Features Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Kane Brown, Tori Darke and more!
Many consider competing on reality TV a win in itself, but most will tell you the hard work has just begun. While the careers of artists like Carrie Underwood, Morgan Wallen and The Wolfe Brothers were elevated by being on reality TV, this list explores those who are kicking goals without the extra exposure.
With upcoming seasons of Australian Idol, Australia’s Got Talent, The X Factor Australia and The Voice Australia all returning to our screens in 2023, reality TV competitions are not the be-all and end-all. From Luke Combs to Kane Brown, Maren Morris to Tori Darke, Loren Ryan to Jimmie Allen, and more, these are the artists who were rejected from reality TV and are doing just fine.
Proud Gamilaraay woman, Loren Ryan auditioned for The Voice Australia in 2017, taking on Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious. However, Ryan failed to impress the judges, with viewers stating it was the wrong song choice, and she didn’t proceed further in the competition.
She went on to be named a Toyota Star Maker finalist in both 2022 and 2023, achieved a #1 iTunes single and was one of our favourites at this year’s Deni Ute Muster.
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Luke Combs told Whiskey Riff about auditioning for The Voice USA, “I made it through those rounds with the producers, but I got a letter saying I wasn’t ‘interesting’ enough for the show’s ratings, so I didn’t get to the show. But it gave me a lot of confidence because I was good enough voice-wise to make it through all those producer auditions.”
Years later, long-time The Voice USA coach Blake Shelton was asked about the situation during a radio interview and was left nearly speechless. “He told me that story… there’s no way around it, it’s embarrassing,” Shelton said. “Let’s just face it.”
His current single, The Kind of Love We Make, recently took top honour as the biggest song of 2022. Doin’ This and Cold As You also made the Top 100, as well as the Jameson Rodgers’ collaboration Cold Beer Calling My Name.
Kane Brown decided to take his own shot at American Idol after seeing how well the show worked out for long-time friend Lauren Alaina (who was runner up to Scotty McCreery in 2011). But his audition failed to land him a spot. Brown told Billboard, he recalled being told the show "didn't need another Scotty McCreery."
He later tried out for and made it onto The X Factor USA but quit after producers attempted to put him into a boyband. The boy band in question was called Restless Road and finished in fourth on Season 3 of The X Factor. Brown reconnected and later signed the band to his label 1021 Entertainment in 2021.
At 22-years-old, Mickey Guyton auditioned for Season 8 of American Idol at the urging of an ex-boyfriend. Her run on the show didn’t last long as she was axed before the live shows. She told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "It wasn't the best experience for me."
Since signing with Capitol Nashville in 2011, Guyton has released four EPs as well as her ground-breaking debut album Remember Her Name, which earned a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Country Album of the Year’, the first-ever for a Black artist. She further made history as the first black female country artist to perform her own song at the CMA Awards.
Jimmie Allen may have appeared as a Battle Advisor on Blake Shelton’s team in Season 22 of The Voice USA, but he revealed he had tried out and been rejected from the show not once but twice. He had much better luck, however, auditioning for American Idol. He tried out for Season 10 but was cut before the live voting rounds. While on the show he befriended Scotty McCreery and the two later reconnected and toured together after the release of Allen's debut album in 2018.
Allen released a further two albums and two EPs. He also became the first Black solo performer to win ‘New Male Artist of the Year’ at the 2021 ACM Awards. His current single, Down Home peaked at #1 on the Countrytown Hot 50 Country Airplay Chart.
Chris Lane auditioned for American Idol with his identical twin, Cory. They used their audition to showcase an original rap song that failed to impress judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Despite their setback, the Lane brothers went onto make music together in a band with Cory on the drums. Then, in 2015, Lane topped the charts as a solo act with his single, Fix.
He then tasted success with two albums – Girl Problems (2016) and the gold certified Laps Around The Sun (2018) – as well as the EPS – Fix (2015) and Take Back Home (2017). Lane was further nominated for ‘New Male Vocalist of the Year’ at the 2017 ACM Awards.
Maren Morris confirmed on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen she was rejected from multiple shows, including America’s Got Talent, American Idol and The Voice USA.
“Now, people cover my songs for their auditions on those shows,” the Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter said. “So, it’s like, not only is it really nice to have my song on a national television show, I get to collect the check and have some sweet revenge.”
Her 2022 album, Humble Quest, broke the record for the most first-day and first-week streams on Amazon Music for a country album by a female artist. The lead single, Circles Around This Town, also broke the record for most streams for a country song debut by a female artist upon release.
Hillary Scott tried to get on American Idol twice but didn’t even make it past the producers. She later formed Lady A with bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, going on to release nine albums and won seven Grammys, five CMT Music Awards, nine ACA Awards and eight ACM Awards.
She told Entertainment Tonight, “I never got to see [the judges]. I literally performed for the production assistants and the interns, and I just didn’t make it.”
Tori Darke auditioned for The Voice Australia in 2021, performing The Middle by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey. While judges Keith Urban, Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy and Rita Ora were impressed with the vocals, it wasn't enough to turn their chairs.
Urban later joined Darke on stage to sing his hit song, Stupid Boy, which she described as “a career and life changing moment [she] will never forget.” The performance garnered a standing ovation from the crowd and shot Stupid Boy back up the top of the charts.