By BRAD GASKINS
A Palmersville native and a Weakley County schools speech therapist will both compete in the Hollywood round of Fox’s “American Idol.”
Paul Jolley, 23, and Kendra Vailes, 24, punched their tickets to the next round in last Thursday’s pre-recorded episode by advancing from auditions in Baton Rouge, La.
Jolley, who grew up in Palmersville, advanced after singing Rascal Flatt’s “I Won’t Let Go,” a song he dedicated to his late grandfather, Jewell Melton.
“It was priceless,” Jolley told the Press. “It’s something that I wouldn’t take back. I know that he was there with me throughout the whole thing. Of course, my grandmother was there with me, too, so that made it more special. I know it meant a lot to her as well.”
Jolley is the son of Fran and Jeff Jolley. His brother, Jeffrey, lives in Murfreesboro.
Paul Jolley attended school at Palmersville through seventh grade and transferred to Dresden when it closed.
“My last couple of years at Dresden High School, I dropped out and went to a home-schooling program,” Jolley said, adding the switch gave him more time to focus on his music career.
He moved to Nashville about a year ago and works as a retail sales consultant for T-Mobile.
Performing for the Idol judges is “nerve-racking,” said Jolley, who auditioned twice before for the show.
“There’s a lot going on that people don’t see,” Jolley said. “It’s a cool process to be behind the scenes. There’s a lot more to it that you don’t even see how much work goes on in doing a show like this.”
Jolley said he has been singing since he was a kid and started performing with live bands at 13. He cited Keith Urban as one of his musical influences.
“Mainly because he writes his own songs, and everything he does is heartfelt no matter what the song is,” Jolley said of Urban, who is in his first season as an Idol judge.
Jolley had a message for friends and family in Palmersville and Weakley County:
“Thank you so much for all the support I have received just from this viewing last week. It’s been so amazing, and I can’t wait to see what more will come from it.”
Vailes grew up in Humboldt. She works as a speech therapist for the Weakley County School system with students in Gleason, Greenfield and Martin.
“It was amazing. It was very surreal to stand in front of the judges and for all of them to tell me that they like my voice,” said Vailes, who made it to the second round of auditions two years ago in Nashville.
“I figured I’d give it another shot,” she added.
She said her students are giving her plenty of support since Thursday’s episode.
“They’re all excited for me,” she said. “They just tell me they’re rooting me on and they’ll be voting.”
Vailes said she’s been singing for as long as she can remember. Her parents are in a Southern Gospel group, and she sings at a variety functions throughout West Tennessee.