'American Idol' Season 13: Sam Woolf Explains the Magic of 'Hey Jude'
The Florida resident doesn't mind missing his last few months of his senior year in high school.
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.
West Bloomfield, Michigan
Born: April 19, 1996
Sam Woolf grew up in West Bloomfield, Mich. – at least until he was 12, when he moved to Bradenton, Fla. to live with his grandparents, Elroy and Jackie. While Woolf will turn 18 during this season of Idol, for now he is 17 and so legally must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. His grandfather, who likes to be called Roy, is enjoying the Hollywood journey with his talented grandson. “My grandparents are very supportive of me and my music,” says Woolf. “My grandpa is the one who started me on singing lessons.”
Woolf’s father was also influential in the high school student’s musical evolution. “My dad had a music room when I was little, and I remember listening to a lot of James Taylor.” The teen also heard Neil Young and his father had a favorite group. “My dad had a video of ELO live that we always used to watch. That was cool.”
Woolf’s first live public performance was his sixth grade talent show, where he performed the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” His decision to pursue a career in music came slightly later. “I started taking it seriously about four years ago. I took singing lessons from an opera teacher, to learn how to sing properly and make the best of my voice. Then I started doing gigs, and taught myself guitar about three years ago.” Woolf played local restaurants and karaoke joints and on Wednesdays and Thursdays he’d sing at an open mic night in downtown Bradenton.
In the summer of 2013, Woolf was enrolled in a five-week program at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. While studying there, he found out that Idol was holding auditions in the city, right near his school. “I always wanted to audition for American Idol so I went for it.” Woolf’s first audition song was the one he sang in sixth grade – “Hey Jude.” Then he sang an original, “The Same.”
It’s not a surprise that someone raised on the music of James Taylor would want to be a songwriter. Woolf wrote his first song when he was 13. “I wrote about a girl that I liked and it was pretty corny. I don't remember if I showed it to her or not.”
Woolf has written more sophisticated songs since that first early effort and he does have a method for composing. “I usually have the music first, then the melody and then I add the lyrics. But sometimes it's different. If I think of a lyric, I type it into my phone and then go from there.”
Scheduled to graduate high school in May, Woolf is spending the last few weeks of 12th grade in Hollywood, although he does spend several hours in classes each day while competing on Idol. Does he mind missing the end of his senior year? “I'm happy about it,” he tells THR. “I'm all for education. But high school is not my thing. Like any teenager.”