"American Idol" hopeful Kimberly Carver says she's never seen a full episode of the show, and that's just another reason why we're rooting for her.
Carver, a 26-year-old English teacher at Guyer High School in Denton, will join thousands at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Friday to clamor for that glimmer of affirmation from the judges signaling entry to the next round and, therefore, the chance to slip delicious secrets to Rolling Stone in a cover story.
What's she got that all the other pop cream pies don't have? An acoustic-electric Martin named Basil, bilingual songwriting chops that silenced tipsy American students outside an ancient palace (we were there), and the words of Willie Nelson written on her heart. And when you hear her sing, you feel that chill of promise -- the kind that keeps Carver and all of us tuning in to watch "Idol," if only for a few minutes at a time.
Some trading card stats:
Recent buzz: Carver played the Idol 10 contest in Shreveport. She was among the 2005 winners of the VH-1 Save the Music-supporting Song of the Year international songwriting contest in 2005 (listen to "Call Me Again," the winning song, here) and plays parties and weddings. She's working on a demo to be finished by the end of the summer.
Years at the mic: Carver remembers performing in front of a crowd at 4 years old for a family reunion (in true Texas girl fashion, she sang a rendition of George Strait's "All My Exes Live in Texas" before she ever had a boyfriend.) She was in a band called Intercessor for 5 years, gigging sometimes 2-3 times a week.
Years on guitar: A grandfather taught her to play guitar when Carver was 11, though she notes she was 16 before developing serious interest. She amassed four years of piano lessons as well. "I'm definitely not Beethoven, but those years of theory and recitals have served me very well when I write," Carver wrote in an email.
Influences: Style, Ray Charles; songwriting, Willie Nelson; vocals, Lauryn Hill or Eva Cassidy.
And now, our chat with Kimberly Carver:
AT: What about the "American Idol" payoff makes you want to dress up for judges and sing other people's songs?
KC: Well, a very good friend of mine told me that success equals opportunity meeting preparedness. I feel that I've spent a good deal of my life preparing for the ability to play my music for a living. When asked when he might retire, Willie Nelson said, "Well, my life consists of playing my music and playing golf. Which one should I give up?" My goal is to be paid for what I love to do. I think "American Idol" is the perfect opportunity to show my preparedness, and I know that even if I don't make it past the first round, the outcome will be only success for me on a personal level. I don't feel that I'm risking anything by spending the day in the new Cowboys Stadium and feeling like I get to pursue a dream.
AT: Have you ever attended an "American Idol" watching party?
KC: I have never seen a full episode of "American Idol," but I have kept up with the outcomes of each season, as well as the overnight "successes" that have sprung from the show, like Bikini Girl and William Hung. I've also heard some wonderful talent on the show.
AT: Adam Lambert or Kris Allen?
KC: Adam. Definitely.
AT: We hear you taught yourself Italian by translating Beatles songs on guitar. Which of your songs would you suggest to an Italian that wanted to learn English by translating your songs from their native language?
KC: I think "Call Me Again", because I wrote it for a special Italian years ago. It's easy English, and I think the song itself has staying power.
AT: Name the coolest place you've ever played a song? Wink, nudge.
KC: I'd have to say it's a tie between Florence, Italy, or New Orleans. I studied abroad in Florence, and a big group of us sat outside the Palazzo Pitti one night playing guitars, drinking wine, and enjoying the beautiful summer night. The New Orleans experience was pretty cool too, though. I sang on a whim with some homeless guys looking for cash, and we worked up some great gospel songs and had a crowd gathering with the harmonies we had going. It was a very special afternoon.
AT: If you had to choose one "American Idol" contestant from any season to play you in a movie about your experience trying out for the show, winning, and being catapulted to stardom, who would you pick?
KC: Hahaha. Ironically, Kelly Clarkson. It's more likely that I'd play her, but I've noticed a few similarities between us. We both have the initials KC, we kinda favor each other a little in the face, and we have a similar vocal style. Our target audience would probably be pretty different, but I really respect her image. In every interview that I've come across, she is so normal, so humble, so ... cool. I think I'd like to work with her over all the others, anyway.
AT: Who are you standing in line with Friday?
KC: My best friend Joy. She is one tough coach. She's the one who will look me dead in the eye and tell me like it is. We've had a lot of fun getting prepared for the audition together. We plan on taking a copy of The Great Gatsby and reading it together to pass the time on Friday.
AT: Do you have an audition song and outfit planned?
KC: I am going to wear what I always do. If you can't sell yourself, you can't sell anyone else either. I think that while I have a definite style, I want to show the judges that I am malleable, too. I've chosen to sing "Georgia" for one of my pieces, because both Ray and Willie sang it, and they're my #1's. It's definitely within my chosen genre.
AT: What will be your celebratory drink if you make it to the next round? And what album would you listen to on the way home?
KC: I'm a Jim Beam woman. And if I make it to the next round, I'll probably be listening to some great salsa music to get me in the mood to dance the night away!
See Kimberly try out for Shreveport's Idol 10 here. Keep track of Kimberly's audition experience with us at Around Town on Friday.
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