Positive Celebrity Exclusive: Jonny Brenns shares his inspiring journey on American Idol
When American Idol debuted in the U.S., it revolutionized television and the dreams of aspiring talent all over the world. FOX ran a successful 16 seasons before it premiered its “farewell,” season on January 6th, 2016. The farewell shocked many, and shattered the dreams of those who wanted to turn their passion for music into a successful career by auditioning and creating the possibility of that incredible reality. Luckily, American Idol moved into its new home on the ABC television network on March 11th, 2018, and many dreams were reborn.
The American Idol bus traveled from Portland, Oregon, to Orlando, Florida, in its pursuit of fresh talent, covering 23 cities across the country. Many talented people lined up outside, practiced, met new friends and kept their fingers crossed while waiting to audition in front of iconic judges Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan and Katy Perry.
That’s where it all started for Jonny Brenns. The 18-year-old singer and songwriter told his parents he was gearing up for a college test. But in reality, he spent twelve dollars on a Greyhound ticket and traveled from Boston to New York City in hopes of potentially becoming the next American Idol. He couldn’t have made a better decision because, with incredible excitement, he accepted a golden ticket, sending him on to the competition in Hollywood, California. After making it past grueling and heartbreaking cuts, Brenns, standing proud at 6’5”, remains in the running to become the next American Idol.
Jonny Brenns is now in the top 24. We were able to catch up with him among his incredibly busy schedule, as he prepares to blow us away with his duet with Andy Grammer. Brenns shared insights with us from the first moments of his journey. We wanted to know what he was feeling on the bus on his way to audition. He was definitely “excited.”
“The ride there was pretty normal, I’d say. It was a little weird, though. I was kind of excited, but at the same time I was feeling a little unsure because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t want to get my hopes up if I had no chance of making it. But on the way back from auditioning was weird because then I had the American Idol sticker on my guitar case and people looked at it long enough to see it and they’d ask about it. I told them ‘Guys, less than 24 hour ago I was sitting in this room with these judges and doing all this stuff and now I’m going to freakin’ Hollywood! This is great!’ And, of course, nobody knew, so it was kinda funny.”
Could you imagine what it felt like to stand in front of three judges you admire, with just yourself, your guitar and vocal cords? And in Jonny’s case, he was fighting off a cold, so it was that much harder. The heat was on and all eyes and ears were on him as he began to perform his original song “Blue Jeans,” but he wasn’t expecting his audition to air on television.
“That was pretty weird, it was strange. It felt like a personal moment. You know cause it’s yourself in the room with the judges. Although you have the crew there, there’s not millions of people watching right at that moment. When it came on TV, at first I felt like my privacy was exposed in a way. I was like ‘Wait guys, this is like… I know I messed up there but I didn’t realize all you guys would hear it.’ When I got over the shock of it, it was a very weird experience, but it was pretty cool because people were really really positive and gave me better feedback than I originally gave myself.”
“You’ve got a face like Chet Baker. Very good-looking.” Luke and Lionel began laughing as she interrupted, further explaining her thoughts, “But there’s a thing, okay, there’s this sweet little sexy thing you’ve got going on.” Giving Jonny that second yes he truly deserved.
Luke Bryan wanted to see how high he could go, and asked him to push a little more and “dig in,” with the Michael Bublé song “I Wanna Go Home.” He told us just how much he loved being pushed.
“Honestly I love being pushed, that’s where I learn the best. And, you know, in any art in my life, that’s where I’ve learned the quickest, so I’m game for it. It’s been interesting because I’ve never been pushed with music. Even when people tell me to do something different with singing, I’m like ‘Well.. very good point and that’s right’ but I’ve never really been given any pointers because nobody around has been of such a high-caliber or had enough experience that they are able to be like ‘Well actually do this or that.’”
Inspiration comes from going out of your comfort zone. And American Idol tends to push talent above and beyond. Brenns told us about the “faith and trust” they put in him and others within the competition.
“I would say the biggest thing about American Idol that’s been inspiring for me, honestly, would be the way the judges interact with us. The faith and trust they put in me and the belief they have in me is pretty cool because I think they have this ability to see through all the garbage that’s all cluttered in front of them, that’s maybe shrouding the ‘true star,’ and they see through the mess ups and the nerves and see what could be and they really help me see it as well and help me work harder. And each step of the way, each round they say ‘yes,’ and send me through, it brings the dream a little bit closer and closer. It makes me work harder because I realize that this can really happen, which is super cool.”
The judges, the contestants, they all work really hard. There’s no stone left unturned when it comes to the competition. And that’s why it’s so important to remember what you learn during and after the competition.
Jonny Brenns is not only a talented singer and songwriter. He’s incredibly inspiring in general. And he really wants to keep those positive vibes flowing by sharing what he has learned thus far into the competition and what he would want those who didn’t make the cut to know, as well as anyone considering auditioning.
