Dillon James made an instant impression on the American Idol judges when he walked in to audition for the show’s 18th season. The 26-year-old from Bakersfield, CA is covered in tattoos, which Katy Perry asked to see before he started singing.
He then told his story, which is full of trials and tribulations. But James said he is now living a sober life, works construction, and has the support of his loving family.
After sharing a little bit about himself, James began singing “Make You Feel My Love,” a song that was written by Bob Dylan, originally recorded by Billy Joel, and made famous through covers by artists such as Garth Brooks and Adele.
The judges were amazed by James’ audition, and showered him with compliments. Perry even likened James to the rapper Post Malone, saying he was the “country Post Malone.”
All three judges voted to give James a golden ticket, and sent him on to Hollywood.
The Hollywood week saw a major shakeup in comparison to past season’s. Instead of having a group round, all of the artists sang solo. They also had to sing a song within a genre of their choice.
Funny enough, James didn’t pick the country genre. He opted to go with the singer/songwriter category, and performed yet another song of Joel’s.
This time, James opted to sing Joel’s 1977 song “Vienna.” In a 2008 interview with The New York Times, Joel stated the song was one of his two favorites in his catalog, with the other being “Summer, Highland Falls.”
“Vienna” was previously covered on Idol in 2012 when contestant Elise Testone performed it during a special Joel-themed week. James followed in her footsteps with his own cover, and created a memorable rendition.
Once again, the judges were impressed with James’ performance. They rewarded him with warm rounds of applause after he finished singing, and Lionel Richie could be heard commenting “Very good, very good.”
In the end, the judges decided that James deserved to continue on in the competition, and voted for him to advance to the next stage. Tune in below to watch the performance that helped him reach that point.
Idol called James a “Spiritual Cowboy” when it shared the video of his performance on YouTube, and we wholeheartedly agree with that description. You’re sure to feel the same after you watch him sing “Vienna.”