The pride of Sonestown returns home Thursday night. Or at least as close to Sonestown as the season nine American Idol tour is going to get.
That’s the evening the Idols visit the Giant Center in Hershey, with 17-year-old Aaron Kelly in tow, fresh off a fifth-place finish on America’s most-watched show.
But unlike most Idol contestants on tour, Aaron hasn’t been reprising performances from the show, choosing instead to perform country hits like “Walking in Memphis,” “Somebody Like You” (Keith Urban) and “Fast Cars and Freedom” (Rascal Flatts).
“There was a very limited list to pick from on the show,” Aaron explained Tuesday afternoon, while the Idols were preparing for a show at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. “Those songs, I didn’t think, represented me as an artist and the type of music I wanted to do.
“I’m a very country artist. I pursued country music before Idol. That’s the music I’ve always seen myself doing, so I decided to pick songs that, if I was going to come out with an album, these are the type of songs you would hear me do. I just picked songs that were very much in my ballpark.”
So far, so good.
On opening night in Detroit, his performance was labeled a pleasant surprise in a Detroit News review.
And if you want to sample some Aaron Kelly country, head to his MySpace page, where five songs are posted.
Aaron warns that they’re “rough recordings,” “work tapes” actually, but they’re also songs he wrote or co-wrote.
One, named “JennaLynn,” is about his sister, who lives with his biological mother. Anyone who watched Idol knows Aaron’s back-story — how he was raised by his aunt and uncle, whom he now refers to as his mom and dad.
Another of the MySpace tunes is “Hey, Hey, Haley,” a song he’d like to see on an Aaron Kelly album someday. He wrote it with Stephanie Chapman, wife of Nathan Chapman, producer for Taylor Swift. That’s Stephanie singing along with Aaron on the track.
“I do quite a bit of songwriting,” Aaron said. “That’s kind of another side of me that people didn’t know about (on Idol).
“When you write a song, it’s about your life and things that are actually happening. So it’s pretty much telling the audience your story. It’s pretty important to me for them to know my story.”
As for a debut album?
After the Idol tour is over, Aaron plans to move from Sonestown (in Sullivan County, between Williamsport and Scranton), rent an apartment in Nashville, make a demo of his songs and shop it around to music labels.
For now, he’s enjoying the Idol tour.
It’s not as though he isn’t used to performing live. He played festivals and fairs throughout Pennsylvania and credits that with helping him prepare for Idol at the tender age of 16.
But those shows weren’t on the same scope as an Idol summer tour.
Sunday marked his first show back in his home state, and Aaron said the Idols played before one of their largest crowds yet in Philly.
After Tuesday’s show in Connecticut, it’s off to New Hampshire for a show Wednesday night, then back to Pa. for the Hershey show on Thursday.
“It’s just really cool when you walk out there and you hear people screaming your name,” said Aaron, who’s now 17. “That’s a good feeling to know you have these supporters who watched you on the show and voted for you. That’s the most gratifying part for me.
“If I wasn’t doing this, I’d probably be sitting at home doing nothing. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
Note: For ticket information for Thursday’s show, as well as the Idols’ upcoming shows in the Baltimore and D.C. area, see the Idols in the Area section to the right.