Presley Barker, who got his start in music nine years ago as a flatpicking guitar prodigy from Wilkes County, is about to get national exposure under the bright spotlight of an iconic reality-singing competition series.
Barker, who is 16 years old and a sophomore at East Wilkes High School, flew out to California last fall to try out as a contestant on the 19th season of “American Idol,” one of the most successful shows in the history of American television.
The singer-songwriter from Traphill auditioned for judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie in Ojai, Calif., in hopes of wowing the judges and earning one of the coveted “golden tickets” to Hollywood.
On Sunday, Barker revealed that he indeed received a golden ticket and will be competing to be one of the top 30 finalists on the show. His audition didn’t air on Sunday, but Barker will likely appears on future shows.
“It was amazing,” to get that golden ticket, said Barker during an interview Monday. “I’ve been singing and playing since I was 7 years old, and my family has always been very supportive of me.
“To get the golden ticket to Hollywood is truly an honor and a way to share my music with the world.”
Barker impressed the judges with renditions of “Can’t You See,” made popular by the Marshall Tucker Band, and “Ol’ Red” by Blake Shelton.
Just how big is that spotlight that will shine on Barker? Almost 7 million viewers watched the show’s season premiere on Feb. 14. “American Idol” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Due to a nondisclosure agreement he had to sign with the show, Barker took an oath of secrecy and, prior to Sunday night, could not make a public statement as to whether or not he was selected as a finalist.
Barker grew up idolizing flatpicker extraordinaire Doc Watson of Deep Gap. Another primary influence has been picker and luthier Wayne Henderson of Rugby, Va.
The son of Eric and Julie Barker of Traphill, Presley gained regional notoriety after playing on “Little Big Shots,” a TV talent show for kids, in 2017. The next year, he performed with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder at the Grand Ole Opry.
The legend of Presley Barker kept growing with subsequent appearances at MerleFest, Carolina in the Fall and other regional showcases. This young man has an electric smile that has endeared him to many fans.
At the tender age of 10, Barker released his first album, “Just 10,” which focused mostly on instrumental guitar tracks. Over the years, Barker has honed his singing voice and even learned to play the piano.
On Feb. 5 he released a country music single called “Middle of Somewhere.” It was produced by Kent Wells and recorded at Dark Horse Studios in Franklin, Tenn., in early March last year, right before the pandemic struck the country.
Barker’s single definitely has the “Nashville sound” and is sure to broaden his fan base. His engaging personality, guitar prowess and now command of the mic will no doubt be noticed by country music record labels.
Presley told me he wasn’t sure when he’ll be flying out to Los Angeles again to participate in the “one genre challenge song” and be subject to the next voting by the judges, but one thing’s for sure—he’ll have plenty of Wilkes Countians rooting for him.