"My friends kept saying I had nothing to lose," says singer-songwriter Elliott Yamin of his decision to audition for "American Idol," "and I really didn't. I was at a point in my life where I had no direction. I was just scraping by at my job. I thought, I'm 27 years old and what do I have to show for it? I was lost. Deep down inside, I wondered if by trying out, I could somehow put myself on a path to something I'd always longed for but never admitted to anyone."
With that backdrop, Viriginia native Elliott Yamin entered American Idol season five, one of the most unlikely finalists in the show's history. But his combination of earnestness, humility and pure likeability turned him into a crowd favorite. And then there was that voice, an unpolished but soulful, expressive sound that was belied by Yamin's nondescript appearance and demeanor.
Yamin grew from a pure voice into a singer in front of America's eyes, finishing third to Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks in one of the competition's closest votes. He spent the year after Idol growing his hair, spending $50,000 on cosmetic dental work, and working on his debut album on new Hickory Records.
Movin On debuted in the top 10 before quickly dropping out of sight on the charts. But a funny thing happened. Radio began picking up on the single "Wait For You" and a deeper look showed that this was a solid album and Yamin was the real thing as a vocalist. So while McPhee's and Hicks' albums were commercial disappointments, Yamin's had a second life, rising again on the charts and surprisingly going gold. More importantly, Yamin gained the respect of fans and pop radio for creating an enjoyable CD and a beginning to what could be a major career.
Yamin issued a holiday album in 2008 to whet his fans' appetite as they awaited his sophomore studio album, Fight for Love, which was issued in May 2009 on Hickory Records.
In 2012, Yamin signed with New York-based Purpose Records and released Let's Get to What's Real, his most personal record, and a disc that touched on many classic soul and pop styles. It found him in much greater control of his career and his sound, and his voice was stronger than ever.
By Chris Rizik