Thirty million Americans were watching The Academy Awards last night on ABC when the network previewed the first glimpse of this season’s contestants on its hit talent show, American Idol.
A promotion showed viewers the Idol bus motoring to Hollywood filled with contestant hopefuls, and to the delight of Delaware fans of the show their numbers included Wilmington’s Margie Mays.
Last season the hometown favorite charmed judges and captivated a national audience but was ultimately bumped from the show after surviving several rounds of the demanding competition.
During the short trailer, the lens lands on Mays first, panning back to her four more times as the American Idol hopefuls sing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” At the end of the promo, host Ryan Seacrest, who’s driving the bus, remarks, “These Idol hopefuls are almost famous. See them on the new season of America Idol, premiering next Sunday on ABC.”
We caught up with the Tower Hill School graduate, an ever-enthusiastic performer who hopes to make this year’s top 20 finalists – when viewers can cast their votes – and beyond.
Mays says there are some secrets involved with her return to the show that she cannot reveal but she was forthcoming with us about her thoughts on returning to the stage that made her a household name in 2019.
TSD: How does it feel to be back on American Idol?
Margie Mays: Getting the chance to come back to Idol is an honor. It is such a wonderful blessing and I feel like I have to pinch myself that I get to do it again.
To get to have this once in a lifetime opportunity twice is nothing short of divine. I am just ecstatic. This show truly changes lives, and it sends chills all over my body to think they saw something in me enough to bring me back.
TSD: Did you ever think you wouldn’t be back on the show this year? Did you ever have any doubts?
Mays: The odds of getting cast twice on American Idol feels like lightning striking twice in the same place — highly unlikely. So, of course, I had doubts.
However, I had had the goal to return since the day they cut me in Hawaii over a year ago. I started practicing right away. I was so laser-focused on the goal. I knew that there was a very real possibility of not getting the chance to come back.
But I was finally seeing the power of the practice of manifestation and saying your dreams out loud. So, I just kept practicing and putting the goal out into the universe — something you would have never seen an eighteen-year-old, or even twenty-four-year-old Margie do.
I knew the worst-case scenario was that I didn’t have a strong enough narrative to come back for a second time. So, if I trained for months and months, the worst thing that could happen was that I wasn’t going to go back to the show, but I had spent months improving my craft. Regardless, it’d be a win for trying. I’m always proud of myself for trying.
TSD: No open calls for you this time around…
I sang for Luke, Lionel, and Katy at the beginning of November 2019. Almost exactly year from when I sang for them last season.
TSD: What did you do/sing/say at your audition, and what did it feel like to be back on the set of the show?
Mays: I can’t tell you any details about the audition yet. You will have to tune in to the episode to see! But I was incredibly excited to come back and get to see the judges again. But the pressure to sound like a new and improved version of myself loomed very large in my mind.
American Idol does feel like home. I think at this point, it always will.
TSD: We didn’t see any other past contestants on the bus besides you. Are you the only returning contestant this year?
Mays: I am sworn to secrecy. Other than, obviously, the cat is out of the bag that I am a returner!
TSD: Who’s the guy next to you on the bus?
Mays: I think he’s supposed to remain anonymous until the show introduces him. But essentially he and I were recreating the iconic scene from “Almost Famous” with Kate Hudson and her love interest in the movie (in this case, just a platonic thing).
We even did the lines from the movie scene where he gets on the bus and says, “I have to go home,” and I say “you are home” as Hudson does in the movie. But for reason, those lines got chopped in editing. But he and I were paying homage to the famous movie.
It made sense for producers to have me be Kate Hudson’s character since I’m the only returning competitor on that bus in the promo – I’m the only one to know that American Idol is home!
TSD: We know you’ve released two songs since leaving Idol, launching your recording career. What else about you is different 12 months later?
I’m a stronger singer. More confident in myself. Overall much less scattered because I wasn’t nearly as overwhelmed by a foreign process.
I’ve also released two original songs, a handful of cover songs on streaming platforms, and I even have a Valentine’s Day-themed ballad coming out this Friday.
Releasing music, playing concerts, practicing loads of hours with my boyfriend playing piano for me, and doing some voice lessons to keep refining, have all helped me take strides forward from who I was walking in those audition doors last year.
TSD: What do you hope to gain by returning to the show?
Mays: The goal is to go as far as I can. But also, to reclaim my narrative a little bit. I am NOT just a girl who purrs and puts a box over my head. I have always been a serious competitor with no intention other than to compete doing something I love. That was a huge goal coming into this season — to let Margie’s voice speak (not purr) and see where that can take me.