Sam Woolf's post-'American Idol' plans include brief visits home

mclear@bradenton.comMay 3, 2014 

Sam Woolf's life has been a whirlwind over the past few months. That's not going to change now that the Bradenton teen's run on "American Idol" has ended.

"I'm flying home today," Woolf said Friday. "Then I'm flying out somewhere else on Sunday."

He was speaking on a conference call from Los Angeles. It's a weekly happening, arranged by the "American Idol" publicity people, that allows journalists from around the world to speak with the contestant who was eliminated that week.

Woolf was voted off Thursday, finishing in fifth place for season 13 of "Idol."

Among the interviewers on the phone Friday was a girl from Braden River High School, where Woolf is a senior. She was speaking from the school office; several other girls were audible in the background.

While journalists asked him about his musical influences and his favorite moments

on "Idol," the Braden River student wanted to know whether he was coming to his prom.

"Oh, I forgot all about prom," he said. "When is it?"

They told him the date and he said he wouldn't be able to make it. He'd already be back in Los Angeles rehearsing for the "American Idol" finale.

The Braden River girls moaned in disappointment.

Someone else asked him about graduation.

"I'd like to go," he said. "I'd like to be able to walk with everybody, but I just don't know. Hopefully I'll be able to."

It will actually be Saturday before Woolf makes it home to Bradenton on the red-eye. On Sunday, he heads to New York City, where he'll appear on "Live! With Kelly and Michael." He'll perform David Gray's "Babylon" and sit down and chat with the hosts -- his first talk show appearance.

(The show airs at 9 a.m. Monday on Fox.)

Woolf had performed two David Gray songs during his "Idol" run: "Babylon" and "Sail Away."

Woolf said he was very young when his father introduced him to David Gray's music, and that both those songs were among his father's favorites.

'Shocking twist'

Thursday's results show had included a last-minute new twist. If the five remaining contestants agreed unanimously, all five would stay for another week, and two would be eliminated next week.

Two contestants ended up voting to stick with the original format.

They had discussed their votes briefly, Woolf said, and at first agreed to vote to keep everyone on the show for another week, but then decided it was pointless. Jena Irene and Alex Preston ended up voting to stick with the one-elimination-per-week format. Woolf voted for the change, but already knew the vote wouldn't be unanimous.

"I thought the twist was dumb," he said. "I don't know why they did that."

He wasn't surprised that he got the boot Thursday. He had a sense that his performances on Wednesday's show weren't very strong.

After he got the news that he was voted off, Woolf sang "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons. Later on Friday, in a one-on-one interview, he said he felt especially relaxed during that performance.

"There was no pressure," Woolf said. "There was nothing at stake."

After he returns from New York, he'll be back in Bradenton for a few days. He probably will not return to his school for any more classes, but he will definitely attend Berklee College of Music in the fall.

After a few days in Bradenton, he heads back to Los Angeles to rehearse for the "American Idol" finale, which brings back the top 10 finishers.

Then the top 10 finalists will tour the United States in the annual "American Idol Live!" tour. It makes a stop at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on July 17.

His early supporters in Bradenton say they're eager to see him on the big stage.

"Who could have imagined that this attractive young man who is so talented would make it to the top five?" said Johnette Isham, the executive director of Realize Bradenton, which presented several Sam Woolf concerts around town.

Del Couch, who helps nurture young local talent through his Del Couch Music Foundation, said Woolf's success has motivated other foundation students.

"He's been an inspiration to them," Couch said. "He's a role model. He's shown them that with some hard work, anything is possible."

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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