American Idol fans who attend Tuesday night’s (July 14) live summer tour show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are in for a surprise if they are only expecting the top five finalists to perform. Special guest Joey Cook, who finished seventh in season 14, will play her sixth and final night as the bonus opening act — a role that will be filled by seven other contestants from this year before the tour concludes in August.
Next up is Sarina-Joi Crowe in Nashville on Aug. 17, followed by Adam Ezegelian (Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 1), Qaasim Middleton (New York City on Aug. 5), Trevor Douglas (Grand Prairie, Texas, on Aug. 12), Savion Wright (Houston on Aug. 13), Daniel Seavey (Seattle on Aug. 25) and Adanna Duru (Riverside, Calif., on Aug. 28).
Cook’s run began on opening night in Clearwater, Fla., where the audience at Ruth Eckerd Hall audibly expressed surprise when she walked out on stage, accompanied by only her ukulele. “Opening up the show is such a thrill,” Cook tells Billboard. “It’s crazy to think that I was the first performer to kick off this year’s American Idol tour. Every time I stepped on the stage, I heard the gasps and people talking about how surprised they were to see me and how absolutely excited they were. I start off every show with ‘Fancy,’ and the crowd’s response is simply electric. The other two songs I play are on my uke, and I love this combination — just me and my uke, like old times.”
Being on the road is Cook’s first opportunity to interact in person with the fans she gained while competing on the Fox series. “The meet-and-greets are always my favorite part of every show. Getting to meet and personally thank all of the people who got me here in the first place is the most satisfying feeling. They have no idea that I may be more excited to meet them than they are to meet me! I simply love my fans.”
Another perk Cook is enjoying is spending more time with season 14’s top five. “People might have thought we would be hyper-competitive, but being back with everyone is like a family reunion. It’s like we never left each other after the show. And it’s wonderful getting to hear about the projects everyone has in the works and what all of their post-Idol plans are. We are still very supportive of one another and I will be sorry for it to end, but I am sure we will all stay in touch.”
Cook’s dates have all been in Florida. Following Clearwater, she opened in Sarasota, Melbourne, Orlando and Fort Myers. “We watch a lot of movies on the bus and, surprisingly, I get way more sleep than I thought I would. We each have these little bunks that we sleep in, like we are all in summer camp. I get teased a lot because my tour mates are so health conscious. While they are ordering their salads, I’m chomping into a Philly cheese steak with extra cheese. I’m in a brilliant love affair with carbs and don’t plan on ordering quinoa any time soon.”
After tonight, Cook has post-Idol plans of her own. “I recently launched an Indiegogo campaign called ‘Project Big Girl Album’ in order to record, promote and tour with my original music. Before I was discovered on American Idol, I created an album with my iPhone which was comprised of 12 original songs I recorded in one take. Now that I’ve developed this amazing fan base, I’d like to provide them with something of better quality. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money, so I’ve decided to ask for help. For people who contribute, I will be mailing out original comics, hand-painted ukuleles by yours truly, some of my dresses worn on the show and I will even be flying out to people’s houses, cooking them dinner and playing house shows.” Cook is also working on a book. “It will be filled with funny stories from my childhood and my experiences previous to American Idol, as well as pages from my journals, including doodles, comics and the creation of my songs. There will be scratched out lyrics that never made it onto the album, rants about unreliable public transportation and my dreams of making it to the big time. We will be mailing them out with my album as incentives for people who contribute to the Indiegogo campaign and also creating an audio book available for download.”
Born in 1999, 15-year-old Daniel Seavey is the youngest finalist in Idol history. “When I found out I was going to be performing on the tour I was really excited because it gives me another great opportunity to meet fans. I also miss my Idol family more than words can describe, so when I heard they would be there I almost burst into tears.” Seavey says he has been writing more songs than he did before Idol and that returning to the real world after being in the “Idol bubble” has had it ups and downs. “Going to the movies is entertaining in a whole new way because of how many times I get noticed. There have been some struggles with friends and other teens, mainly at school, because not everybody is supportive of me and many of them are very open about not being supportive of me. So that has been another obstacle I have had to face that I did not expect coming out of the finale.”
Also happy to be joining the tour is Southern California’s Adanna Duru. “It’s been a while since the live TV shows and this will be nostalgic for me. It’s also great that we can perform without the pressure of being judged. It’ll just be good, clean fun!” Duru says she will sing both covers and originals and that since the finale she has been working on Exhibit A, a pop/R&B mixtape filled with original content that she plans to release this summer. She is also dealing with being outside of the Idol bubble. “At first it was weird,” she tells Billboard. “But I’ve adjusted and I have so many exciting things going on. The real world is different, but I can take it on!”