Though he’s just 23 years old, Kevin Gullage has already experienced so many things in the music world. This Sunday, however, he crosses into new territory.
“You want to share your music with the world, and now I have the chance to,” Gullage said. “This reaches everyone, everywhere. And this is the first time I can say that and mean it to the fullest, literal extent.”
That’s because on Sunday, the Luling resident’s audition to be part of Season 20 of American Idol will be broadcast worldwide on ABC, and the singer and pianist will see his talent featured on the greatest stage yet.
While Gullage could not share the result of his audition – you’ll have to tune in Sunday night to find out – he said the experience has been quite the memorable one.
And it all started rather randomly, he said.
“My dad woke me up and asked, ‘Hey Kevin, how would you like to audition for American Idol?’ I’m half-asleep and said … ‘sure. OK,’” Gullage said with a laugh.
His father has the know-how to set such a tryout up, to be sure. Tony Gullage is a famed and successful longtime musician who Kevin has had a lifetime of learning from.
Before Kevin could officially earn the right to audition in front of judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, however, he would have to shine in a virtual audition via ZOOM for Idol producers.
“That was nerve-wracking, to say the least,” Kevin said. “This was me coming off of quarantine, everything with COVID, and my mind was trying to recover from not performing as much as I had been. I was anxious … honestly, I had a question in my mind of, ‘Do I still have it?’”
Kevin went with “That’s how strong my love is” by Otis Redding for his piece, and the first producer he performed for lifted his confidence.
“He said he loved it,” Kevin said. “He told me, ‘I want you to go into the next round of ZOOM auditions, because you sound great and I like to pick winners. That got my confidence right back where it used to be.”
Even when his confidence waned thereafter – a literal hiccup during a follow-up song brought some tension upon himself – his father was there to reassure him and to coach him to keep his eye on the prize.
Soon, Kevin got the answer he was dreaming of.
“It’s hard to describe,” he said. “It was just an amazing feeling.”
The American Idol experience has been just one of several exciting recent developments for Kevin, who recently signed officially with Basin Street Records, a Grammy-Award winning independent record label that has artists like Kermit Ruffins, Henry Butler, Jon Cleary and Davell Crawford in its ranks – heroes of Kevin, who realized a dream upon putting pen to paper.
He’s made an album – which will be on the Basin Street label. He’s also done the score for an independent movie, “Don’t Talk, Just Listen.” He’ll be performing on the Disney Cruise line for two months, and in August he’ll travel to Brazil to perform.
These milestones are result of a lifetime of musical progress and prowess. Kevin began composing his songs in kindergarten and showed an advanced knowledge of rhythm and musical notes for his age. He’s received numerous awards and recognitions, and while Idol will be his first national and international television experience, he has been featured on WWL and WGNO television on the local level.
Despite all of that, he admits the COVID pandemic shook him to his core. Kevin went from performing three nights a week at B.B. King Blues Club in New Orleans, a rarity for a performer his age, and slated for performances in Hong Kong and South Africa, to all of it being scrapped. With members of his band residents of Baton Rouge, any performances turned out to be scarce.
“When you’re 20 years old, and all of your work and your momentum gets halted so abruptly … it makes you wonder if you’re getting worse by not performing as much, and that scared me,” Kevin said. “It shakes your confidence and makes you question if what you’re doing is ever going to work out. You hear so many no’s in this business … it’s tough when you lose those opportunities you did receive.”
That feeling is what spurred him to compose the score for “Don’t Talk, Just Listen.”
“I saw a flier for a casting call at Loyola,” he said. “I called them and offered (to compose it) for free. I just needed that outlet … it’s part of what got me through COVID and through that void place of waiting for people to say that it’s OK to go outside again, to perform again.”
He’s indeed out of the void, and his star is shining brighter than ever.
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