If her airtime on “American Idol” is any indication, Jess Lamb is one contestant to watch this year.
Lamb, who grew up in Red Lion in Warren County, was featured for nearly five minutes – singing and playing “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, earning a golden ticket to advance to the Hollywood week competition by a unanimous vote and jamming with Harry Connick Jr. – on the second episode of the 14th season of the singing competition.
Connick Jr. called her “adorable” and “the definition of creativity.”
Judge Keith Urban said if he was sitting in a club and Lamb began singing, he would “stop, say, ‘hold on a minute,’ and you would hold my attention until you finished.”
While the Motown singer and songwriter can’t give details about how far she goes in the competition, viewers will get another opportunity to see her perform during Hollywood Week auditions, which begin airing Wednesday, Feb. 4.
Because she auditioned at 28, this is Lamb’s last chance to compete on “Idol.” She’s been gigging for years, playing with a band in Cincinnati and doing studio work. Lamb hopes her experience on the show will help build her fan base locally and nationally.
Lamb’s “Idol” journey began when she traveled to Columbus as part of the show’s bus tour tryouts last summer.
“It’s the process where you see people standing outside waiting. There were thousands and thousands of people,” she recalled.
From there Lamb, who began playing piano at 10, was selected to audition in Kansas.
“Kansas City was the most difficult part of the process. You go, show up and wait and wait for your name to be called. You hear everyone around you practicing and see these amazing, beautiful people,” she said. “From the moment you step in the stadium, you are on the show – they are filming everything, and you don’t really know what they are going to decide to use.”
Lamb had a sneak peak when “Idol” used her audition and impromptu jam session as part of its promotional materials for the season.
Lamb described watching herself as “surreal.”
“I felt like I was watching a character,” she said. “I do really like how they portrayed me. They could have shown me pacing around, nervous about auditioning, too.”
Lamb was surprised at how much time judges Connick Jr., Urban and Jennifer Lopez spent with each contestant.
“They take a really long time to listen to each person’s story. It’s a much more thorough process than you see on television,” she said. “I was in there for a lot longer than aired. The judges asked a lot of questions to get to know each person.”
Lamb, who was homeschooled, grew up singing and playing with her brothers and sisters in church. As she got older, her musical tastes grew, and she discovered a love for jazz, soul and Motown.
“It began as worship that turned into a hobby that turned into a job,” she said.
Want to hear Lamb perform live?
She sings in Cincinnati-area clubs, like Japp’s Since 1879 in Over-the-Rhine and Jag’s Steak and Seafood Piano Bar in West Chester, performing originals and interpretations of other artists’ music with her brother Kenny Lamb and bandmate Kasey Williams.
Visit www.jesslamb.com for a listing of upcoming shows.