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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘American Idol’ with a view: Long-running singing contest comes to Coeur d’Alene

For Spokane’s Kaylee Goins, her journey to “American Idol” began on a lark.

The 25-year-old headed to the show’s open audition in Bellevue earlier this year at the request of a friend. She admits she didn’t really want to audition.

“She was like ‘Come with me,’ ” Goins said. “I was like, ‘No, it’s stupid. We’re not going to do that. No one ever makes it.’ But she needed a buddy and I thought it would be a nice trip. And it ended up turning into this, which is kinda cool.”

What’s kinda cool is Goins making it through the open auditions and past the producers for a chance to audition in front of “Idol” judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan at the Hagadone Event Center on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene on Sunday. During auditions Sunday and Monday, the judges will see roughly 70 hopefuls hoping to get their golden tickets to Hollywood. Goins and the other contestants have 90 seconds to make a first impression.

We can’t say until closer to airdate, probably in spring 2019, if Goins makes it to Hollywood. We can say that she was a little nervous about auditioning before the judges Sunday, but was mostly looking forward to getting feedback from Perry, Richie and Bryan.

“I think even if I don’t make it, I’m sure they’ll tell me something I can work on,” Goins said while standing on the dock at the event center, where the contestants were hanging out for the day on two of the Coeur d’Alene Resort cruise boats. “(The judges) are all amazing. Katy Perry’s voice is off the charts,” she added. “And of course Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie are phenomenal musicians.”

Goins moved to the area from Missouri about two years ago and works for a tech company. She lived in Coeur d’Alene for a few months, but moved to Spokane to participate in the city’s music scene and started pursuing music in earnest a year ago. She plays “all over” town, she said, including the Bartlett, the Red Room and the Observatory. She’s in one band called Bar Talk, and can be found most Sunday nights at Zola playing with Lazy Love.

She describes her personal musical style as Americana and blues. Just Sunday morning, she posted her first music video, for the original song “Until You’re Here.”

“Just to do it as a career, honestly, that’s all I want is to do music as a career,” she said. “I’ve always known that I want to make enough money to be comfortable and take care of my family, and make sure my nieces go to college. Stuff like that.”

On the boats, performers, their family and friends waited for their audition time. Production crews would pull them out for photos on the dock, or to the upper deck of the Spirit of Coeur d’Alene, which has been turned into a production space. Singers ran through vocal exercises on deck and strummed guitars. Families sporting matching T-shirts and signs shared stories, compared notes and offered up words of encouragement.

The biggest encouragement came from “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. At one point Sunday morning, the talked to the contestants gathered on one of the boats, gave a pep talk that elicited loud cheers from the crowd and took time to meet with contestants and their families.

“My role is to try and be there, before the auditions and after the auditions, to sort of put people at ease and make sure they’re comfortable, and provide as much sense of relaxation as possible,” Seacrest said. “But also to fire them up and let them know what to expect.

“I told them that we are very excited to be here. I’ve hosted every episode, and we’ve never done one from this area. I told them one of the most difficult things in our business is to have a door opened for them. They’ve earned the shot to have the door opened for them today, and now they need to go in there and do everything they can do, not think twice about it, not be careful about it, but really show the judges what got them to this point and leave it all on the field as they say.”

“American Idol” supervising producer Patrick Lynn, who has been with the show from its start on Fox in 2002 – it moved to ABC last season – said he loves to bring the show to all different kinds of communities. He remembers finding “Idol” winner David Cook in Omaha, Nebraska. He thrilled at holding an open audition in Buffalo, New York. When asked what brought him to Coeur d’Alene, he gestured at the view from the event center dock: “Look around.”

They had looked at places in Seattle and Tacoma, he said, and heard about Coeur d’Alene. “We hadn’t seen anything we liked yet,” he said. “So we came and saw it, and it was like ‘How can you say no?’ Seriously, this is one of those things we look for. We’ve never been to a place like this, and you can’t get enough of this. This is America.”

Coeur d’Alene is one of five cities hosting judge cuts this season, along with Denver, Louisville, New York and Los Angeles. For Seacrest, visiting different parts of the country is one of the high points of his job.

“I wish I didn’t have to leave. Yesterday I had a chance to relax, watch some football, and hang out outside in the beautiful air, and I wish I didn’t have to leave right away, but I got a little sliver of it,” he said. “We’re happy to be here. I think it’s going to give the show something fresh, something beautiful to see, and I’m happy that we can feature this great part of our country and the people who make it wonderful.”

And from at least once other aspect, day one of the Coeur d’Alene audition has been a success.

“I have seen quite a few golden tickets come out in the beginning of the day, which is a good sign,” Seacrest said. “We have been in cities where it’s three or four hours in and not many have come out, so this is a good thing so far today.”