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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Clark Beckham's journey from American Idol to pop music icon Quincy Jones

Even though Beckham lost in the final, legendary pop music promoter Quincy Jones reached out to the singer and signed him to his record label

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 12: Contestant Clark Beckham performs onstage at FOX's "American Idol XIV" Top 2 Revealed on May 12, 2015 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Becker/FOX via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 12: Contestant Clark Beckham performs onstage at FOX's "American Idol XIV" Top 2 Revealed on May 12, 2015 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Becker/FOX via Getty Images)

Nashville is one of the great American music cities.

Built around the legendary Grand Ole Opry, a musical institution since the 1920s, the streets teem with live music venues where, over the decades, artists such as Chet Atkins and Garth Brooks cut their teeth before making the big time.

In that sense, busking in Nashville street corners was no big deal for Clark Beckham as he was simply following a musical tradition. The only thing was, he was singing a different tune.

With Nashville a citadel of country and western music, the public and local music industry didn’t know what to make of their fellow Tennessean singing African American soul music.

Beckham’s repertoire was more Otis Redding than Merle Haggard and the folks were not enthused. Even recalling those moments now, more than five years on, you can almost picture Beckham wincing on the phone.

“It was tough and it definitely taught me a few things about myself and how to stay the course,” he says. “I would be there playing and singing my absolute heart out and I got nothing – no reaction at all.”

The same can be said for concert promoters who either never responded to his enquires or flatly rejected him. It took the circus that was American Idol to break the losing streak.

When the former television talent quest rolled in Nashville for auditions for its 2015 season, Beckham signed up and everything fell into place. The more objective set of ears from talent scouts resulted in him making it on the show with minimum fuss, and the hard knocks sustained in his home city steeled him during the show’s pressured live format and ultimately landed him a place in the final.

Ironically, the self-belief so central to his American Idol journey provided an unexpected insight during the final episode. “It was weird in that I was positive that if I do my best then there couldn’t be a reason why I wouldn’t win the competition,” he says. “But the funny thing was when I was on that stage and [the host] Ryan Seacrest was about to announce the winner, I just couldn’t picture him calling my name, you know? I couldn’t visualise him saying the winner was Clark Beckham.”

Perhaps it was a bad omen as the season winner was Nick Fradiani, and Beckham returned to Nashville to a much better reception with regular gigs on the offer. Unknown to him, however, was that Beckham’s career was being monitored by a music giant.

Impressed by his soulful vocals and musical chops on the guitar, legendary pop music promoter Quincy Jones reached out to Beckham and signed him to his management company.

In addition to the Jones’s personal mentorship, another benefit of the career move is Beckham landing a six-week residency at Q’s Bar and Lounge – a jazz venue run by Jones – at the regal Palazzo Versace Dubai. Playing several sets five nights a week, the shows – which run until February 17 – are perhaps the venue’s best chance to see a star in the making.

Beckham has released a bunch of solid original tunes. Must be Hard Being You is a funky little gem with a nifty horn section, while I Need is an honest to goodness soul ballad with Beckham pining for “a love that takes my needs then conceives”.

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Read more:

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With two more weeks to ago, Beckham is hailing his UAE experience a success.“You rarely get a chance to go out and play so many shows in a sustained period,” he says. “These kinds of things can be like boot camp, but it is a great way for myself and the band to perfect our craft. I am glad that I get to show people in Dubai what I can do.”

Clark Beckham performs at Q’s Bar and Lounge at Palazzo Versace Dubai, Tuesdays to Saturdays, until February 17. Doors open at 7pm. For reservations, call 04 556 8888 or email qs@palazzoversace.ae