'American Idol' Season 13: Caleb Johnson Outlines His Rock 'n' Roll Childhood Education
His band, Elijah Hooker, is waiting at home to see what happens to their lead singer.
The Hollywood Reporter sat down with American Idol's season 13 finalists to give an in-depth look at the top 10, including their earliest memories of music, when they knew music would be their career choice and what led to their decision to audition for the singing competition.
Meet the rest of the top 10 singers here.
Asheville, North Carolina
Born: April 23, 1991
Johnson happily confesses to being a product of his environment. “The cool thing about Asheville is that there is this huge broad spectrum of music. It’s like a mini Austin, Texas. There’s a huge music scene – different styles, different genres. Everybody is in their own little music bubble. No one really falls into the trends that are happening. It’s a vibrant and colorful city of music. I'm blessed to be from there because I wouldn't be who I am today if I didn't grow up there or was nurtured through that whole system.”
As a child, Johnson listened to whatever was on the local top 40 radio station until his mother educated him in rock ’n’ roll. “When she took me to school in the mornings she would pop CDs in and I would jam to them. I would ask questions and she’d say, ‘OK, this is Aerosmith.’ She had a huge crush on Steven Tyler so Aerosmith was constantly being played along with Heart, the Eagles, Goo Goo Dolls, and she had a tape of Rush. My dad helped nurture me too because he was a huge Elvis fan.”
Johnson found himself drawn to music and to the legendary bands he heard in his mother’s car. Things took a dramatic turn when he was hanging out with friends who were planning to enter their high school's talent show. They asked Johnson if he’d like to be their lead singer. “We were jamming in the basement and they wanted to do a cover. They said lets do ‘Fortunate Son" so they cranked it up and I started singing and the looks on their faces were like, ‘Oh my god this guy can sing!’ When I did the talent show the mic went out right before I started and so I started singing and the whole crowd erupted and I knew this is what I want to do. This was my calling.”
In 2010, Johnson became the lead singer of a rock ’n’ roll band known as Elijah Hooker. “I was handling everything,” Johnson explains. “I was doing the bookings, I was managing it and doing the promotion and the publicity. It was really exhausting. Everybody had day jobs and I was trying to make the band my full time job but one person doing all of the work is not going to get anybody anywhere. If I can't get 110 percent support from everybody because they had other commitments, I'm not going to bash somebody for that.” That’s when Johnson decided to audition for American Idol. “It’s an amazing platform to get your name out there and it's been lacking rock n' roll for awhile.” Johnson auditioned for season 10 and season 11 and made it into the top 13 on season 13.
So what happens to Elijah Hooker while Johnson is in Hollywood competing on Idol? “Back home the band is still together but with me not in it now, they're sitting back waiting to see what is going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen after all of this is over. It’s up in the air.”
Johnson has thought ahead to his first solo album and already has a vision for it. “I want my album to sound like Led Zeppelin's first album. I want it to be real heavy and powerful and convicted and bluesy but then I also want to add the whole cool mystical thing that record has. It's timeless.”