“I would say don’t overthink it, for sure. Along with that, you have to prepare. You have to find the balance of bringing your best and preparing enough to know you can give it your all, but not to necessarily get into your head thinking ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh this is the end all be all’, cause it’s not. The thing is, for my first audition, what I would say I would regret the most is that I did go into it like “Ahh, whatever.” And, you know, I didn’t get into my head and it was great. I didn’t over think it, but sometimes I under think things, and I should have approached it with more time and preparation. I think that my under thinking could have easily, easily ended my journey.”
“I would want to collaborate with John Legend. The reason is because I think John Legend’s writing is incredible. His voice is beautiful. I love the way he’s mixed up the newer sounds with the straight up ghetto. And so, off the bat, he would be so dope to have as not just a connect, but as a friend, because obviously he’s musical, but he’s a really cool guy and has a really good heart. Fingers crossed on that one.”
Jonny Brenns also has a huge heart. When we asked him what charity he would love to work with, he spoke to us about and how important it is to incorporate it into your life. He was just 14-years-old when he started to donate to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“One charity, and it’s a little out of left field, is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I actually donated to them when I was a lot younger. I was like 14. And so I get letters from them, regularly, and it’s come to have a special place in my heart. I actually have younger siblings. The idea of them going missing or being exploited and not being found is insane, so, If I could give money or help other people give money to find other kids, that would be pretty cool.”
He also talked to us about another charity that’s especially close to his heart.
“I would probably pick Fresh Eyes. There’s a shelter on skid row in downtown Los Angeles, which provides clothing, haircuts, meals, shelter and more to thousands of people in the LA area. It’s funny… one of my mom’s favorite artists, Andy Grammer, is really big into charity work and he actually filmed a music video there and so it’s kind of a place that I one day would love to go to and do some work.”
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how old you are or what you do for a living, charity is important and powerful. It’s great to hear that he cares so much about others in the world. When you turn on the news, it’s common to see tragedy, especially the shootings where families have lost loved ones. We asked Brenns what he felt in his heart about current events and tragedies. He opened up about the importance of grieving and taking action when we are ready to make a difference.
“I would say number one, when a tragedy happens, whatever it may be, the big thing is to know it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to feel something and to be weak for a while. I think it’s neglected sometimes because we wanna take action immediately. We neglect ourselves a little bit because we wanna go ‘do it,’ and then we never fully grieve. And along with that, just a call to arms is so amazing. As well as believing you can actually make a difference. When you lose a loved one, and I’m talking more in a way that could have been prevented, and less a natural disaster, more of a shooting… your loved ones shouldn’t die in vain. It’s good to know that you can make it worth it and do something. Everybody, no matter how young, who they are, guy or girl, young or 80-years-old, has the power to do it. It’s just a question of actually doing it.”
I shared about how I lost someone in the Las Vegas shooting, which wasn’t easy, but Jonny Brenns was more than comforting, sending his condolences and a reminder about being positive, because hate doesn’t heal.
“That’s a big part of it. Obviously, it’s such a complex issue, a constant feed of negativity and a constant atmosphere of negativity in general and then it’s like ‘I hate myself,’ or ‘I hate others,’ ‘I hate that guy’ or politics or whatever. It just breeds violence. It breeds discord. It always results in violence. You’ve got to start with positivity. It can do some crazy, good things.”
He’s right. Staying positive can change lives, help you take action and make a world of difference. Being positive and having the right mindset tends to make people happier. We really wanted to know what makes Jonny Brenns smile, because we all have that “happy place.” He shared about his “relax day,” and finding that that’s when he is most content.
“I would say, as cliché as it sounds, when everybody around me is chilled out. When there’s no stress and it’s kind of like a relax day. That’s probably when I’m the most happy. I mean, I’m a chill guy, I can also kind of see through people and see when they’re really, really stressed out and then that kinda makes me bummed too, cause I’m like ‘Let’s have a good time.’ But when it’s kind of a universal sort of ‘good vibes everywhere’ sort of deal, it brings me the most joy.”
Jonny Brenns is full of life, talent, love, and he is ready to take the stage again on ABC for The Top 24 solo performances, and Top 24 celebrity duets. Stay tuned, because he’ll be doing his solo performance on Sunday, April 8th, and performing “Back Home,” with Andy Grammer on Monday, April 9th.
Huge shout out to Jonny Brenns, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, the American Idol crew, and all the other contestants. You’ve done an amazing job and are growing in more ways than you could imagine. You all inspire those of us watching to follow our dreams and never give up hope.
That’s what American Idol represents… following the American dream.
Who do you guys think will be the next American Idol? Sound off in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.
[ All images are credited to American Idol and Jonny Brenns ]
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Jonny Brenns getting his American Idol on!