After American Idol, Wareham's Teddy Mathews keeps focus on career
When Wareham's Teddy Mathews auditioned for American Idol in New York City last fall, judge Lionel Richie told him: "Aptitude plus attitude equals altitude."
"No matter what happens with everything," the 2015 Wareham High grad elaborated, "as long as I stay positive and keep moving forward with what my passion is, I'll succeed."
After spotting him with a golden ticket to Hollywood during an American Idol promo that aired during November's American Music Awards, the community held its collective breath waiting for Mathews to appear on the show, which premiered on ABC in early March.
Ultimately, it was not to be. Other than a few shots of Mathews cheering on the other Idol hopefuls in the audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, viewers never got to see him.
Mathews was initially unable to share details about the competition, but on Monday evening, as a taped broadcast showed judges eliminating contestants and sending others on to the next round, Mathews hosted a live video chat on Facebook and Instagram to give his fans the lowdown on the experience.
"The whole process was very validating in the sense that, you know, I got my golden ticket to Hollywood," Mathews, 21, mused. "I was one of 100 out of like 300,000 people who auditioned."
It began in September on the Boston Common, where the show's producers vetted thousands of singers. After that audition, Mathews was invited to Chicago for another round. He had to be there two days later.
Mathews scheduled the last flight flying out of Boston on the day before he needed to audition. But he ended up getting stuck in traffic due to a shooting on I-93. He headed to Chicago the next morning -- on no sleep. But it didn't matter.
"Nailed it there, too," Mathews said of the Chicago audition.
There, he got his pass to perform in front of judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Richie. He chose to audition in New York City.
"I sang this old soul song called 'A Change is Gonna Come,' by Sam Cooke," he explained. "I actually went in with my guitar intending to play it, but decided to use their accompanist," so he could focus on his singing.
And, to use his words... he nailed it there, too.
"Got three 'yeses,'" he said with a smile. "The judges really liked me."
They really liked him.
"Luke Bryan was really obsessed with my hair," Mathews said. "I had it...into my quiff, as Katy Perry called it."
Bryan asked for styling advice.
"I said, I've got all my hair supplies out in the back. I can hook you up," he recalled.
Perry said he was "infectious."
"'You know man, you just glow. You just glow,'" Mathews recalled Bryan saying. "He said if I don't make it out in the music industry, I'd make a really, really good game-show host."
And so, Mathews got his golden ticket to Hollywood, where he traveled in January. The contestants stayed in the Roosevelt Hotel. When they walked out the front door, Mathews said, they were standing on the Walk of Fame.
The next round of the competition, during "Hollywood Week," had contestants taking the stage one by one to sing in front of the judges. Mathews chose Usher's "U Got it Bad," hoping to show the judges "finesse."
"I feel like it was a really, really, really strong performance," Mathews said. "I felt that I was giving them everything they wanted to see."
What happened next was surprising.
"Believe it or not, they cut me right after I did that performance. So, that was it for me," he explained. "When I was on stage and they announced my name for that elimination, there was an audible gasp" in the theater.
Mathews can only speculate about the reasons why.
During his first audition before the judges, Perry made the comment, "it's very clear that you can hit all the notes, but you don't necessarily have to always hit all the notes," Mathews recalled. "Which of course, I agree with," he continued. "You don't have to be extremely 'extra' all the time. ... It's annoying."
Though he was disappointed, he is understanding of the process. He told his fans: "There's nothing to be sad about, trust me."
"I didn't have whatever they wanted to package to sell their show, basically, and because they didn't give [me] any feedback at that point, that's really all I can consider," he noted. "It doesn't make sense to me to stress about what it was, what I could have done differently, or what it was they wish they had seen."
He'd hoped to gain some exposure from the experience, but "it just wasn't in the cards."
"It's not the first 'no' I've heard," he said. "It won't be the last."
Mathews remains humbled by "all the love and support I was getting from everybody back home and just throughout my whole career."
"To put it bluntly, my goal was never to win American Idol. ... I always sort of wanted to go the more 'traditional' route," he said. "Just because, I feel like when you do well in shows like that, sometimes you get pigeon-holed" into being a certain type of performer.
And, he says, he's a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. He put his solo career on hold for the approximately seven months it took for the American Idol competition to shake out. Since the elimination, he and his management team have been "kicking it into high gear."
"I have a lot of really, really interesting prospects coming up," he said, noting that he is looking to better himself as a musician.
On his fellow American Idol contestants
Teddy Mathews said he met "so many really talented people" during his American Idol experience. He dished on a few.
Kay Kay Alexis is a fellow New Englander hailing from Nashua, New Hampshire.
"Kay Kay is absolutely amazing," he said. "We spent a couple of days together in Hollywood Week and got really, really close."
Alexis moved on to the Top 24 during Monday's episode.
Ada Vox, a drag queen who performed on a previous season of American Idol as Adam Sanders, has been wowing the judges with her dynamic voice.
"Fantastic," Mathews said of Vox. "Amazing singer."
Mathews said he also became close with 18-year-old Jurnee, who does not use her last name when performing.
"Jurnee is amazing," he said. "We harmonized together, jamming on some Mariah Carey songs in Hollywood."