There must be something unique about the style and skill of singers from the Lowcountry that’s recently charmed the audiences and judges of the popular television contest “American Idol.”
In 2012, Charleston-based singer-songwriter Elise Testone earned acclaim as a Season 11 finalist, which led her to be included in the American Idol Live! showcase last summer at the North Charleston Coliseum.
This year, Candice Glover, a young talent from St. Helena Island, dazzled viewers and panelists with her bold, booming voice and smooth delivery. She ended up winning the competition.
“I haven’t been able to really handle it all, really,” Glover says of her win. “It’s definitely very surreal. I think I know how Elise felt, being from South Carolina and going back to my home state.”
“I actually attended that American Idol Live! show at the Coliseum last year in support of Elise and all of them,” she adds. “Elise’s voice is like one that I’ve never heard before. She’s amazing, and I always enjoyed watching her, not just because she’s from my home state, but because she’s so good and her style is so different. I have no doubt that’s she’ll stay true to who she is, despite the pressure from people to be like the trendy pop stars or whatever. I want to be true to who I am like that, too.”
Season 12 champ
Glover, 23, beat fellow contestant Kree Harrison during “Idol’s” season finale on May 16 to take to top spot. Her journey to victory wasn’t a short one, though. Glover had already auditioned for the ninth and 11th seasons of the competition in Charlotte and Savannah, placing among the top 70 both times, but never quite making the final cut.
This year, she persevered.
“When I initially auditioned, I had a goal to try to make it to the Top 10, but I also had to try to prove it to myself that I was good enough and that I was an artist,” Glover tells Charleston Scene. “It wasn’t that I wanted to prove to the world that I could do it; I wanted to prove it to myself. I still can’t even believe that this is happening.”
Glover and 10 of her fellow contestants recently embarked on a 30-venue tour around the U.S. that will land in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami before concluding in Nashville, Tenn., on Aug. 31.
“Reality hasn’t quite set in,” jokes Glover. “I still have to call my parents and say, ‘Can you believe I’m in such and such city?’ Being from Beaufort and now being on a national tour — that in itself makes me emotional. I had no idea that any of this would happen.”
The tour, which partnered with the Melanoma Research Alliance in efforts to help cure melanoma, will stop at the North Charleston Coliseum on Monday. Glover and the other finalists will perform “favorite moments from the season,” as well as new material. The main goal is to offer “Idol” fans the opportunity to see their favorite singers up close.
In addition to Glover and runner-up Harrison, the roster includes Amber Holcomb, Angie Miller, Burnell Taylor, Curtis Finch Jr., Devin Velez, Janelle Arthur, Lazaro Arbos, Paul Jolley and Aubrey Cleland.
“It’s been amazing so far,” Glover says. “We don’t have to worry about competing against each other. It’s just about putting on a good show and getting pumped up about thanking people who supported us on the shows. It’s a way to say ‘thank you’ to the fans. It feels good to perform and get people up on their feet and get them dancing.”
Another S.C. star
As a native of St. Helena Island, there’s a great amount of interest in Glover’s “American Idol” experience in the Lowcountry. Many local music fans are proud of her success this year, and they’re eager to see what she’ll do next with her music.
Glover started singing with family and friends when she was a young child. Her favorite performers included Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin and Etta James.
As a teen, she got into fiery pop/soul vocalists including Christina Aguilera and Jazmine Sullivan.
While attending Beaufort High School in the late 2000s, she got hooked on watching and listening to the talents on “American Idol.”
“When I was 16, I saw Jordin Sparks on the show, and I started to get more serious about singing,” Glover says. “When I was young, I used to stand there with my hand in my pocket and my eyes closed when I sang, I had to learn to build myself up and engage with people. Now, when people say that I emotionally connect with them, I realize I’ve come such a long way.”
After high school, Glover spent two years studying at Technical College of the Lowcountry and the University of South Carolina-Beaufort while working at Fripp Island Resort.
On the side, she sang at Gilligan’s of Beaufort every week and dabbled in various talent shows and local events along the way.
“The Beaufort area is a beautiful place, but musically, I wanted to get out there and show myself,” Glover says. “I felt there was something bigger out there for me. I kept on trying, and it just happened for me. I always had the dream of having this as a career.”
As Season 12 winded down, Glover recorded her first official single, the emotive power ballad “I Am Beautiful,” for the 19 Recordings/Interscope label. The tune officially hit the market May 17.
This summer, she’ll put the finishing touches on her debut full-length album, “Music Speaks,” in Los Angeles with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, an acclaimed R&B/pop producer known for his work with Houston, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears.
The new collection is due out Oct. 8.
“I’m so honored to get the chance to work with Rodney,” Glover says of her producer. “He’s a legend. I’m glad that the album doesn’t come out until October because it will give me a chance to put my all into this summer tour and then put my all into supporting the studio album. There’s some work to be done, but I’m having the time of my life along the way.”
Glover will share some of her new material with fans at the North Charleston Coliseum show, including her single “I Am Beautiful” and a sunny pop track titled “In the Middle.”
She’s been collaborating with the Los Angeles-based/Savannah-born songwriting team known as the Jackie Boyz, consisting of brothers Carlos and Steven Battey, and producer Harvey Mason Jr. on new original songs for “Music Speaks,” as well.
“The writing process is so fun, and I’m glad to be getting into it more with these great songwriters,” she says. “I think this American Idol Live! Tour is preparing me well. I can sing all night long, but I get super nervous when it comes to talking. On this tour, you have to handle the crowd, so it’s been a healthy thing for me.”
Having to explore new musical genres during her “American Idol” adventure this year opened new areas to Glover as it forced her to expand her stylistic range and further develop her nuance and melodic sophistication. The experience also allowed her the chance to fine-tune her own personal style.
“I thought that doing stuff like Burt Bacharach and various genres from before I was even born would be some of the most difficult moments, but I just turned them into who I was and they turned out to be some of the best weeks for me,” Glover says. “I didn’t try to do things the way other people were doing them. I did that in previous seasons, but not this year, and it definitely worked best for me.”
The Top 11 will perform during the American Idol Live! Tour at the North Charleston Coliseum.×
Candice Glover appears on Season 12 of “American Idol.”×
Candice Glover is announced the winner of Season 12 at the “American Idol” finale at the Nokia Theatre at Los Angeles on May 16.×
Elise Testone performs on Season 11 of the singing competition series “American Idol.”×