With auditions for a new season of American Idol practically underway, it's time for a little sage advice -- from some of the select few who have actually survived the early rounds and gone on to make a name for themselves in Hollywood.
"Be yourself and pick songs that make you stand out," advises Carrie Underwood (right).
"Be yourself and sing like it's your last time singing," Fantasia Barrino urges.
"Be you," suggests Paris Bennett. "And no theater songs. Boring."
Be realistic about your talent, recommends Katharine McPhee: "Don't sing Etta James' 'At Last.'"
And for those taking part in the nationwide Season 6 contestant search, which begins today in Southern California, here's a practical tip from Bucky Covington:
"Plan to go to two cities. A lot of good people get cut in the first round," he says.
A key step is, obviously, not to fake it. Know thyself, as Plato told us, and then be thyself, as Underwood et al. instruct.
In song terms, think "I've Got to Be Me" -- but don't actually sing the Broadway tune made famous by Sammy Davis Jr. Theater songs are boring, remember?
That's all well and good, but there must be more to making it with American Idol. There is a need for something more, said Season 4 finalist Constantine Maroulis, who took a break from his current tour to speak with Forbes."First and foremost, act like a professional [in the audition]," Maroulis said. "Not that you know it all but you're someone who can be trusted, as in any other job interview -- because, basically, that's what it comes down to and that's what it is."
Pick a song with a great lyric "you can connect to emotionally, that you can tell a great story with, with a strong bridge and chorus," he added.
If you are lucky enough to get on the show, focus on your own talent and don't worry about competing with the others. In fact, it's healthy to make friends with your competition, and not just to find new pals.
"You never know who these people are going to become one day. Just because they didn't make it on American Idol doesn't mean you're any better than them. They might be a huge casting director down the line, a huge songwriter down the line."
And have fun, but not too much.
"It's so easy to fall into the party boy, party girl mode... but you have to be responsible and you have to be a role model," Maroulis said, noting that as he spoke, a small crowd of youngsters was hovering nearby for pre-concert photos and autographs in Dewey Beach, Del.
Lastly, the long-haired rocker cautioned that fame is fickle.
"There's going to be a huge buzz when you're on American Idol and shortly when you get off it, and then there will be a quiet time. And for 99.9 percent of the people, it will remain quiet. They're not going on to great things. That's just a fact, Jack," he said.