By Andrew Gans
08 Nov 2013
A few weeks ago, I was in my kitchen putting away dishes when I heard some thrilling sounds coming from the TV, which happened to be turned to Fox TV's reality singing competition "The X Factor." I quickly made a dash to see who was the source of that powerful high belt and was surprised to recognize a familiar face, Rachel Potter, who was the vocal highlight of the recent revival of Evita, where she delivered a terrific version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." I was also surprised that no mention was made of Potter's theatrical credits, which also include the Broadway production of The Addams Family and the national tour of Wicked—Potter was simply described as a "bartender from Nashville." Turns out, Potter did discuss her theatre work with the show's judges and the enthusiastic crowd, but that part of her audition was left on the cutting-room floor. Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with the multi-talented singing actress, not too long after it was announced that she had made the Top 12 of the singing competition. The gifted artist spoke about her decision to move to Nashville following the conclusion of the Evita revival, her road to "The X Factor" and her pride in being part of the Broadway community; that interview follows.
Question: Let's go back a bit. After Evita ended, where did you go from there?
Rachel Potter: Right after it closed, I moved to Nashville and started bartending pretty much immediately. It was crazy because I was at such a crossroads. I knew I really wanted to make my next move Nashville. What’s so awesome and also for someone who’s trying to do recording at the same time, is that Broadway offers these long contracts. So I was in a year-long contract with Evita, and there was a point where I felt like I’m getting older. I really needed to try this now before it’s too late. Because you know, in the recording arts industry, age really does matter. Broadway is so awesome because you can literally book your first show when you’re 50. Age is irrelevant for success on Broadway. But record companies want to sign people when they’re 16–21. And, a lot of people are like, "Carrie Underwood is 28, 29, and Katy Perry is that old." And, yeah, but they got signed 10 years ago. [Laughs.] So I just felt like I had to give it a shot before I couldn’t anymore.
Question: How did "X-Factor" come about? Do they approach you, or do you go to open auditions?
Potter: No, someone tweeted me the idea, and it planted a seed. I started getting a little curious and looking up when their auditions were. Once I had already moved, I came up to New York to do a reading a friend asked me to do of a musical. And, I was already up in town and I found out "X-Factor" auditions were happening while I was there on days when we were off, and I thought, "This is too easy. I have to go." Ashley Amber, who was a dancer in Evita, lives ten minutes from the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, and I called her because we were really good friends, and I said, "Listen, can I stay at your house? Will you take me to the auditions?" And she said, "Of course." So I went out there and had a place to stay, pretty much the easiest decision of my life. I had nothing to lose at that point. I was bartending in Nashville, so [I thought], "I'll give it a shot."
Potter: Oh yeah, there were three rounds before you get to see the celebrity judges. So there’s that day when you go, and it's thousands of people in a giant arena…and there are 20 booths set up with one person, and you go in and sing a cappella. I got put through. I was so grateful—the guy that put me through the first time loved Broadway. He was so awesome, and after, he said, "I’m giving you a ticket, but you gotta sing Wicked first." [Laughs.] I ended up singing "Defying Gravity" in the booth after I had sung my country song. He was like, "Yeah, I'm putting you through." It was so awesome. At the end of the day it’s a lot like auditioning for a Broadway show—it’s a person. There’s no machinery involved. It’s a person, and their taste is involved, and I got massively lucky that the person who put me through really appreciated my background. Continued...