Local teen musician vies for American Idol title

 			 				                                Presley Barker received a golden ticket to appear on American Idol.

Presley Barker received a golden ticket to appear on American Idol.

Traphill’s Presley Barker was one of 150 talented singers across America this year to receive a “golden ticket” after auditioning for this season of American Idol.

A regular at The Reeves, Merle Fest and the Elkin Roots Music Festival, Barker attends East Wilkes High School and has been a rising star in the local bluegrass and country scene since he won the Old Fiddler’s Convention adult guitar competition in Galax, Va., when he was 10 years old.

After auditioning via Zoom last year, Barker flew to Hollywood, Calif., in November to compete in a second round of auditions known as “Hollywood Week,” which didn’t air until this past Sunday and Monday. None of Barker’s performances made the cut to appear on the show thus far, as there were more performers than could fit into the show’s time slot.

The show is notorious for plot twists, and the ever-poised 16-year-old has remained silent on whether he will make an appearance later on in the season.

“There’s a whole world of steps,” Barker said. “I don’t know if I’ll be on this week, or the week after that. They have to tell you when you’re going to be on there.”

Barker, who can drive a tractor but doesn’t yet have his driver’s license, said he had to keep the golden ticket a secret from November to February, as required by American Idol. He was allowed to tell his parents — his mother is a dental hygienist and his father is a cattle farmer.

“I’ve always heard a thing that if you have a family member who you hear telling a lot of other people’s secrets, you might not need to tell them something private,” he said. “Thankfully, not many of my family are like that.”

Barker has a reputation for absorbing sayings, life lessons and musical skills from others, said Debbie Carson, owner-operator of The Reeves Theater & Cafe.

“He is a student of style and that includes how people talk and how people tell stories,” said Carson “He listens to musicians and really hears them and absorbs not only their music but also their personalities.”

Carson said that if anyone who has played The Reeves would be on American Idol, it of course would be Barker.

“I’m not really shocked. His career has been just meteoric,” she said. “He is talented, driven, and just very focused, but also a really well-rounded, personable, polite kid. I shouldn’t even call him a kid now.”

“He’s just the genuine article.”

Barker is a protégé of legendary area musician Wayne Henderson and has traveled the country in recent years to play concerts and music festivals. He is currently recording an album in Nashville and recently released a single called “Middle of Somewhere.”

“My parents, they are very supportive,” he said, adding that his 10-year-old brother, Luke, plays an important role as well, sometimes even accompanying him on percussion.

“My whole family is for sure. They have always been so good to take me where I needed to go – all kinds of festivals and all over the country,” Barker said. “My mom, she quit her job as a dental hygienist. My dad, he’s actually outside feeding the cattle right now and my mom, I think she is outside waterin’ her flowers.”

Barker has an upcoming appearance in May on the Martha Bassett show, which airs on local public radio. He is also scheduled to play the Old Dominion Barn Dance venue in Hopewell, Va., later this year.

Will he make an appearance on American Idol? He is still keeping that secret. The show airs Sunday and Monday evenings on ABC.

Lisa Michals may be reached at 336-448-4968 or follow her on Twitter @lisamichals3.


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