American Idol Hopeful Shares Heartbreaking Childhood Story Before Blowing Judges Away With Audition

american idol wayne cota

Plenty of American Idol contestants grew up in and around the music industry and seemed destined to attain stardom, while other talented hopefuls had the complete opposite backgrounds. Phoenix's Wade Cota showed up for his Season 17 audition armed with two things: a heartbreaking story about his childhood, and a gobsmacking voice that was well beyond his years.

On Sunday night's episode of American Idol, Wade Cota was gearing up for his big audition alongside his doting mother Terri, who amusingly called him her "baby bear cub" to Ryan Seacrest. (An experience he can live down easier now that he'll be in the main competition.) Before showing off his excellent voice, Cota shared a heartfelt admission about the hard-knocks experiences his family went though years ago, thanks to an abusive father figure. In his words:

My real dad – or, I'm gonna restart that – my biological father was the devil. He beat us. He beat my mom. This scar on my face came from him, and I have a crack in my skull from my eye socket over here. He wouldn't even let my mom out of the house with all three of the kids, because he thought she was going to take off, that she was gonna leave with the kids. The final straw was, she came home from work early, and he was kicking me in the ribs across the floor. It took her two years to be able to get out of the house without him.

Wade Cota went on to say that whenever his mother finally worked out a situation where she could get all of her children settled elsewhere, she asked her husband if he wanted to go with them, and he refused.

With his eyes glossing over, Cota continued:

Since that day, I haven't seen him. I'm so happy I have everybody, and that we got away from him. I'm happy I was the youngest, because I'm sure they remember a whole lot more.

Not that things got so amazingly easy just because they were away from his father. Wade Cota shared that they were a poverty-stricken family, but that Terri never made it seem like they were suffering. All in all, Cota made it clear that his goals in life are to find ways to both make his mother proud, and to give back to hear all of the love and support she provided for him over the years.

Having such goals is no walk in the park, especially in relation to a broadcast network's reality competition. But it's a lot easier to consider such things when one has a voice as spectacular as Wade Cota's.

After a fun introduction in which he admitted to Katy Perry that he was over 11 lbs. when his mother gave (an all-natural) birth to him, Cota announced he'd be performing "Blame It on Me" by British singer-songwriter George Ezra. It's then that minds were blown anew, as Cota voice took on some completely unexpected changes.

Check out the full video below, with his singing performance starting up at the 3:25 mark.

Viewers were likely just as wowed with the three American Idol judges, who were all taken aback and moved by Wade Cota's audition. Not only did Luke Bryan offer up a stellar compliment comparing Cota to Johnny Cash, which Perry agreed with, but he also said he wanted to see No Country for Old Men 2 get made, just so Cota could sing the entire soundtrack. That's definitely not the worst reason for the Coen brothers to return to that stellar film's setting.

Thankfully for both viewers and Cota himself, he'll be heading to Hollywood for American Idol's competitive rounds, so here's hoping he'll take on some more amazing performances in a few weeks. Also, kudos to the performer for stealing the show in an episode where the headline-drawing Katy Perry showed off her abilities to do the Worm and other dances.

American Idol will now switch to airing in its usual Monday and Tuesday night time slots on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.