American Idol has its own "country Post Malone" this season in the form of 26-year-old singer Dillon James. James' audition will be featured on Sunday night's episode, and many fans are hoping to see him advance to the next phase of the show. In the meantime, the clip of his performance is circulating online.
ABC released a video of James' audition on Saturday in preparation for this week's new episode of American Idol. The young singer-songwriter from Bakersfield, California performed a stirring cover of Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love," which had the judges in awe.
Dillon came in quietly to his audition, but it soon became clear why he was nicknamed the country music version of Post Malone. Judge Katy Perry took note of the sprawling tattoo on his chest, prompting him to live his shirt and reveal ink covering his entire torso. It turned out that the bodily mural was a biblical portrayal of Jesus Christ.
"It's just things that that I've picked up over the years," James said of his tattoos.
James admitted that he had a dark past, referencing "trials and tribulations with drugs and alcohol." He said that he was just trying to do better with his life each day, but there was no denying that the tattoos, the all-black attire and the towering cowboy hat gave him a distinct look.
The show took the time to cut away to footage of James at his day job. He wore a reflective vest and a hard hat as he worked with his father's asphalt company. He said that he feels "lucky" to have such a stable job at home, especially since he is still able to pursue music on his own terms. He hopes that American Idol will be the launching pad to take him to the next step.
James said that he thought his experiences gave a raw truth to his music that he hoped would help him stand out in the competition. With that, he launched into his song, which raised the judges' eyebrows at once. He played the guitar with soft, intricate finger-picking, and he sang with a slow, deliberate rhythm.
After he was done, James admitted that he was "really nervous," which took Perry by surprise. She said that his voice was "unusual," but she thought he had what it takes for the next part of the competition.
"You are mysterious," Perry said. "I'm intrigued. I mean, you have this kind of like, interesting presence, it's a bit like country Post Malone."
"I'm in — all the way!" agreed Luke Bryan.
"You're a preacher for sure, I'll go to the church," said Lionel Richie.
James' full audition will be included in Sunday night's new episode of American Idol, premiering at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.