By: Jacob Elyachar
Last year, Andrew De Leon stunned the America’s Got Talent audience with his astonishing audition in Austin, Texas.
His audition also marked the first time, Andrew sang in front of anyone, including his proud parents. Since his time on the show, the opera singer is hard at work pursuing a music career and preparing an album.
In part one of this exclusive two-part interview, Andrew talked about how he got into music and the first half of his journey on America’s Got Talent.
Jacob Elyachar: When did you first get into music?
Andrew De Leon: There was always music playing in my house, while I was growing up. When I was in second grade, I had an odd taste in music. I was very into Britney Spears. I did not know how I got addicted to her music, but then it turned into light rock and then, it turned into heavy metal and finally into opera. Right now, I am into techno music.
JE: Who are your musical influences?
ADL: I am very inspired by rock stars like Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Dee Snider and Alice Cooper. In the opera world, I am very inspired by Sarah Brightman. She was willing to take her music in a different direction.
JE: How did you get into opera?
ADL: I got into opera through heavy metal actually. (JE: Really?) I was watching a documentary about the history of heavy metal and how it came to be. I was really fascinated to learn that a lot of bands including Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Queen were very inspired by opera music and I thought that was weird because opera sounded funny to me. I always presumed opera as a fat lady with a Viking helmet but I changed my mind after I was introduced to that genre of music.
I looked up some videos on YouTube and from there; it snowballed into this obsession of listening to it. At that time, I had no interest in singing opera. But I started listening to it and started to sing along and catching on to the lyrics. Eventually, I found myself unable to stop singing all this music that I was listening to in the classical genre.
JE: How did you work up the courage to audition for “America’s Got Talent”?
ADL: I still do not know how I was able to do it. I look back on it now and think: “What the hell was I thinking?” “What if it went wrong?” It was a huge risk and for me being such a shy person, I thought that I was going to show myself: “Who I really am and what it is I like to do. I will know if they accept me and know if they don’t.” Fortunately, they did accept me.
Before the audition, I was not sure if I would go or not. But luckily, I had good friends that backed me up.
JE: “O Mio Babbino Caro” was your audition song. Why did you pick that aria as your audition song?
ADL: It was one of the first songs that I had listened to and it really caught my attention. It is my favorite aria and on top of that, it portrays so many different emotions: happiness, sadness and there is even a little bit of anger in it. I felt that the song gives you a chance to show lower registers, middle registers and high registers of your voice and I thought it was all around perfect.
JE: You received a standing ovation from all three judges and the Austin audience. What was going through your mind during that moment?
ADL: My mind was blown! I had no idea that was going to happen. From the very beginning, the idea of auditioning was not even a possibility. I just knew for a fact that the judges were going to hit their buzzers and everyone was going to boo me off the stage and I was going to be a joke. Then, I completely saw this opposite reaction that I was not expecting at all. There was not even a chance of hope for me. So, when it did happen, I almost stopped singing, just to start thanking everyone. But I had to keep singing.
Out of all of the judges, I was scared of Howard, the most. For them, to stand up and give me a standing ovation and receive their feedback on the performance was mind-blowing and it was one of those moments I will never forget. But at the same time, it was all going so fast that I cannot remember too much of it and it seemed like it almost ever happened.
JE: I want to talk to you about Vegas Week. How much time did you have to prepare for facing the judges again?
ADL: I did not have time to prepare for Vegas Week. Vegas was extremely stressful for everybody because there were so many acts waiting to perform for the judges and they were trying to get everyone in as much as possible. Some of the acts did not even get to perform.
I had to get up early, take a shower and get down there as fast as possible. The show was filming and there was not a lot of time to prepare. I had two minutes to warm-up backstage. (JE: Two minutes?) The show’s producers said that if you needed to warm-up, we will take you to a little room and you only have two minutes to warm-up. I had to take whatever they offered, but I was not comfortable with that time frame because I usually take about 30 minutes or an hour to warm up.
JE: Do you think that the time frame was a factor in your performance?
ADL: I think that was a part of it. There were other things that factored into the performance. The environment of Vegas Week was not as cheery as the Auditions, no one was excited anymore because the premise of this event was “You either made it or you did not.” There were people leaving the audition room crying and I was seeing that before I got on stage to face the judges.
JE: When Howie gave you the news that you did not make it to New York, what was going through your mind?
ADL: I was shocked actually. I thought maybe I still had a chance and that the judges would give me another chance and allow me the training I needed to really better myself but it did not happen that way and the producers caught my reaction perfectly. The only thing that was in my mind that very second was that it was all over, there was nothing left for me and I was not even going to continue singing after that.
While Andrew believed that his America’s Got Talent journey was over…. it wasn’t! Keep an eye out for part two of my interview.