just didn’t find that to be the case.
Clay: I would guarantee that if you ask anybody from our season that question, they would say that we didn’t go to Hollywood. Our whole Hollywood Week was at the Alex Theater in Glendale, about as far away from Hollywood as you can get in Los Angeles County. This time, I checked into the hotel and there was a young guy with his guitar on his back and he was checking himself in and it was this sort of crazy déjà vu that I realized that 20 years ago I checked myself into the Glendale Hilton. So that was a really weird kind of cool moment for me to see this 18-year-old, perhaps like me at 23, the first time he’s ever left home by himself or flown on a plane and it could be the last time he checks himself in and his whole life could change this week. It was really cool to watch these kids starry eyed and full of hope. I made friends that week in Hollywood that I still have. I don’t even stay in touch with people from high school, but I stay in touch with people from that week in Glendale, even those who did not make it into the top 32 that I still am friends with. So I told them all to savor the week and to savor the experience and that they would have friends for life from that opportunity that so few other people get.
Jordin: The similarity is that it’s a big pressure cooker. You’re sitting around all these people and all of them are good and so you have to fight against your own mentality of believing in your talent, but also seeing that you have to step your game up because there are other people here that are just as hungry as you. One of the major differences is that we didn’t have mentors in our Hollywood Week. It was like boot camp. We’d be woken up at 6 a.m. but then we wouldn’t sing until 4 in the afternoon. It can be crazy, but you’ve got to put your best foot forward every time and you have to show that you can work with other people. Hollywood Week helps you prepare for the rest of the competition because once it goes live and people are voting for you, you have that one shot to do it and it’s make or break every time you step on that stage. I hope we helped ease a little bit of that pressure or that self-doubt that they could have.
David: Bringing in previous contestants to encourage the [new kids] was a really neat element. I think it would have been nice to have that during my season, because it was almost like the people that were instructing us, they were trying to herd a lot of us and a lot of it was done just in a more aggressive manner, so it wasn’t very encouraging. It was more pressure inducing. I think I handled the mentoring as like, “What would I have liked to have heard? What is the counsel I would’ve liked to have had when I was in this position?” So I tried to be mindful of that. And again, it was healing because I felt like I was talking to little David.
Catie: It was really cool understanding exactly how they’re feeling and thinking, “They’re so young. I remember those days.” It was a way more controlled environment. Though I’m super jealous that they have duets now. Maybe that takes some of the edge off of them in Hollywood Week, but I thought, “You guys don’t have to start harmonizing with people you just met. Come on!”
Noah: My Hollywood Week was rough. I felt so out of place. The whole time, I was thinking, “What if I do this? What if I do that?” These kids are so talented. A lot of them definitely handled it better than I did, for sure. I’ve never mentored anyone. I never thought I’d be able to do anything like that.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the American Idol family?
Justin: It’s a blessing. We all strive at the beginning of our careers to get our foot in the door and American Idol gave me the opportunity to get my whole body in the door — like get half of the body in the door so they can’t close it on you. So when I go back, it really is family because I know so many of the people who were there from the very beginning. And even though personnel has changed, the attitude has not changed. Megan has set a beautiful tone for the show and picked up where Nigel (Lythgoe) and Kenny (Warwick) left off and she has made it her own. And Patrick (Lynn) has gone from just starting out to making his own mark on the show. That I’m able to come back and do my small version of that is an honor.
Jordin: My dad was in pro sports and when you see somebody else who is in it, there’s this recognition. You don’t even have to speak. It’s a “I know what you’ve gone through. I know what it took to get here” kind of moment and I feel that way with Idol alumni. I run into them all the time and only the few of us know what it was like to go through [it], to be standing up there on the stage and being voted for and never knowing what was going to happen and having to deal with Simon (Cowell). It’s beautiful to be a part of this group of creatives that are so amazing and have impacted music for the past two decades.
David: I call American Idol the music business boot camp because it puts you through a rigorous schedule and introduces you to songs, arrangements, photo shoots, music videos, commercials, interviews, carpet events, touring and working with people in the industry. It literally takes you through everything. I was still in high school, so I was doing homework assignments in the middle of that. But it was like how people bond through high school or through military training. You bond because of the experience you’re sharing together and so I really do feel like it’s a special family. I still speak to David Cook. Brooke White reaches out to me all the time and so does Carly Smithson. I talk to Jordin Sparks, even though she was on a different season, and Melinda Doolittle and Kris Allen. Even though we’re in different places in our lives, we share that piece of time together that changed all of our lives in a very unique way. Only that group of people will understand because it is such a unique thing.
