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American Idol: America Voted, Then What?

Revolutionary reality singing show American Idol opened the doors for an array of starry-eyed country dreamers.

photos - Bucky courtesy Lyric Street Records, Season 2 courtesy FOX, Casey James by Nino Munoz/FOX, Danny Gokey by Andrew Southam/Sony Music Nashville, Kellie Pickler by Kristin Barlowe/Sony Music Nashville, Lauren Alaina by Frank Micelotta/FOX, Phil Stacey courtesy Lyric Street Records, Skylar Laine by Michael Becker/FOX

Well before Keith Urban on American Idol or Blake Shelton on The Voice, Johnny Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon, was giving young and talented entertainers and models a chance to win $100,000—along with their big break on Star Search.

While band Sawyer Brown was the only country act to clinch a Star Search win, many others, like Billy Dean, Phil Vassar, Rissi Palmer, James Bonamy and, most famously, LeAnn Rimes, captured the attention of Nashville’s industry ears and went on to eventually sign recording contracts.

Revolutionary reality singing show American Idol opened the doors for an array of starry-eyed country dreamers.

Despite its very populist fan-voting concept, American Idol always had a reputation as being a show meant for “pop” singers even though the finalists in every season have represented a diverse cross-section of genres—including country. Though not all of the country-friendly contenders have soared to the same heights as Kelly ClarksonCarrie Underwood or even Scotty McCreery, they’ve all tried to carve out their own niches after being voted out. Here’s a look at the careers of a few of the country hopefuls, post-Idol.

Josh Gracin | Season 2

Signed to Disney’s now-defunct Lyric Street, Josh came out of the gate with hits like the No. 1 “Nothin’ to Lose” and “Stay With Me (Brass Bed).” He released two albums for Lyric Street, and his third album, Redemption, was released by Average Joes in 2011.

See what Josh is up to!

Carmen Rasmusen | Season 2

Carmen released the indie-label single “Nothin’ Like the Summer” and album of same title in 2007 but didn’t make much impact. These days, she writes a column for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

See what Carmen is up to!

Vanessa Olivarez | Season 2

Vanessa had moderate success in Canada with her 2003 single “The One,” before co-writing the song “Sugarland” on, yep, Sugarland’s album Enjoy the Ride. Currently she’s a member of rootsy duo Granville Automatic.

See what Vanessa is up to!

Bo Bice | Season 4

Initially a Southern rocker type, Bo scored gold with his debut album, The Real Thing, and released his more country-flavored (and most recent) album 3 in 2010.

See what Bo is up to!

Bucky Covington | Season 5

Bucky signed to Lyric Street and released the hits “A Different World” and “I’ll Walk” from his self-titled debut. His sophomore album, Good Guys, which includes the Shooter Jennings duet “Drinkin’ Side of Country,” appeared in 2012.

See what Bucky is up to!

Kellie Pickler | Season 5

The effervescent Miss Congeniality of Idol, Kellie had early hits with “Red High Heels” and “Best Days of Your Life,” plus a critically lauded third album with 2012’s 100 Proof. She’s currently tripping the light fantastic on Dancing With the Stars, with more music on the way.

See what Kellie is up to!

Phil Stacey | Season 6

Phil released his Billboard-charting debut single, “If You Didn’t Love Me,” and self-titled debut in 2008. He is now signed to Reunion Records, where he records as a Christian singer.

See what Phil is up to!

Kristy Lee Cook | Season 7

Kristy released the single “15 Minutes of Shame” on Arista Nashville before being dropped by the label. She is now signed to Broken Bow Records, which issued her single “Airborne Ranger Infantry” in late 2012.

See what they Kristy is up to!

Danny Gokey | Season 8

Danny signed with RCA Nashville and released his debut album, My Best Days, in 2010 before exiting the label. He currently operates his Sophia’s Heart charity and released his EP Love Again in 2012.

See what Danny is up to!

Lauren Alaina | Season 10

The big-voiced teen issued her debut album, Wildflower, through Universal Music Group Nashville in 2011, featuring her single “Georgia Peaches.” She is reportedly working on her sophomore album.

See what Lauren is up to!

Casey James | Season 9

The guitar slinger is currently banging out the hits, like “Crying on a Suitcase” (from his self-titled debut album), for Sony Music Nashville.

See what Casey is up to!

Skylar Laine | Season 11

The firecracker from Mississippi has made her way to Nashville, where she has been working on her forthcoming debut album.

See what Skylar is up to!


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