Apparently “American Song Contest” saved the best for last, as the 56 jury members voted at the end of the season premiere to advance Hueston, the final performer of the night, to the semi-finals. Thanks to his emotional ballad “Held on Too Long,” the Rhode Island native was able to beat out several other big name singers, including Connecticut’s Michael Bolton (“Beautiful World”). Watch Hueston perform “Held on Too Long” in NBC’s video above.
If you’re confused by the show’s complicated voting methods, you’re not alone. At the end of the night, 56 industry professionals from each state/territory ranked all 11 performances from best to worst (though these jurists were ineligible to vote for their own state/territory). Hueston ranked the highest, so he received a free pass to the semi-finals. Three other participants will be voted on a by a mix of the audience vote and the jury vote. You have until Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. ET to cast your vote by visiting the website directly, or by using the NBC App or TikTok.
SEE How to vote for ‘American Song Contest’
Hueston stands out from the crowd thanks to his scraggly beard, cowboy hat and face tattoos. The authentic-sounding singer was previously the frontman of the indie/alternative-duo the Blancos, though he has since gone solo. “Drawing from past and present experiences, his dark and soulful sonics highlight his innate abilities as both a writer and producer,” states NBC’s bio. “With a voice and energy of a mystic viking, the only thing overshadowing his vocals is his wild fingerings on the six string. Mysterious and gritty, his new sound represents the hard-working people of his hometown.”
In his “American Song Contest” live blog, our recapper John Benutty had this to say about Hueston’s performance: “The final performance of the night came from the Rhode Island delegate Hueston. He explained that he comes from a rough past in a part of the state that some people don’t survive and so his song ‘Held on Too Long’ and his music serve to give something back to that community. He wanted the ‘intimacy of a dive bar’ in his performance and he delivered on that promise by starting from a stool at center stage and keeping the rock ballad focused on his vocal performance.”
SEE ‘American Song Contest’ 2022: Meet the 56 participants for Season 1
Throughout the Monday, March 21 season premiere, these 11 acts took the big stage in the following order: Minnesota’s Yam Haus (“Ready to Go”), Oklahoma’s AleXa (“Wonderland”), Arkansas’ Kelsey Lamb (“Never Like This”), Indiana’s UG Skywalkin (“Love in the City”), Puerto Rico’s Christian Pagán (“Loko”), Connecticut’s Michael Bolton (“Beautiful World”), Iowa’s Alisabeth Von Presley (“Wonder”), Wisconsin’s Jake’O (“Feel Your Love”), Mississippi’s Keyone Starr (“Fire”), Wyoming’s Ryan Charles (“New Boot Goofin'”) and Rhode Island’s Hueston (“Held on Too Long”).
At the beginning of next week’s episode, which airs Monday, March 28, hosts Kelly Clarkson and Snoop Dogg will announce which three of these competitors will join Hueston in the semi-finals. Do you think YOU know who will advance based on their initial performances? Get to know all 56 participants.