Phillip: It’s a legacy that will always be around and I’m honored to be a part of it. So many amazing talents that have come from the show are absolutely killing it to this day. I do think Idol is different from all the other shows because they have built actual artists. Even the ones that haven’t won, some of them have been more successful than the others.
Catie: It means everything. It is this amazing invisible force that unites all of us. On this season’s premiere episode, they honored [the late] Willie Spence and I never met Willie, but I was sobbing like I knew him, because there is this weird bond. You understand everything they’re going through and what it took to get to that point. You know the 17-hour days on the lot. You understand about going from nothing to something and all the emotions and that’s what I really loved about going back as a mentor, knowing that these contestants are going on the most wild ride of their life.
Noah: The real Idol family thing comes into place around the top 24, because there’s so much going on with so many different contestants, it’s hard to speak with everybody. Right around the top 24, I started opening up more and talking to more people and getting to know everybody. All of the producers and the whole team make you feel at home as much as possible. Patrick Lynn taught me a lot. He has been around since the very beginning. He’s got a great heart. He’s a really good dude. He was the first person I met once I got there. Me and my friend Arthur were there and Patrick was just cracking jokes, and me and Arthur were dying laughing.
We would not be having this conversation right now if you had not been on American Idol. How often do you think, "I would not be doing this right now if I had not appeared on Idol"?
Justin: I’ve done more cool things than most people will get to do in their entire careers because of American Idol. There will never come a day when I will want to deny that. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. Or you can, but it’s certainly well out of 99.9% of people’s budget. That’s why I always will jump at the chance to come back and work with kids and to be on the show itself. I believe so much in loyalty. I believe so much in remembering where you came from and certainly it is one of the biggest foundational elements of the career that I have today and will have for the rest of my life.
Clay: Every minute. I don’t talk about my child in the press, but I wouldn’t have had a kid had it not been for Idol. Seasons 1 through 6, the show cast such a shadow. There was this belief that in order to be successful you had to distance yourself from Idol and I’ll be the first to admit that I was a part of that. But so much of my life would not have happened had it not been for Idol. I tried to run for Congress twice and still was “Clay Aiken from American Idol.” The show will always be bigger than anything I have done. Going back this season, I got to be a part of the journey of some kids who will likely have the same experience. Wait until you see this Hollywood Week episode. It is the funniest thing in the world. This girl speaks to me for the longest time. She’s telling me, “My mom auditioned whatever season Clay Aiken auditioned,” and here I am sitting right in front of her. It’s brilliant to be a part of that history. Books have been written and will continue to be written about American Idol and I’ll be a footnote in them, but that’s more immortality than most people get.
Jordin: There are two answers to that question. Yes, I feel like I wouldn’t be in the space that I’m in and wouldn’t have been able to do the things that I’ve done in the past 16 years, but I do think on the other side of that that I would still be doing music. I have known since I was very young that it was what I wanted to do. I just didn’t know how it was going to happen and Idol absolutely 100% gave me that opportunity. I have an amazing fan base that I’ve had for the past 16 years. I’m grateful people still want to know what I’m doing, and people want still want to hear my voice. I was more excited to audition for the show then I was to get my driver’s license, so I’m very grateful to Idol. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it and with the fans that helped put me here.
David: I feel like everything about my life wouldn’t have happened had it not been for American Idol. I don’t think I owe my life to the show, because every decision we make changes the outcome of where we get to and has influence on where we are. American Idol happened to be a decision I made that has influenced my life and it was the catalyst for starting my career, to be where I am, to have my audience, to have my fans. It’s been 16 years, but to this day people still recognize me from American Idol or the younger generation recognizes me from iCarly or Hannah Montana, which is funny because I only was on one episode of each of those. But people say, “I didn’t know you were a real person. I thought you were a made-up character.” But I’m super grateful for being on Idol and the opportunities it brought and how it shaped my career.
