‘American Idol’ contender Ty’esha Lashay: ‘Music has always been a part of my life’

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Ty’Esha Lashay’s audition on “American Idol” made her one of at least seven Alabama singers headed for the show’s Hollywood Round, but it left some unanswered questions.

The March 24 episode featured just a snippet of Lashay’s audition, which got a strong response from superstar Lionel Richie. Other than that it didn’t reveal much about her background or her aspirations. Fortunately, she found time this week to share a little more with AL.com.

Lashay (whose name has been spelled Lashae in some “Idol” materials) is from Monroeville, which is home to “my whole mom’s side of the family,” she said. She’s spent some time out of the state in recent years, because of a job that involves travel, more recently she has spent time in Huntsville, though she still calls Monroeville home.

“Music has really always been a part of my life,” she said. “I come from a singing family. My grandmother and my mom and my aunt, they had a group and they sang at church. They went around churches singing.”

She and her sisters followed suit, with a group of their own, she said. It’s an experience that likely contributed to her assured stage presence during her audition.

“Growing up singing in church, basically you have to gain that confidence,” she said. “The church I went to was a pretty big church and at first I wasn’t very confident in singing, but my mom and my grandmother, they kind of boosted me up and helped me, you know, get that. I’ve always been OK with singing, but stage presence is something I’ve always struggled with. So I started training with my cousin. His name is Ryan Dean. He has a music school and he was basically helping me gain the self-confidence so that I can apply it to the stage as well.”

(Note to other aspiring Idols: That school is Dean’s List Music Academy in Monroeville.)

All viewers got to hear Lashay sing on March 30 was part of the chorus of Allen Stone’s “Unaware.” It’s an interesting choice for an “Idol” audition because its lyrics are open to some interpretation. It can be read politically, since it refers to taxes and the burden of making a living. Or it can be taken as a statement about the emotional debts and demands that people can put on each other.

What it reveals about Lashay is simply this: She’s a student of the show.

“I’ve always been a fan of ‘Idol’ and I remember one season he came as like a mentor and he sung with one of the contestants … And that was my first time hearing the song.” (That was with Dennis Lorenzo, a Top 10 contender in 2018, the show’s first season after its move from Fox to ABC.)

“Over time, I started listening to more of his music and I really like him as an artist,” Lashay said. “I like his style and really how he writes songs and he’s very lyrical, but he also has like a lot to the music aspect as well. So that’s why I chose that song.”

Though it wasn’t shown in the audition, she said, the judges pushed her on the choice, asking who she was thinking about as she sang. “It was my father,” she said. “Because a lot of times people can tell you things like, they care about you and stuff like that. But when it comes to applying it, sometimes we’re unaware of it because we don’t see the actions behind it.”

No matter that only the tiniest clip of her performance was shown: You could hear Lionel Richie exclaim, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

He went on to say that her sound was solid and that “you know what you’re doing.” That’s rare: It’s much more common for the “Idol” judges to say they hear raw potential that can be shaped.

“First of all, I was already like starstruck,” she said. “It was like crazy that a legend like Lionel Richie told me that I have a solid sound and that he could tell I knew what I was doing.

“That gave me a lot more confidence, actually, in my singing to hear legends like Lionel, Katy and Luke tell me that they really like my sound. They didn’t show it but Katy actually told me that she heard me in rehearsals and then she had been looking for my voice. She called it angelic. And I was like, ‘What?’”

At the end of the March 24 episode, it was revealed that the upcoming Hollywood Round will feature a new format, throwing competitors into something called the “Idol Arena.” Promotional materials say that viewers are about to see “the biggest cut in ‘Idol’ history.”

While Lashay wasn’t at liberty to provide any spoilers about what’s ahead, she said the arena is something different.

“I can say that it’s very intense,” she said. “It’s gonna be a lot of emotions. Overall we, with all the contestants, we kind of embraced each other, but at the same time, we knew with it being Idol Arena that it’s really a competition, like it really kicked in, we’re like, actually against each other.”

Even so, there was time between auditions and Hollywood for some bonds to form. Viewers have seen seven Alabama singers get Golden Tickets. Three of them are high-school-age young men, and one of them, Brant McCollough, said the trio started referring to themselves as the “Bama Boys.”

Lashay said she also made some connections.

“Me and K-Blocks, we became really good friends and, Justice Murphy, we became really good friends too,” she said. “It turns out they’re like, really close to me. They’re like, an hour and a half away [in Montgomery]. So it was really nice to connect with them and, you know, talk about music in our journeys, in the music industry and how we all came up.

“We all come from different backgrounds,” Lashay said. “I feel like they have a little more experience as far as professionalism in music because they got their credentials from like, school and stuff. But, yeah, I, I learned a lot from them and we all learned a lot from each other.”

Justice Murphy, we’ve seen identified on the show. K-Blocks, we haven’t. She’s a Mississippi native who grew up in Montgomery, an artist who has been dropping hints for a while that she’s another Golden Ticket holder from Alabama. On Instagram she recently posted a photo of herself holding the ticket while standing next to “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, and on Wednesday she posted a photo on Facebook of herself holding the ticket in “sunny California.”

So even with seven Alabama competitors confirmed for the season, it appears there’s still more to come.

Regardless of how her own run plays out, Lashay said she feels “Idol” is taking her career in a positive direction.

“Since I’m so new in the music industry, I’m still finding my way and I just want people to know [that] the kind of music that I wanna do is for the people that I feel like don’t really have a voice,” she said. “And I feel thankful and grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity in the platform to even be on something like as big as ‘Idol.’ And I just wanna show everyone that no matter what you look like or where you come from that you can do things as big as this too, as long as you know God and you keep striving.”

New episodes of “American Idol” will air at 7 p.m. Central time on ABC on Sunday, March 30, and Monday, April 1. New episodes can be seen the day after their premiere on Hulu.



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