What began as a way to pass the time and process his emotions quickly became a passion for Christian Beck ’24, who began singing and songwriting his senior year of high school during the initial COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. In the fall of 2021, he was scouted via TikTok to audition for “American Idol.”
Beck began building a TikTok following in the spring of 2021, after a video of his song “Suit and Tie” — which he co-wrote with his best friend, Kieran Norton ’24 — reached over 10,000 views on the app.
“I was immediately hooked,” Beck said. “There was all this positive feedback on my song. My friends had been telling me that they liked my songs, but strangers, who had no idea who I was — who had all the right to be mean to me — were liking the music. So that's when I was like, ‘okay, I need to do this more.’”
Encouraged by his online success, he began posting covers almost every single day and became more serious about songwriting.
“Christian had quite the evolution of songwriting,” Norton said. “When I met him he didn’t have as much confidence in his own writing and singing. It was so amazing to see through all of last year how much progress he made. I’d come into my dorm every single evening and he [was] playing.”
An “American Idol” producer came across a TikTok cover Beck posted of the song “Hurricane” by The Band Of Heathens, which is what prompted her to reach out to Beck.
“It was a full circle moment,” Beck said. “Those guys [in The Band Of Heathens] went to Dartmouth… and one of the winners [of ‘American Idol’] had sung [‘Hurricane’] before.”
According to Beck, the “American Idol” producer reached out to him on Instagram, stating that she “love[d] his voice” and asking if he had “time to talk.”
The producer asked Beck to attend a Zoom audition two days later with the executive producer of the show. He chose to audition with his original unreleased song, “Runnin’.”
“I was like, ‘shoot, I only get one chance, why would I sing somebody else's song?’” Beck said. “At the end of the day, I'm not really just a singer. I'm a songwriter.”
Beck’s past is rich with a history of music, but it wasn’t until the pandemic forced his family into extreme isolation — moving from Louisville, Ky. to a farm away from the city — that he began writing songs.
“My sister has brain cancer. She's been in remission for two years… but we didn't know how [COVID-19] was going to affect her,” Beck said. “So we had to be super isolated, we had to lock down tight when [the pandemic] first [began]. I didn't see anybody, not a single soul, just my family.”
Beck spent his days alone in the woods surrounding his family’s farm, stringing up a hammock between two cedar trees and sitting with his guitar for hours on end. During those first three months of the pandemic, Christian wrote ten original songs. Now, he’s written more than 80 songs and is working on his first album.
“I fell in love with songwriting,” Beck said. “It was such a revelation because [songwriting] is such a good way to express yourself, share how you're feeling and what you've been through and what your story is.”
Beck originally kept his songwriting private, but after he and Norton were randomly paired as freshman roommates, they began playing music together for their friends and for strangers at parties. During their sophomore year, their small performances grew into concerts at larger venues, such as fraternities.
“I was nervous about putting myself out there,” Beck said. “I didn't know how people were gonna think, but I was just like, ‘I'm just gonna do this. I love it. It's this new thing that I've found.’”
When Beck finished singing his song for the producers at his Zoom audition, they asked him about his favorite judges on “American Idol.”
“I was like, ‘oh, I love Katy [Perry],’’ Beck said. “They're like, ‘Well, that's good, because you're gonna be able to see [her] in three weeks, we're sending you through to the judge audition!’”
When Beck logged off of Zoom, he said that he and Norton screamed and danced around their dorm room in celebration. It wasn’t until he had finished with that audition and had a plane ticket to Los Angeles in his hands that his doubts dissolved — and nerves set in.
“I was like, this is real,” Beck said. “This is TV, you know, it's high intensity, high pressure. [The judges are] very, very supportive, but if you mess up, you're gonna be on a bloopers reel.”
Christian brought his sister, Anna-Maria Beck, along with him to the judge audition in Los Angeles for moral support.
“I was standing outside [the audition] with Ryan Seacrest,” Anna-Maria said. “Christian went in to do his audition and Ryan was like, ‘come here, Anna, let's see if we can peek inside.’ Technically [I was not] supposed to meet the judges, but Christian is a very good brother, so a few minutes later, Christian came out and grabbed me and we went back in together. And that’s when [the judges] gave him his golden ticket.”
A golden ticket is a physical golden ticket, but it also just means that the celebrity judges liked his music enough to keep him for another week in Hollywood. Beck said he is grateful for the whole experience, and is especially grateful to have had that moment with his sister.
“To have them bring my sister in after all that we've been through together, stand there arm-in-arm when she’s in remission and have them say, ‘you're going to Hollywood!’ was such an incredible moment,” Beck said. “I'll never forget it, ever, for the rest of my life – golden ticket or not. But the golden ticket helped.”