Phillip: I think about this all the time. I was playing a lot of shows before Idol and I was planning to keep doing it and try to grind it all out, because I knew what it was like for people not to care about your music and I don’t think I would change anything. I was in a small town working at my dad’s pawn shop sometimes, playing tons of gigs and writing music. I wasn’t really caught up in all of the fame and glamor and I think that may be why people connected with me because it was just honest and real. I’m such a quiet person. I’m pretty private. I would definitely do it again because I wouldn’t have had all of these opportunities that I’ve been able to experience and have and friendships that I’ve made and places I’ve gotten to see. You go through some tough times. If you can make it out of there holding your head up, that’s what’s going to shape you and I wouldn’t change any of that either. I have a roof over my head, and I get to play music for a living. Not many people can say that, so I’m very thankful.
Catie: All the time. Idol goes so deep that I met my first relationship at a post-Idol fan meet and greet and he voted for me. I started writing songs about that relationship and when he broke up with me, I thought, “I wouldn’t have written these songs if this guy didn’t break up with me.” My roommate is Maddie Zahm, who was on my season, and I live with her and I lived with Noah Davis. Idol is always present in my life and it’s why I love going back so much because I always want to acknowledge and honor the fact that I would still be in Langhorne just graduating college, not really knowing what I want to do with my life if it weren’t for American Idol.
When you were competing on your season, did you ever imagine there would be a Season 21?
Justin: No. That was the blessing of that year, that season for me. We were so in the moment. Every single turn was a new adventure, like building the plane while you’re flying it. We weren’t influenced by expectations. We weren’t influenced by a precedent. It was just this wonderful adventure that we were making up and we were writing history but didn’t know it at the time. I think there’s something really cool and innocent and beautiful about that.
Clay: I didn’t imagine in Season 2 that I’d make it to the final episode of the show. I have done my very best not to try to imagine anything that might happen in the future because I’m always wrong. Not a single one of us imagined that the show would lead to anything beyond just the experience of being on it nor could anyone possibly believe that the show would be the biggest hit of the 21st century.
Jordin: I thought they would get 10 seasons. Then it went past 10 and then we had the big finale on Season 15 and they were saying, “It’s never coming back.” A year later they said, “Ha, ha. We were just napping.” I love that it’s still going and giving people the chance to live out their dreams. I think they should ride it until the wheels fall off. It’s a testament to how much people love the show and how everybody can watch it. I remember before I was on the show, after school we’d do our homework and then we’d all sit down together as a family. My grandparents, my parents, me and my brothers, we would all watch it. It’s still a show that everybody can bond over and get involved with. It’s a show that makes you happy.
David: No, I had no idea. I thought maybe it’ll have a few more seasons, because I don’t know how long a competition like this can go for and how much it will command people’s attention, but here it is, continuing on 20 years later.
Catie: No. During the earlier seasons, I was watching as a viewer. My seven-year-old self [wouldn’t have believed] this show is going to be one of the only constants in your life. I hope for it to continue and I’m secretly hoping it stays on long enough so I can come back again as a mentor.
Finally, what are you doing now and what is next for you?
Justin: I’m finishing up the last bit of my Star Code course. I’m teaching that live online. I also have a master class that I teach, which is a lead-in to that. And then I’m gearing up for what will be my seventh Broadway show, Once Upon a One More Time, which is opening in the summer. It’s a Britney Spears musical and I’ve been with it for five years and we are finally getting our due to come to Broadway and I could not be more excited. It is legitimately my most favorite role I’ve ever played, and it is going to be something where people come to it, they will laugh, they will cry and it will feel like they are watching the most kick-ass music video they’ve ever seen on Broadway.
Clay: I semi-retired from performing nine years ago. In 2013 I said, “I’m going to step away from this.” And then in 2018 Ruben wanted to do something and we had an opportunity to do a Broadway show, so I came back and did that. And then I said, “Okay, dude. I’m not going to keep going.” And he said, “It’s our 20th anniversary. We’ve got do something.” I said, “Fine, let’s do it.” There’s nobody who could get me to come back and perform except for Ruben. I love doing that. We’re going to go out on our 20th anniversary tour, and it’ll be the first time I’ve been on tour in over a decade now. We’re putting everything we’ve got into this tour. I might fall on the ground afterward and be done for a while again. We’ll see.
