• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

'American Idol' Season 13: Dexter Roberts First Practiced on a Plastic Guitar

'I listen with my ear,' says the Tuscaloosa singer who has never taken music lessons.

Dexter Roberts
Michael Becker/FOX
Dexter Roberts

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.

Dexter Roberts
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Born: July 12, 1991

Dexter Roberts   was just five years old when he made his debut performing live on stage, though it was unplanned and proved to be a big surprise for his family. He accompanied his grandparents to a show at the Backstreet Opry in nearby Vernon, Ala. “My grandma and my granddaddy were talking to their friends and I heard a guitar playing in the background. The day before, my grandma bought me a plastic guitar at Dollar General.”

PHOTOS: 'American Idol' Season 13 Meet the Top 10 Singers

Roberts wanted to find out who was playing that guitar at the Opry and when he went searching, his grandparents didn’t see him wander off. He followed the sound and walked backstage, where he discovered the guitar player. “They pulled the curtain and someone said, ‘There’s a little boy up here. We don’t know who he is but were going to let him play with us.’ So I ended up playing the whole night with them.”

The next week, Dexter’s grandmother bought him his first real guitar. “I listen with my ear,” Roberts told THR. “I’ve never taken lessons. I’ve learned on my own.”

Roberts remembers watching the first season of Idol and calling on the family’s cordless phone to vote for Kelly Clarkson. “I kept getting a busy signal,” he says. “I finally got my one vote in -- it was awesome!”  Now people are voting for Roberts, thanks to his friends who urged him to audition. “I was going to try out in Atlanta but I’m a lifeguard at the new aquatic center in my hometown and I had to work.”

STORY: 'American Idol' Get to Know Season 13’s Top 10 Singers

A few days later, Roberts received a phone call from one of his buddies. “He said there’s going to be an audition in Tuscaloosa so I should go and try out. It was a bus tour and I thought it was all the guys who had already made it and they were coming to sing so I was bummed out. Then I had a flat tire so I didn’t have a vehicle. I borrowed my cousin’s old beat-up car that makes all kinds of noise. I drove it to Tuscaloosa, tried out and I made it.”

Now Roberts is already enjoying the trappings of fame. When he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Texas for Hollywood Week, another passenger came up to him and asked, “Are you Dexter? Are you really Dexter?” When he acknowledged that he was indeed Dexter, the woman asked, “Can my girls take a photo with you.” Roberts recalls, “She took my arm and led me through the whole airport.”