Christian Lopez, 17, of Martinsburg, W.Va., has not only heard those words “You’re going to Hollywood” once — but twice.
Christian auditioned last year in Pittsburgh for season 11 of the Fox singing competition. At that time, he had to perform for then-judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler — and won a pass to the mass auditions in Hollywood.
But because of the flu combined with a poor group performance, Christian was sent packing.
That, however, didn’t keep Christian from realizing what his short-stint on “American Idol” has done for him.
“I noticed what auditioning did for me last year here at home, regarding my band and music,” he said during a telephone interview. “It really was kind of a launch for it to go further.”
Christian, who is the son of Jamie and Lesley Lopez, is known locally for fronting his band, Christian Lopez & Joe Taxi.
So when the chance to audition for a cattle call this past June in Newark, N.J., came up, the Martinsburg High School senior said he had to take the chance.
“I couldn’t turn down that opportunity again, there was really nothing to lose, really,” he said.
After getting through the cattle call auditions, Christian had to also get through two preliminary auditions before he auditioned in front of the judges in September.
For season 12, Christian had a different set of judges to get by before being asked to Hollywood — Jackson, who was joined this year by country musician Keith Urban, best-selling artist Mariah Carey and rapper Nicki Minaj.
Walking in, Christian said he felt he was “100 percent” prepared.
“I felt like I had a really good outlook on how things needed to go,” he said. “I felt like I did pretty good.”
Christian performed two songs — Amos Lee’s “Arms of A Woman,” which is more of a ballad and let him show off his range, and “Gal Youngin” by JJ Grey & Mofro, which he said is “upbeat and more foot stompin.”
Although he was prepared, he does admit to a little nerves.
“It was definitely a lot more nerve-wrecking for me this year,” he said. “I had that pressure: ‘Am I going to get as least as far as I did last year?’”
Christian said it was “surreal” when he walked into the room to face the panel of judges.
“It was unbelievable to see them all there,” he said. “They seemed so much more famous for me this time because they’re more my generation.”
He sang both songs. He said Carey and Urban both loved his performance, Jackson was skeptical and Minaj told him no.
“Nicki was saying she couldn’t hear my voice in the mainstream world, in ‘the real world’ as she called it,” Christian said. “And Mariah said ‘What do you mean ‘real world’?”
Christian was then able to see firsthand the much-hyped arguing between Carey and Minaj this season. The arguing, he said, went on for 15 minutes with Jackson still on the borderline, until Carey was able to convince him to say yes.
“It was such a nerve-wrecking, long and painful audition,” he said. “It was just crazy.”
However, he did receive his ticket. And to make sure that the flu didn’t take him down during Hollywood Week, which was filmed during December, he said he made sure to get all the medications he needed before he left including Vitamin C.
Christian, of course, can’t give away what happens during Hollywood week, which is known to break even the most-determined “Idol” hopefuls.
But he was able to talk about how he prepared for the week.
“I really focused on putting 100 percent — not in the atmosphere on what’s going on in LA — just putting 100 percent into the song, which I really didn’t do last year,” he said.
Christian said there are “some big changes” when it comes to the Hollywood Week, and promises “a lot of airtime” when the show is to air in about a month.
So when it come to Hollywood Week, Christian said he wanted “to do what I learned I needed to do, which was just focus; and don’t buddy up too much because that can backfire and just look out for yourself ... and to remember lyrics, too — that’s really a big one.”
“American Idol” airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursdays on Fox
For more information about Christian Lopez & Joe Taxi go to www.joetaximusic.com or christianlopezband.com.