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Local teen's journey on American Idol ends, but music career is ready for takeoff

Jessica Fuller • Mar 31, 2018 at 11:02 PM

Eighteen-year-old Brielle Rathbun left her Nashville American Idol audition Hollywood-bound with the coveted golden-ticket in hand during last Sunday night’s broadcast.

What followed, Rathbun said, was one of the most challenging yet rewarding weeks of her life.

The Johnson City teenager began her journey on the show with a quick audition in Asheville. Producers got in touch with her shortly after that to invite her to a televised audition in Nashville in front of the three celebrity judges for the season — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.

Although Rathbun’s audition was taped in November, the rest of the world didn’t get to see her audition until Sunday, in which she sang “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles and gave Bryan a quick dancing lesson before the judges passed her on to the next level.

It was a long day full of excitement and nerves, but once she was in front of the judges it all seemed to dissipate.

“I was so nervous all day long, they’re asking about your story, you’re sharing all these vulnerable parts of your life,” she recalled. “But the actual singing is the part that’s so comfortable and feels like home for me.”

Rathbun was one of 169 contestants who made it the next round of the show, dubbed “Hollywood Week,” which was the central point of an episode that aired on Monday. While viewers get samples of the week in a flurry of two 45-minute episodes, Rathbun said the reality is far from what people see on TV.

“It was two days of no sleeping and all work, but incredible because all the contestants are passionate about it, so we’re willing to give up sleep to be able to chase our dreams and work hard,” she said. “Only the strong survive something like that, so I’m excited for the contestants who made it.”

Rathbun said she made it through two rounds of Hollywood Week, a solo performance and a group performance, but was ultimately one of the 145 contestants cut from that round. She said she didn’t make the cut in the episodes either, but added that she’ll be posting some behind-the-scenes footage of her journey through the show.

Despite her journey on “American Idol” coming to an end, Rathbun said being on the show gave her unparalleled experience and tools for continuing her music career. In addition to singing, Rathbun said she also enjoys writing poetry, dancing and is a professional choreographer.

Rathbun is one of nine children, and her father, Jamin Rathbun, is a musician and the executive director of Trinity Arts Center in Johnson City.

Rathbun said all of his kids have grown up with an affinity for music and art, and described Brielle as a jack of all trades. She’s on the front line of organizing the arts center’s spring play of the Biblical story of the Woman at the Well, which will premiere in May.

“I’m just super proud of her,” Jamin said. “The ‘American Idol’ (experience) was a big thing, but I was proud of her before that for being a cool talented young lady who puts a lot of energy into helping others.”

Brielle said music and her faith have always been connected, and will remain connected as she moves forward with her music career. She said to expect new, original music from her soon, and will keep her fans updated through her Facebook page and Instagram account, @briellabelle.

“I feel totally content with the experiment, it feels like an amazing success for me and an amazing opportunity,” she said.

Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected] Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.

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