Caleb Lee Hutchinson on the Best Advice He Received on ‘American Idol’

Caleb Lee Hutchinson was instilled with many words of wisdom during his tenure on American Idol. But one comment in particular stands out among the rest. Hutchinson competed on season 16 in 2018 when Idol returned to TV after a two-year hiatus on its new network home of ABC. Though the then-18-year-old went into the audition room with limited expectations, he ended up placing second that season behind winner Maddie Poppe.

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While he was impressed with all the judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, the Georgia native says that it was Richie who gave him the best advice. “He seemed to get it the most,” Hutchinson tells American Songwriter. “He would always say things along the lines of, ‘Your voice is who you are. Whatever you sing, it’s you,’ which I think is the lesson I’ve carried over.” The singer says he’s applied this wisdom to his post-Idol career, particularly with his new album, Southern Galactic. Produced by alt-pop star Titanic Sinclair, the album finds him blending his southern twang with a futuristic sound. But true to Richie’s word, Hutchinson observes how he’s country through and through.

[RELATED: Caleb Lee Hutchinson on ‘American Idol’ & New Album ‘Southern Galactic’]

“It always sounds country whether I want it to or not,” he remarks of his sound. “So that’s that’s my blessing and my curse. I think that was the big takeaway [on American Idol] is I always sound like me even if I’m trying not to.” Adding that meeting Richie was “the coolest thing from that whole experience,” Hutchinson says that being a part of the wildly popular show was an eye-opening experience to all facets of the industry.

“I got to meet a lot of people and and see people at the top of the whole thing that were still really down to earth and nice and encouraging,” he explains. “It was very encouraging to see people that were so successful and still such good people. I think that’s the thing I’ve kept with me the most on the positive end.”

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

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