Sam Woolf learned tonight that following a fun, exciting journey on national television he would not be crowned the next “American Idol.” The Bradenton singer-songwriter gave a gutsy performance of Imagine Dragons' indie rock power ballad "It's Time" before being embraced on stage by his fellow contestants at the end of the episode. The remaining four finalists on the Fox singing competition show determined by public votes are Jena Irene, Caleb Johnson, Jessica Meuse and Woolf’s good pal Alex Preston.
Woolf began his rise to the Top 5 with an audition in Boston last summer while taking a summer course at the Berklee College of Music. Accompanying himself on guitar, Woolf impressed the judges – Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr – with his performance of Ed Sheeran’s song “Lego House.” The episode aired in January.
The senior at Braden River High School continued to build his “Woolfpack” fan base through February but by the end of March he found himself among the bottom three vote-getters. In what still remains the most dramatic moment of this season's “American Idol,” Woolf stayed alive April 3 after being rescued by the judges. Eliminated by the voting public, the Bradenton teenager had one last chance to impress the celebrity pundits and earn their sole save of the season.
Woolf, visibly nervous, won the judges over with a performance of David Gray's pop-folk ballad "Babylon," the same song the local contestant chose to perform during an earlier episode of “Idol.”
“That was crazy,” Woolf would tell the Herald-Tribune during a phone interview. “I just thought, Screw it, I’m just going to sing my best and not worry about moving around or anything else.”
The Bradenton resident's most impressive performance on "Idol" took place Feb. 12. Host Ryan Seacrest talked about how most of the singers performed cover songs and the ones who opted for originals were not so fortunate.
“Choosing to play an original was my first instinct," Woolf said, at once bashful and sincere, to the national TV audience. “I knew it was a risk but I’m just going to go for it."
“I’m going to be playing an original song and, ah, I wrote it when my mom moved away a few years ago and I just wrote how I felt during that time so I hope you guys like it,” Woolf said of his song "I Tried."
Singing solo while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, the teenager performed a tuneful, gripping ballad about overcoming the pain of abandonment. The judges, all three, were clearly moved and gave glowing reviews.
Woolf will be singing at venues across the country this summer along with the other Top 10 finalists of this season's "American Idol." The tour includes a July 17 show at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. Tickets are priced at $55-$105 and go on sale at 10 a.m. May 9. It's the first of four Florida dates including a July 18 show at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
Although Woolf didn’t become the next “American Idol” he’s a gifted singer-songwriter, a bashful but sweet and sincere young man who should be a pleasure to follow for many years. After spending the summer touring with “Idol” he seems poised for launching a solo career focusing on his original songs. Woolf has reportedly already recorded an album’s worth of material at the Del Couch Music Education Foundation in Palmetto. There should be many members of the nationwide Woolfpack eagerly awaiting this release.
For interviews we conducted, videos, photo galleries and reviews of his performances on "Idol," visit our Sam Woolf page
Here's what Woolf performed Wednesday (read the review):