FAIRMONT – When an injury took Cody Clayton Eagle out of sports, he picked up a guitar.
Although he could barely walk due to a broken hip, Eagle began learning to play the instrument and even tried singing accompaniment beginning at the age of 8. It would take a few more years for him to really dig into learning the instrument.
“I kind of started into it getting videos offline, and then I went into lessons and it grew from there,” said Eagle who is now 17.
After years of training and honing his art and the craft of songwriting, Eagle took a step into the world of the professional industry and auditioned for “American Idol” last year. This would eventually lead to him getting a “Golden Ticket.” He is one of about 150 contestants to advance to the show and go to Hollywood to continue competing.
Eagle relayed the story of his journey, which began with a trip to Charleston in September for the initial audition.
“My mom signed me up for it and I figured I would just go try it out because I really enjoy music and I would give it my best shot,” Cody said. “I made it through Charleston, there were 3,500 people there. They took 12 but they cut it down to four, and I was one of the four who went to Georgia.”
Following the Charleston audition, Eagle traveled to Georgia for a second audition, and then to New York City on Oct. 29 to audition for celebrity judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.
In order to make a memorable impact on the show, Eagle performed an original song he wrote, “I Will Sing,” for the celebrity judges.
“I wrote that song about ‘American Idol,’” he said. “Before I went down to Charleston, me and my dad were talking and he said ‘No matter what happens, I don’t want to see you give up your dream.’”
The whole experience was a whirlwind for Eagle and his family. He has never been in a situation where he would be broadcast to the world, let alone had he ever set foot in New York.
He said, as a country fan and artist himself, Luke Bryan is one of his biggest influences.
“I was a little nervous going in, but all the nerves went away as soon as I started singing,” Eagle said. “Katy Perry, she gave me a couple corrections, just sing a little more powerful and confident, Lionel Richie loved my original song... Luke Bryan, he loved it.”
Eagle ended up getting a “Yes” vote from all three judges.
Now that he has surpassed the audition phase, Eagle will head to Hollywood once he gets word from the show’s producers. He is eagerly anticipating the trip, as is his family, who continue to encourage him.
“He has got a pretty cool following right now and it’s starting to really build quickly,” said David Eagle, his father. “They see how much he puts into it, how much drive he has.”
David said Cody first got into the world of music, and his training at music organization Pop Shop in Morgantown.
“We didn’t know exactly what we were getting with Cody,” said Chris Russell, executive director of Pop Shop. “The first song that we worked on was ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ We didn’t know what kind of player he was, we asked him if he wanted to do the lead part... we got to the point of who is going to sing, and he said ‘I’ll try.’
“He tackled it really really well.”
Cody said he still practices every day, playing guitar for hours and also working on his singing and his songwriting throughout. During a walk at Palatine Park, he strummed out ringing chords, threw in melodic runs as his fingers danced across his acoustic guitar.
“Chris has helped me very much,” Cody said. “I practice for a few hours every day.”
At this point, Cody is preparing to release some songs he has written and recorded with Russell, along with studio musicians who have worked with other artists such as Taylor Swift. For the recording, he is collaborating with Russell, who is happy to assist his student and colleague with the process.
“He definitely has a chance to do some really special things with these recordings,” Russell said. “The American Idol is the tip of the iceberg, it is going to get some recognition. I think that as hard as he works and what he wants to do, if he puts his mind to it, he could have some success with what he’s doing.”
With already getting to record with artists like this, and furthermore record and release his music professionally, Cody feels he has a future in the industry he loves, even if he is not the last contestant standing.
No matter what happens, he will sing.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that most people don’t get,” Cody said. “I just wrote the song saying I won’t ever stop singing.”