Briley’s American Idol journey ends at No. 11

Ben Briley performing on American Idol

Ben Briley

MTSU Mass Communication alumnus Ben Briley almost made it to the “American Idol” top 10.

The 2013 public relations graduate had to sing for his professional life Thursday night, March 13, after judges criticized his live performance for a second straight week and audience votes left him in the reality show’s “bottom three” contestants. Even revisiting “Stars,” a song he’d sung twice before on the show, to try to convince the celebrity judges to save him wasn’t enough.

“I will not be outworked,” Briley tweeted about two hours after the show aired locally. “Look out Nashville bc when I come home I’m kicking doors in. Thank you all for the support and kind words.”

Briley offered a new sound in his live performance on Wednesday night, covering Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” and playing piano. Pegged as a soulful country-rocker in baseball caps and boots, the Gallatin, Tenn., resident appeared with slicked-back hair, a velvet jacket and a posh waistcoat to perform “Songs from the Movies” among the Fox reality show’s 11 finalists. The “American Idol” celebrity judges, however, were more concerned with his sound than with his new look, and the voting audience apparently had similar concerns.

“Let me tell you how tight this vote was,” host Ryan Secrest said Thursday night in the show’s final minutes. “.07 percent separated these last two (Briley and contestant Majesty Rose) in that vote last night.”

Ben Briley and his bride, Courtney.

Ben Briley and his bride, Courtney.

Unfortunately, the loss also marked the end of Briley’s “American Idol” connections for this season. The top nine finalists join the newly crowned “American Idol” winner for a national concert tour each year.

Secrest told Briley he would “have an incredible future,” adding, “You’ve been so fun to have on the show, my friend,” before showing a going-away video montage of the singer-songwriter’s adventure.

“We’re gonna miss him,” Secrest added as the episode ended. “A class act.”

Briley made an impression early in the season 13 competition, wearing a blue Middle Tennessee ball cap and belting out Amos Lee’s “Arms of a Woman” a cappella in his Atlanta audition last summer, leaving the judges agog.

“If you sang a capella on the radio right now, I would pull to the side of the road … I might crash my car,” Urban told a smiling Bailey after that audition, which aired as part of the Jan. 23 episode. “I just really love the sound of your voice.”

Briley and two fellow contenders, also country singers, called themselves “Backstreet Cowboys” and harmonized on the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” complete with a bit of boy-band choreography, on the Feb. 6 episode. He soloed on Grace Potter’s “Stars” that night, too, after initially performing it in a cattle-call performance in Hollywood soon after the auditions.

Ben Briley with guitar

Ben Briley

Briley wound up competing for the first time for an audience vote Feb. 13 when the judges couldn’t decide between him and another contestant to round out this season’s top 30.

“I just had a feeling I’d be here, the last one,” Briley, 24, murmured on the Feb. 13 episode, shaking his head. “It’s really my future, my career, here that’s on the line. … This show is the ultimate test to show how good a musician you are.

“I want to pursue a career in music because I believe I’m good enough where I can make a career out of it for the rest of my life.”

A taped montage of interviews and performance preparation during the Feb. 19 episode included a conversation with “American Idol” mentor and former judge Randy Jackson, who asked Briley about his musical heritage.

“It started with my great-grandmother; she was one of the first women on the (Grand Ole) Opry,” Briley told Jackson, referring to Kitty Cora Cline, who played dulcimer on the historic radio show from 1928 to 1934, “and my mom (Tribby Graves Briley) sings and plays. She was kinda the Taylor Swift of the ’70s.”

Briley then walked out live onto the “American Idol” stage and confidently boomed out the old Allman Brothers favorite “Soulshine,” showcasing his picking skills with an electric guitar solo.

“You’ve got a great voice,” Urban told Briley as the studio audience cheered that night. “I think that’s your strongest suit. And that’s gotta be the first shredded solo we’ve seen on ‘American Idol.’”

On the Feb. 26 episode, Briley paid tribute to Johnny Cash on what would have been Cash’s 82nd birthday with a raucous uptempo cover of “Folsom Prison Blues.”

“Every gig I’ve played, I’ve opened the show with it (‘Folsom Prison Blues’), and this is a gig, the start of my career, and this is how I wanna start it,” Briley said before that live performance.

Briley sang David Nail’s “Turning Home” March 5, fulfilling the week’s theme of “Home” in an appearance in the episode’s last half-hour that also featured footage of his Tennessee roots. Briley’s segment on the Jan. 23 episode also featured footage of him and his wife, fellow MTSU grad Courtney Sanders Briley, at home and outside Atlanta during the auditions.

Courtney Briley received her bachelor’s degree in recording industry in 2012, and the couple married shortly after Ben’s graduation. Ben repeatedly praised Courtney for her support of his musical career, explaining that she’d convinced him to audition for “American Idol.”

Briley’s talk of his wife and Tennessee, along with his caps, was pinpointed in his fellow contestants’ affectionate parodies in a behind-the-scenes video that aired during the March 5 episode. Connick also often teased Briley with the nickname “Brother Gumbo.” TLE

Thank you to MTSU News and Media Relations’ Gina Fann.

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Categories: Alumni, News

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