The crowd at Mariano’s Italian Eatery roared at approximately 8 p.m. Sunday night, when Kevin Gullage’s face appeared on the television, the first moment of the Luling musician’s American Idol audition.
Just as it was the start of his audition, it was likewise also only the start of the cheering. Gullage’s nationally televised performance was a smash hit with Idol judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, and their ensuing declaration went over decisively with the crowd: “You’re headed to Hollywood,” Gullage officially qualifying as a contestant for the ABC show’s 20th season.
Those who earn the nod receive the show’s coveted Golden Ticket – which Gullage pulled out and displayed to the wildly cheering Mariano’s crowd during a watch-along party to celebrate his national television debut. Gullage also performed prior to the show’s start.
He said the outpouring of support brought him incredible joy.
“There’s a lot of love … the love was just exploding around me,” said Gullage. “I almost cried – I stopped myself, and had to even say it out loud. ‘Kevin, you’re not gonna cry.’ The love and emotion I felt from all these people, it’s something that’s kept me going, and getting that all at once is a little overwhelming.
“I’m seeing people here from every part of my life, from the very beginning to right now. I know it feels really good, feels really big in my heart.”
He said seeing himself on television, meanwhile, was surreal. Being so in the moment during his performance, he didn’t get to take him how the judges were reacting to him – it was clear from the show footage that the three took very well to Gullage’s talent and charisma.
“For a lot of my audition, my eyes were closed. I didn’t see how they reacted … a smile goes a long way. Trusting what to do, trusting what people see about you … you just decide to be yourself,” he said.
As for Sunday night’s watch party, the waiting was the most stressful part for him.
“I don’t know when it’s going to happen,” he said prior to his appearance. “It’s really nerve wracking.”
A singer and pianist, Gullage is following in the musical footsteps of his father, Tony, a renowned bassist who has performed all over the world and spent six years as musical director for television and movie star Tyler Perry.
But on Sunday night, he was simply an exceptionally proud father.
“He’s an old soul,” said Tony. “A lot of young people, kids around his age, you see them get coverage and see a lot of negative things. Kevin’s talented, but he’s a good person. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his dad. I’m so proud of him.”
He was with his son out on the West Coast for the audition, but wasn’t able to go into the studio room to watch it live. This was his first chance to see it.
“I take it all in stride, and I’m just watching him taking it all in himself … he loves what he does. He loves to touch people. You can see it now,” Tony said.
The watch party venue was a fitting one. Kevin said Mariano’s was the first to give him a consistent platform.
“Mariano’s is the first place to just let me play and work hard to become a better musician,” he said. “I played here from the age of 12 to 19, learning new songs and how to interact with people … there’s no better place to do it.”
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