The McCreary County Record

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January 21, 2014

Local talent on American Idol

Season 13 may be lucky for Zach Day

STEARNS —  McCreary County is home to a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Miss Kentucky USA and maybe — just maybe — a future American Idol.

    Zach Day’s audition for the 2014 season of the venerable singing competition, which premiered last week on the Fox network, will be featured on Wednesday’s episode.

    The 20-year-old Stearns native — armed with his trusty guitar — sang three songs for judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. but he’s not sure which one will make the TV edit.

    Day, who has been working as a tram driver in Disney World, wrote a song incorporating the Orlando park’s five safety rules as a way to welcome his riders. The judges asked to hear it and Day rounded out the audition with Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”

    “I’m really excited and nervous about the portrayal,” Day laughed.

    Viewers will have to wait and see if Day earns his “golden ticket” to Hollywood as he is sworn to secrecy until the January 22 show airs. Eagle-eyed fans may have already spotted him during last week’s premiere when a clip of Day was shown as part of an introduction to the show’s newest audition feature, “The Chamber.”

    “You’re put in a little gray box with just a mirror and a green light,” Day said. “You can reflect or practice before you see the judges. It was the scariest part [of auditioning] but I really liked how it turned out for the show.”

    While the broadcast shows a condensed version of the auditioning process, Day shared that it actually occurs over a couple of months.

    “I’ve made a lot of good friends,” he said. “You keep running into the same people. It’s been so much fun.”

    Day’s journey actually began when he unsuccessfully tried out at the age of 16. Upon graduating from McCreary Central High School in 2012, he enrolled at Morehead State University as a music education major. While at Disney World on Spring Break last March, Day decided with some encouragement from his friends to compete in the park’s American Idol Experience. The attraction is as close to the actual show as possible with audiences voting for the winners.

    Day won with his rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” His prize was a “Dream Ticket” guaranteeing him an American Idol audition over the summer (as well as leading him to apply for a park internship). This past July he traveled to Atlanta, where his Disney World win got him ahead of more than 3,200 other hopefuls at the Gwinnett Arena.

    That was just Round 1 where Day sang Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” before a panel of producers rather than the celebrity judges. He was called back to Atlanta the next month for Round 2 — and more producers — before finally getting his big chance in Detroit last October.

    Though keeping mum on how that turned out, Day — who is the son of Beverly Shook and Larry Day — remains as committed to a singing career as ever.

    “I would love to perform for a living,” he said, “whether I’m singing backup or center stage. This experience has inspired me a lot. It’s raised the bar.”

    Watch American Idol Jan. 22 on FOX starting at 8 p.m. EST.

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Teresa Phillips

Teresa Phillips

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