KEVIN "LITTLE RANDY" MITCHELL BREAKS OFF SOME KNOWLEDGE TO MUSICAL RAMBLINGS
Some of you may remember the Austin auditions of American Idol this year. Those of you who do may also remember Kevin Mitchell, a man who bears more than a little resemblance to judge Randy Jackson.
Kevin was first compared to Randy, then removed his hat to reveal his hair cut into a mohawk style. He then went on to sing Genesis' "I Can't Dance." Despite his talent, he wasn't able to make it past Randy, Paula, and Simon to go on to Hollywood.
Kevin was kind enough to sit down with me and answer a few of my questions, and he has provided tremendous insight into what goes on behind the scenes during the initial rounds of American Idol auditions. Here's what Kevin had to say:
M.R.: What made you decide to audition for American Idol in Austin?
Kevin: I auditioned last time in New Orleans for the previous season and never made it past the opening auditions, so after the season was over with, I used the remainder of my social life and spent everyday on the A.I. website for updates until I saw that they were coming back to Texas. I don’t live far from Austin, and I’ve never traveled to the Longhorn City, so this was a vacation long coming.
M.R.: Can you tell us a bit about the previous rounds, prior to Simon, Paula, and Randy?
Kevin: Well after all the promotional stuff, like “Welcome To Austin!!” or whatever city you’re auditioning in, comes the actual auditions. Now, I don’t know the format of the other cities, but this is how Austin’s auditions went: One of the staff members of the show will have a mic in his hand, and he basically tells you that as you walk out onto the field, or wherever the opening round is staged at, in groups, with your belongings, you will stand four abreast, side by side. There were about 12 tables lined in a row with a curtain separating each table. Also, there were two people at each table: a talent scout who works for A.I. and a representative of the auditioning city. Of course, as you know from the website, you are given wristbands, which does play a major part in the process. If, after your audition, the panel says no, then your wristband is cut, and you are directed to exit the building, but if you are one of the lucky ones, then you are given a colored sheet of paper and are directed in a different direction for a brief interview and pictures. Oh, did I forget to mention that the whole thing is recorded? After the first round, you then sing for the producers of the show, Ken Warwick and Nigel. Remember, he was the judge from the hit summer show So You Think You Can Dance. They do ask that you wear the same clothes as the first round, so that the editors can give the viewers the idea that everything occurred on the same day, plus there’s also other reasons that I’m sure that those in the field of television production can explain. Now again, I don’t know the format of the other cities, but they had us in groups of about seven or eight, sitting in chairs and waiting outside the hotel room where the producers were. Again, this is all recorded, so there’s cameras and film crew all around you. You’re called in one by one and sing one song a cappella, just as before. They may have you sing more than one song as in the previous round, but this time around, you’re given a song to memorize prior to the second round. This explains how everyone in each city was singing "Fame," or in Austin’s case, "Rockin' Robin." Now again, if you are one of the lucky few to make it past this round, you are given another colored sheet of paper with more directions as far as when and where to meet for the infamous third round, where you sing before Paula, Simon, and my dawg Randy.
M.R.: When you sang before the judges, you didn't sound terrible like some of the other contestants. What do you think was the reason that the judges decided not to send you on?
Kevin: I believe the reason for their decision was that prior to me entering the room, the judges already had somewhat of a profile of me from the interviews that I gave in the previous rounds as well as while I was in the holding room, just before I was called into groups to the area where they are. The hat that I wore was a crutch for me as it actually helped calm me, since it was the only piece of Longview that I had. Another reason is that I think the Randy Jackson thing was overplayed a bit, because what you didn’t see were the numerous skits and interviews that were about the Randy Jackson resemblance. Any song I sung was lost in comparison. I don’t think that I was taken seriously enough, and had I just asked to step outside for a couple of minutes and gather myself (plus take off the hat), after I had sung my first song and was given a second chance, then I think they may have taken me more seriously and let me on through.
M.R.: Was your appearance on the show edited in any way? And if so, what did we not get to see?
Kevin: Well as I said before, there were numerous skits in the holding room based on Randy which were never shown on the air, thank goodness (laughs). Also on the cutting room floor is my first song that I sung for them and their reaction while I was singing it, as well as a candid conversion between Randy and myself.
M.R.: I would've really rather heard you sing Terence Trent D'Arby's "Wishing Well" than that Genesis song. What process did you go through to select songs for each level of the audition process?
Kevin: All the songs that we sung in Austin were our own choice and not from a list. The song that we were told to memorize was "Rockin Robin" and that was for the second round. Oh and trust me, if I could’ve picked any song from a list, instead of standing there trying to come up with something to sing, it would never have been that Genesis song.
