When we see acts take the America’s Got Talent stage, we assume they’re brand-new in their field. While that’s true for most contestants, it’s not always the case.
AGT looks to recruit rising artists, but every now and then we’ll find someone who has a bit of a history. Like 65-year-old Robert Finley, the “protégé” of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach whose audition aired this week. Sound familiar? That’s because he worked with Auerbach on the Easy Eye Sound Revue tour, as well as his sophomore album Goin’ Platinum!
Finley isn’t the only one, though, so we thought we’d round up all the season 14 artists who were on their way to being stars before they even hit the AGT stage.
As we mentioned, the Louisiana-born blues and soul singer/guitarist is basically Auerbach’s 65-year-old “protégé” who lost his sight a few years ago. After Finley, who is also a Vietnam War veteran, released his 2016 album, Age Don’t Mean a Thing, he got connected with the Black Keys singer. The two then went on to release an original soundtrack for the graphic novel Murder Ballads, as well as his next album Goin’ Platinum!, followed by a tour. His AGT performance got a standing ovation, with Simon Cowell even admitting that he liked Finley before he started singing. “You’ve got this great soul about you.”
The 14-year-old singer from Washington arrived at AGT to give a spine-tingling performance of Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke,” but he performed the song on live television even before that. He was invited to join Carlile to perform the song on Late Night With Seth Meyers in July 2018 after he made it to the finals on The Voice Kids in Germany. “When he sings it, it comes to life in a new way for me,” Carlile said of their performance together.
The Chicago-based comedian fooled everyone with this extremely clever performance. He told the judges he was going to do karaoke (which Simon dislikes) and convinced them how great it was going to be. Then, while eagerly waiting for the bar to load on the screen, The Champs’ “Tequila” kicked in. That wasn’t his first go-around though. A video of him performing the same exact track at an actual karaoke bar went viral a few months ago, currently clocking in at more than 2 million views on Instagram.
Before the 15-year-old, California-based singer/rapper took the stage to perform “7th Grade,” an original song about being bullied, she was already making a name for herself on the Internet. She’s a YouTube star with around 500,000 subscribers (of course, her subscriber count has recently bumped up due to her exposure on the show) and was also “co-signed” by fellow YouTube sensation Shane Dawson. She currently uploads a ton of covers to the video platform, but her dream is to tour the world with her originals.
Sure, Kläfford’s touching cover of the John Lennon classic “Imagine” made the AGT crowd cry, but did you know that before that, the singer-songwriter won Swedish Idol in 2017 with that same song? Thanks mostly to his Swedish fanbase back at home, his songs on Spotify have also garnered more than 15 million streams.
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the eccentric, 7-foot-tall drag queen prepared a killer performance of “She’s a Lady” for the judges. Before that, though, the performer appeared on The X Factor UK in 2018 with a sensual rendition of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” Gingzilla began growling halfway through the performance, which caught the judges off guard, but they also loved it.