'American Idol' judges heap praise on Starke contestant
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 12:41 p.m.
Matt Lawrence of Starke was among 31 Orlando contestants to make it to Hollywood on the "American Idol" show that aired Wednesday night.
During the audition, which was filmed in July, Lawrence said he spent "four birthdays" behind bars after robbing a bank with a BB gun when he was 15.
"This represents an opportunity to get back something I lost a long time ago," he told judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson.
For their part, the judges seemed wowed by his audition, in which Lawrence sang "Trouble" by Ray LaMontagne.
"Brilliant," said Cowell. "So you can really, really sing. It almost seems you could have written that song. It felt authentic. I was very, very impressed."
"You sing genuine, dude. That's what it's about," Jackson added.
"He's the real deal," DioGuardi said. "He's going to go top 12."
Lawrence works with his father's company, Jim Lawrence Transportation in Starke, and his brother, Jason Harden, answered the telephone there Wednesday. He said the family has been excited about his trip to Hollywood for the reality show.
"It has been outstanding," he said, calling it a blessing for his brother but noting Lawrence was sorely missed at the business.
As of 9:30 p.m., a poll on the USA Today's "Idol Chatter" site showed that among eight Orlando contestants, Lawrence was deemed the most promising by 74 percent of respondents.
But Harden said he couldn't talk about the show.
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