Jordin: I am still doing music. I am in the final stages of choosing the songs that are going to go on the new album. Last season, they were talking to me about music while I was on stage with Ruben during the finale and I had over 100 songs and now I have almost close to 200 and so I really have to figure out which songs are the best. I want to take people on a journey and make them feel something. So I’m hoping to get that done in the next couple weeks, because after that I’m going to film a Christmas movie for BET+ and then I’m hoping that I can tour internationally. So there are a lot of dreams and ambitions. I’m also just being mom. I’m really grateful that I still get to do what I love.
David: I did a Christmas tour, and I was supposed to go on a spring tour, but I put that on hold because I need time to reassess myself. Because not only did I come out, but I also had a transition in faith. Before, my faith was the ship that steered every decision I made. I involved it in my career and now that it’s not there, it’s like I lost myself and I’m asking, “Who am I now?” But it’s also an opportunity to start again and decide who I am without my faith as a buffer. I’ve been writing a lot of music and I’m really excited to share my journey with everybody. Learning how to love yourself when you spent so much time believing that you were supposed to hate yourself and believing that that was the right thing to do: to be afraid of a piece of you, feeling like you have to hide this for your own safety and for the safety of the people around you. To think that if it ever came out, you would be hurting not only yourself but the people around you in your life. I am in the process of learning how to change that way of thinking. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like I’m entering a whole new space of my career because I’m entering this new space personally. It’s always been important for me to share what’s in my soul and in my heart. Now, I feel so much passion in my career — [there’s] this fire that’s coming out of me that’s given me this new fuel into what I do and into the music and I just can’t wait. I’m looking for ways to share my story, because I know so many other people, especially those coming from religious backgrounds, they’re still in the thick of it and I want to help them learn because I know what it’s like. It’s like being a mentor on Idol: I was there, so this is what I wish I would have known. While it’s easier for some, it’s especially tricky for people in religious conservative households where you are still being taught, “This is not okay. Resist it. Do not give into it. Do not accept this part of you. If you do, you’re a failure.” Too many [people] who share my beliefs feel like it’s better to end their lives than to accept their sexuality if they’re queer. I was there as well. I thought, “Before I accept this about myself, maybe it’s better for me to not be here and to end my life, so that I save my soul in the long run.” I realized, “Even if you’re queer, David, maybe your life is still worth living.” I had to take that chance and it has been worth it and I realized I’m not this evil person. I’m just now understanding this love that everyone wrote love songs and romance movies and romance novels about, expressing how beautiful of a feeling it is. I didn’t understand before. I couldn’t relate to it and now I’m able to comprehend that and write those songs myself and tell my story of what it’s like to feel that feeling of loving someone and wanting to be there for them. I feel like that will help people understand, like, “Oh, that’s not very much different from what I experienced, so maybe it’s not as foreign than what I thought it was.” To help them not demonize that feeling because they feel it too and it’s a pure, wholesome feeling to experience.
Phillip: I released a song earlier this year called “Dancing With Your Shadows.” I love that song. And I’m releasing another song when this is airing called “Before I Loved You” and I’m really proud of that song. It’s a beautiful love song about me and my wife. There’ll be an album toward the end of the summer called Drift Back and all of these songs are representations for the past three to five years for me through COVID and show where I am now. It’s an honest album of love through ups and downs, not just your significant other but relationships with family and friends. My little boy Patch, he sings every word to one of these songs and that’s really sweet. I’ll say, “Is that a good song?” He’ll say, “Yup, that sounds good, daddy.” I’m like, “That’s good. Thank you.”
Catie: I am releasing a new single called “Hyperfixations” and it shows what the inside of my brain sounds like, if anyone’s ever wondered that before. I wrote this song with my producer in Nashville, Ruslan. I was discovering a new sound for myself because I went from very acoustic to very pop and I wanted to find a way to honor both but still feel authentic to myself. I’m finding the nice middle ground of acoustic lyrics but with a more produced sound and in a way to where it’s not so pop. I’m having a really fun time with that.
Noah: I recently moved to Nashville. I’ve been on tour, and I’ve been writing every day. I really don’t want to stop. Hopefully we’ll get some tour dates back up pretty soon. We’ve got some cool shows coming up, opening for Luke Combs.