Jesse Cline of Boyd County can thank the winner of Great Britain’s X Factor for his shot at fame on “American Idol.”
Cline, 19, an employee at the Racer’s convenience store near I-64 in Cannonsburg, said he had “a ticket to the front of the line” for this year’s auditions after competing in Disney World’s “American Idol Experience” while living in Florida last year. Cline came in second place and did not win the ticket, but his good friend and competitor, Sam Bailey, presented him the pass when she decided to pursue her chance to compete on X Factor.
“And she won! She is amazing. She’s a celebrity over there now,” Cline said earlier this week, noting his second-place finish did not entitle him to the pass. “She gave me the ticket. She could have given it to anyone.”
Cline, who was among the last graduates at the old Boyd County High School in 2012, said he was happy to have the front-of-line ticket when he went to the first round of auditions outside of Atlanta in July.
“Other people had to wait 12 or 13 hours like I did the first time I tried,” Cline said, explaining he was among the few who got to skip the prolonged waiting.
The initial audition, he said, was intimidating.
“You don’t say a word. You just sing. I was the last in my group to sing,” he said. “You have to sing while other people are singing at 11 other tables.”
Cline said “hours and hours of paperwork” followed the first audition and he was told he would receive an email telling him what would happen next. “A couple of months later I was in downtown Atlanta for the executive-producer rounds,” he said, noting the event actually had two auditions in store for him. The Boyd County teen said he was prepared with several songs and a nice guitar borrowed from an uncle.
“This was the first year they allowed instruments,” he said, explaining he played two songs with no accompaniment, and used the guitar for two other tunes.
“I was nervous, but it’s cool. It was a blast, man. I loved the cameras — I love attention,” said Cline with a huge grin, adding he was interviewed by Ryan Seacrest and handed his “golden ticket” to face a celebrity audition before Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. Cline said he put his faith in the song “Washed by the Water” by NeedToBreathe. The whole experience can be difficult to describe, he said.
“It is hard to remember. It’s weird how you get in that zone ... it is intimidating and you draw a blank, big time,” he said, recalling the chit-chat conversation with the celebrity panel before they told him to “just jump in.”
“I did my thing and they cut me off sooner than I thought they would. I didn’t even get to the chorus,” he said with a chuckle.
Keith Urban “did most of the talking” after they cut him off, Cline said, adding he appreciated what the guitarist and country music singer had to say about his brief performance. The audition was also far superior to his previous attempt at getting a shot on “American Idol,” he said.
“I tried in 2011 at Charleston, S.C. I sang ‘Stand By Me.’ They let me sing for about 15 seconds and said, ‘Bye-Bye,’” he recalled.
Cline said he is strictly forbidden from revealing anything further about his personal “American Idol” experience, and asks local fans to follow his progress as the show continues this season.
Regardless of where his music takes him, or what anyone else may say about his songs, Cline said the celebrity audition gave him a point of confidence he will carry for life.
“I know I stood in front of some of the best, and they told me I’m great,” he said.
Citing his times with a high-school band called Cloud 10, as well as contemporary jam sessions with friends who he describes as “having as much or more talent than I do,” Cline said he greatly desires a career in music.
“I think I refuse to do anything else. I want it to be my full-time job forever,” he said, adding his tremendous appreciation of the support he receives from family.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at