The public has been fascinated with reality-based TV talents ever since things kicked off in the 1940s with shows such as Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. To sit in your living room and take a look into the private persona of individuals that could fail miserably or become the next heralded champion, is the ultimate voyeuristic indulgence, and so far, it hasn’t slowed down.

But it took New Zealand producer Jonathan Dowling to reignite things in the late 1990s with the re-focused music-based show called Popstars. Popstars placed singing competitions back into the mainstay of commercial television. And from there it took off like a wildfire. Simon Fuller used the format to create his mega popular Pop Idol series, and it has continued to be utilized successfully for several other shows throughout the world.

And while I personally never followed any commercially clotted show that praises vocal talent over original composition, millions of Americans would tell me to go stuff it in my hat. Actually, a few already have. Try telling the mother of any girl in a singing competition that trying to make it through televised battle is risky at best and see what happens. But, right or wrong, shows such as Star Academy, X-Factor, The Voice, American Idol and the latest American craze (that I am aware of), Rising Star, have been more successful than anything I could think of on the boob tube.

The genre continues to thrive, and many who have performed have become stars in their own right. Pop purveyors such as Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson have continued to sustain superstar careers, and the list of talent winners keeps on growing.

Former Long Branch resident Audrey Kate Geiger is a singer that could very well join that growing list of talents. With a voice that couldn’t help but stand out, Geiger has done nothing but offer originality, and it had taken her through nine highly visible weeks on Rising Star. Actually, I couldn’t believe she got as far as she did. Her steadfast uniqueness and refusal to change in an industry that thrives on creating cut-and-paste carbon copies puts Geiger in a special, albeit precarious arena loaded with droves of new and forward-thinking fans.

I had a chance to speak with Audrey about her televised experiences before her solo spot and subsequent participation with Tony Tedesco and Full Fathom Five at The Saint last week.

Your background is in acting, how did you become involved with music?

I’ve always loved to sing; I’ve always had a passion for music and performing in general. I moved to New York City and started going to acting school but always kept my music growing on the side, playing with Tony Tedesco [Full Fathom Five] and doing some solo work in the city. Still, people ask me what I prefer, acting or music, and the truth of the matter is that I love them both; so it’s a tough question to answer at this point.

What led you to the ABC talent show, Rising Star?

I have management that sent me out to this audition and honestly, this was just one of the three or four auditions I do a week. Anyhow, I read the synopsis and I loved it, and went to audition in front of the producer and then off to Los Angeles for callbacks and then back out to L.A. in June. It was a fast process.

You have a smoky, Billie Holiday vocal quality in a world of Auto-Tune pop divas. What was the reaction when Ludacris and Brad Paisley first heard you?

I think the first time Ludacris heard me singing he described me as “hauntingly beautiful,” (laughs) which is just…I take that as such a compliment. And that’s what I love about Billie Holiday’s voice, and Amy Winehouse…there’s that soul for days on end. So to hear that reaction—and Brad Paisley took a real liking to me as well and always noted how unique my voice was—I just had so much appreciation. Brad wasn’t just interested in what the country people had to offer, and Luda [Ludacris] just loves music, and I gained so much respect for him. He knew every standard, everything that was in the book, and would make great song suggestions for us. So having that, and Kesha with her pop sensibilities, she’s like, so huge in the industry.

I like her…

Me too! She’s such a cool lady!

Don’t tell anybody I said that…

(Laughs)

Was there any animosity or pettiness between performers on the show or was it all love?

I know it sounds kind of corny, but it was all love. We were all so supportive of each other; you couldn’t ask for a better cast, and each week it just got harder and harder watching people go home because we really did care a lot about each other.

What was your most memorable part of this experience?

I have to say maybe my first time up there that first Sunday; it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. But the entire experience just got better and better. Like flying to Atlanta in the middle of the week to go see Ludacris and to get voice coaching from Josh Groban, who is such a classically trained singer. I mean, his voice just speaks for itself.

Throughout the hoopla of the competition, you seemed to remain grounded. Were there times when you just wanted to say, “I can’t believe this is happening to me?”

(Laughs) I had my moments, for sure, but it’s funny, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet? Or it just…feels natural the way it’s going. I mean, of course, each episode I knew that “I have to get past this, or I have to get past that.” I never would have thought I could have made it to the finals—that’s just insane. I mean, I got there, but I’m still in disbelief.

Were you comfortable with the songs chosen for you to perform?

I would say yes for the most part. “Stay With Me” [week three performance] was a song that I actually did not want to sing, but the producers were kind of all for it, and I kept calm and took their advice, and in the end it worked.

What did you take away from this competitive scenario that will benefit your career in the future?

It’s just kind of reassured what I’ve wanted to do since I was little, which is to be a professional singer and a performer. And being thrown into this competitive scenario…I was being told that I was standing out; you know, people were separating me from the rest, and that is what I was looking for. It’s what everybody is looking to find. So I learned to just be myself and that it will work out in the grand scheme of things.

Tell me about your involvement in the original music scene of Asbury and New York.

I’ve been playing with Tony Tedesco and the Full Fathom Five for a few years now, and we’ve played various rooms including The Saint quite a few times. [She’s also a featured vocalist on the 2013 release, Tony Tedesco And Full Fathom Five.] I’ve never done a solo show here [The Saint], which I’m quite excited about. I’ve sung at little jazz clubs in the city which will probably continue. I love playing with the band, and I’m looking to further that.

What’s next for Audrey Kate Geiger? Vacation, music or movies?

I love that! All three maybe? (Laughs) That would be ideal. I had a nice relaxing week when I got back from the coast and I would love to take a vacation, but I think it’s crunch time and I want to keep the momentum going, so it’s all about getting with writers, trying to do my own thing and just keep playing out and making music and gaining a following.

 

For more on Audrey Kate Geiger and where you can see this incredible talent next, go to her Facebook page at facebook.com/audreykateg also check her out on disc at tonytedesco.bandcamp.com.

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