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When American Idol’s Hollywood Week rounds begin tonight, viewers will get to take another look at two familiar faces: Tristen Langley and his mom, season one alum Nikki McKibbin.
Langley made Idol history as the first second-generation hopeful to go to Hollywood after his audition of “Santeria” by Sublime earned the 15-year-old a Golden Ticket.
Judge Harry Connick Jr. feared the presence of McKibbin in the audition room would influence the decision, and she said the negativity directed at her child was a bit “heartbreaking.”
“I think that I was very well prepared for anything that was going to come out of anybody’s mouth,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was a little difficult to hear, but Tristen was very humble when Harry said that and commented back ‘Yes sir, I appreciate that and you’re entitled to your opinion.’ ”
McKibbin added that she was very proud of her son and the “mature” way he handled his audition. “That’s the good thing about Tristen being my child and me not just being on the first season but dealing with such harsh criticism. I coach him vocally and performance wise and prepare him for rejections and the negativity, because I’ve been through it.
“He is only 15, my goodness. I was 23 when I did Idol. I don’t think in a million years when I was at Tristen’s age I even had the guts to go up there and do that.”
McKibbin insists that she didn’t call in any special favors for Tristen, even for his first cattle call audition in Austin. “We waited in line with thousands of kids and the wristbands,” she revealed. “I wanted him to have the full experience.”
Tristen’s first audition, a version of Ne–Yo’s “So Sick,” impressed the producers enough to earn him a wristband. “It was scary not knowing whether or not they were going to say yes,” he said, before facing Idol’s newest toy: The Chamber, a holding area with a green light that buzzes before a hopeful goes in front of the judges. “Going in the room was the mysterious part.”
McKibbin had one word to describe it: cool. “The Chamber was hot,” she laughed. “It is such a small box with the camera and the mirrors, and you are waiting for the green light to come on. All of the anticipation and nerves and stuff is captured before you walk in to the judges. I think it’s a neat new concept.”
She gives all the show’s changes a thumbs-up: “Now the kids are getting paid all kinds of crazy money, and they’re having stylists make clothes for them, and the theatrics that are there are so cool.”
“Just to have made it this far, wow that’s awesome,” said her starstruck son. “You go in, and you know you’re going to see the judges again, and that is nerve-wracking.”
However, having perfected his skills performing with his parents and in his school’s choir, he isn’t worried about stage fright.
“Mom and Dad could both sing pretty well,” he said. “I guess I inherited the charisma and the drive to do what I want to do.”
Family time, he said, involved performing together in a weekly ritual. “We used to go to a restaurant bar and grill every Tuesday as a family and sing different songs.”
How did he feel watching a video of his four-year-old self handing his mom a rose on that Idol stage from the first season? “That’s about the only thing I remember from being that age,” said Langley, who used to play “monsters” under tables with another young hopeful — Kelly Clarkson. “I got to go backstage and meet all the people, and that was pretty cool.”
As for his future music, Langley is inspired by another Idol: season nine alum Casey James.
“His stuff is rock and country,” said the teen. “I would definitely take advice from his music.”
Watch Tristen’s audition below:
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