Megan Michaels Wants You to Stay True to Yourself


Have you ever dreamed of being on American Idol? Justin got his start with the reality juggernaut, so its Executive Producer Megan Michaels stops by to discuss what makes a standout performer and just how easy it is to audition.

Megan Michaels has worked on American Idol for over 250 episodes since 2003. She is currently an Executive Producer on the show. To audition for next season, visit www.americanidol.com/auditions

Welcome to the tenth episode of Audition Secrets!

No compromises

Justin chats with Megan about the biggest mistakes she’s seen Idol contestants make. Her answer: “not being themselves.” Megan says you shouldn’t compromise who you are, and that not doing so is what makes you a true artist.

Justin remembers Idol producers being as interested in the story of the performer as they were in their talent. Megan highlights Scotty McCreery as a great example of someone who stayed true to their story and, in doing so, resonated with viewers across the country. The show is looking for real people with real dreams.

That special something

Justin relates the Idol audition experience to any audition experience: the show cannot exist without the performers, and that fact alone is powerful. Megan always asks herself, “Who do I want to see again?” If there is something special about a certain performer that makes her excited to see or hear more from them, she’s interested. And she may even remember them for a future season if things don’t immediately work out.

American Idol 101

Megan describes the process of auditioning for American Idol. It involves meeting a lot of musicians, locking into your inner voice, and not compromising who you are or what you’re intending to do. As Justin puts it, “no one else has lived your life or experienced the experiences you have.” Trust that. Own that. Lean into that.

Megan and Justin discuss what makes a good Idol judge. Simply put, it’s about bringing out the best in the performers and wanting the best for them.

Hollywood Week

Megan says Hollywood Week is hard work. It’s a job interview. She acknowledges that it can be overwhelming for some, especially since it’s a large percentage of performers’ first time on a plane, or to California, or both. Preparation, they both agree, is most important. “It’s the ultimate singing boot camp.”

One long set list 

The people who rise to the top don’t let the drama get to them. Megan says the most successful Idol contestants have a clear vision for their career and journey on the show. They demonstrate a real hunger for the opportunity. David Cook, winner of Season 7, once said that he thought of the entire show, from audition to finale, as a set list. It took him all the way!

Like a sponge

Whether you’re in Hollywood or in the final five, if you are able to absorb the experience and live in the moment, it will be incredibly valuable, no matter the outcome. Demonstrate gratitude to those around you — including your fans.

When Justin was your age…

Justin’s experience on the show was several years before social media took over, but the two acknowledge how it's completely revolutionized the American Idol experience for its contestants. The exposure you get, regardless of winning, is massive.

Winning isn’t everything

Megan shares the story of Alejandro Aranda, also known as Scarypoolparty, who was the runner up on the seventeenth season of American Idol. He has sold-out major music festivals. Just last week he went to #1 on iTunes. He has demonstrated that hard work really does pay off. And hard work is the name of the game! Even once the Idol season ends, winners and runners up must be prepared to hustle.

As André De Shields put it while accepting his Tony Award earlier this summer, “the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next, so keep climbing.”

People, Places & Things mentioned in this episode:

Audition Secrets: The Behind The Scenes Guidebook to Nailing More Auditions and Booking More Jobs
Scotty McCreery
David Cook
Scarypoolparty
Gabby Barrett
American Idol Auditions: in person or online!

Follow Justin at @justinguarini on all social media. Join our Facebook group and keep the conversation going!

Justin Guarini