M.R.: Do you feel that your passing resemblance to Randy hurt your audition that much? If given the chance, would you do your audition differently?
Kevin: I think on some levels it did hurt my chances and on other levels it didn’t. I can’t change the resemblance, just like there are others in the world or even some of your friends, who may resemble a celebrity. So sharing some of his features isn’t changeable for me, but the positive side and that people in town recognize me more because of my closeness to Randy, which I always get a kick out of. I’ve even signed a few autographs, with the word “dawg” hidden within my signature.
M.R.: Do people REALLY come up to you and ask if you're Randy Jackson?
Kevin: Yes. A few of my friends have now began calling me Little Randy.
M.R.: What were your impressions of each of the judges?
Kevin: Hmmmmm. I have to keep in mind that this is going all over the world! Just kidding. In all, they’re good at what they do and have been in the business longer than anyone I can think of. So when they say that someone is a bit pitchy or ridicule someone on the contestant’s sheer “ghastly” performance, they’re nine times out of ten on the mark. Now, there are a few exceptions (nudge, nudge), but no matter what, Paula always has something good to say, mostly.
M.R.: Do you think that Simon Cowell might possibly have been breast-fed by his father?
Kevin: Unless you count Hitler as his father, he was genetically engineered, dude.
M.R.: Is Ryan Seacrest as short as he looks on TV?
Kevin: Man, every one of them is short!!
M.R.: You mentioned on the Idol message boards that you and Hollywood contestant Jason Horne were going to make appearances around your hometown. What sort of reception have you been getting since your appearance? Has it been mostly positive or has there been negativity?
Kevin: As you know, Jason was cut in the first round during the groups segment, but he’s received a ton of offers for appearances in and around town. His family is helping him out with the bookings, and he’s enjoying it. I, myself, have made a couple of appearances, and I’m currently working on a project with Jason and will hopefully have a CD put together with our collaborations, so its going great right now.
M.R.: Other than Jason did you meet any of the contestants (good or bad) that we may have seen on TV? Can you get me Allison Schoening's phone number? Or maybe Cierra Johnson?
Kevin: No. No. And umm no.
M.R.: What kind of things are coming up for you in the near future? Any plans to continue with a singing career?
Kevin: I’ve been singing with my band, Jellybird, for over a year and since then, the band has had an offer to play at my upcoming high school reunion as well as other venues. Like I said earlier, I’m working with Jason on a couple of projects, and I’ve been invited to sing for an old high school friend of mine in Arlington. So if anyone out there is looking for a guest to sing for you, contact me at email@example.com
M.R.: Many Idol fans on the Idol message board, as well as on the American Idol usenet newsgroup, thought that you didn't quite get a fair chance, especially in view of some lesser talented contestants that did make it through (Crazy Dave anyone?) What is your reaction to this?
Kevin: I don’t believe that I was being myself and that was one of several things that set me apart from the other potentials who actually made it to Hollywood (yes, even Crazy Dave). I walked in with a hat that had beer caps around it and I was wearing a mohawk. Had I came in without that hat and with a shaved head and had more energy, even though the Randy thing would’ve come up, my talent would’ve overshadowed it.
M.R.: In two words, tell us your thoughts about previous Idol winners.
Kevin: Kelly Clarkson: Bar Setter. Ruben Studdard: Soothing Charmer. Fantasia: Soulful Energy. Carrie Underwood: Southern Girl
M.R.: What do you think about the other contestants who moved on to the Hollywood rounds? Do you have any favorites as to who might win?
Kevin: On the girls side, I’d like to see Mandisa make it to the final four. She has awesome set of pipes. Also on the girls side, Paris Bennett. Not only does singing run in her family, but who knew for someone that small, that she could sing like that? She reminds me a lot of a younger Fantasia, so those are my picks for the girls. For the guys, my first choice has to go to my harmonica playing dawg, Taylor Hicks. His hair has already become a trademark and I believe that embodies what true southern music influence can bring to show like this. My second choice would probably go to Will Makar, just because he’s from Texas. Hey, gotta represent.
M.R.: What advice would you give people who are considering auditioning for Idol next year?
Kevin: Practice now and study up on your music. Also take voice lessons and if possible record the episodes to study the songs they’re singing as well as their stage presence and other factors. But most importantly, if or when you audition, prepare for weather conditions and just have fun!
M.R.: Will we see you auditioning next year?
Kevin: Now what kind of a question is that? Of course I will!
M.R.: Now that you've been on national television, are there any words of wisdom that you'd like to put out there for everyone in the world to see?
Kevin: Practice, practice, practice. Be yourself. Have fun and enjoy the experience. Dawg.
Thanks a bunch to Kevin for being so candid and going into such depth. Musical Ramblings will be rooting for you for future success! Keep in touch with me!