AMHERST — Alex Preston Philbrick, a self-proclaimed band nerd from Mont Vernon, is turning heads on this season of “American Idol.”
On Tuesday, the season 13 Idol contestant was back home performing at Souhegan High School before flying back to Los Angeles today.
Philbrick, a 2011 Souhegan graduate, had some words of wisdom for the student body, who had the opportunity to hear him perform some original songs.
“If you have a dream, well, you only live once. I know that sounds cliche,” said Philbrick, 20. “Why wouldn’t you go after something you love?”
Philbrick admits that he never envisioned the type of success he is experiencing or that he would be able to hang out in Los Angeles with Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry, former “American Idol” contestants returning to the show as mentors this season.
In high school, Philbrick was in the jazz band and pop band, and performed locally with the band Undertoe.
“We weren’t good,” said Philbrick, joking at his own youthfulness. Still, Philbrick says he wanted be a musician and he went for it, recently auditioning online with “American Idol.”
The songwriter and performer plays about a dozen instruments, but apparently feels most comfortable behind the guitar. He has already impressed “American Idol” judges with his own work, and is expected to again perform an original song on tonight’s show.
The instant fame has Philbrick a little puzzled, as he acknowledges his stage presence may be slightly clumsy.
“Excuse my severe awkwardness. I am sure if you have seen me on TV, you know I am awkward,” he told the students.
But there is nothing awkward about Philbrick’s musical talent or his ability to entertain a crowd. Decked out in a black T-shirt, dark jeans and converse sneakers, Philbrick easily wowed the Souhegan audience with his laid back, casual character topped off with unbelievable vocals.
Although Philbrick apologized for some vocal strain, there was nothing apparent in his voice except strong passion for what he loves to do most — perform.
During a recent sushi run, Philbrick said he was noticed — for the first time — as an “American Idol” contestant, which he admits was a little strange.
“Really, though, I am not cool,” he said before allowing students to jump up on stage with him for a photo shoot. Philbrick claims that some of his songs actually “suck” but that songwriting is great therapy for him since he sometimes hesitates to talk about his feelings.
Before Philbrick’s performance, the New Hampshire Union Leader had a few moments to catch up with the “American Idol” contestant who seems to become more popular each week as the show progresses in Hollywood.
“It is good. It is a lot of fun so far. I am excited for the last round of Hollywood Week to air. It is my own original song,” said Philbrick, who is expected to perform “Fairy Tales” tonight.
He said the “American Idol” experience has been amazing, describing it as an educational opportunity of a lifetime.
“You get to meet all of these people who are doing the same things as you and have the same dream as you,” he said, admitting it has been a little overwhelming and even more tiring.
“We didn’t get much sleep at all. It is one of those things that is all worth it in the end,” said Philbrick.
He is very thankful for his support network and his fans — especially those in New Hampshire.
“That is what is keeping me going. … I am not even doing this for myself anymore,” he said. “I feel like I am doing this for everyone supporting me. Hopefully I can keep it going and make everyone proud.”
Souhegan Principal Rob Scully says the high school community is proud of Philbrick and his accomplishments. Regardless of where he goes in life, Philbrick has provided a great message to future Souhegan graduates to work hard and pursue their dreams, Scully said.
“This is one of our own coming back, and we are so thrilled to have him here,” said Scully.
At least three Souhegan students — Stephanie Jewett, Amber Johnson and Brianna Morley — say they are big fans of Philbrick, who they believe could be the next American Idol.
“He is amazing. He is not like everyone else,” said Jewett. Johnson agreed, saying Philbrick’s uniqueness will help him stand out in a crowd of really talented musicians.
“Personally, I love his hair,” said Morley, a sophomore.