BTS: “American Idol” takes former ORU student to Hollywood

Former ORU student Tanner Charles Luetjen initially turned down an offer to compete on ‘American Idol,’ but admits he ‘secretly wanted to do it.’

Former ORU student Tanner Charles Luetjen initially turned down an offer to compete on ‘American Idol,’ but admits he ‘secretly wanted to do it.’

Elizabeth McCullough, Staff Writer

Tanner Charles Luetjen, a former ORU student living in Broken Arrow, received a message on Instagram last September from an “American Idol” casting director, asking him to try out for the show.  


Luetjen had attended Oral Roberts University in 2021 to study business administration but left in spring 2022 to pursue his passions in ministry and music. Luetjen’s Instagram feed showcases clips of him singing, drawing attention from “American Idol.”  


“I told the guy ‘No,’ at first,” Luetjen said. “And then my mom and my girlfriend were like, ‘No, just do it.’ It was just for fun, but at the same time I secretly wanted to do it.” 


Luetjen texted the director to confirm that he wanted to continue with the process.  


Potential cast members typically sign up online and go through four or five rounds of auditions, said Luetjen. But since he was directly selected, Luetjen launched into a flurry of Zoom meetings with the casting director in which they picked and prepared Luetjen’s audition song.  


A few weeks later, Luetjen performed in front of “American Idol” producers over Zoom. The producers told Luetjen they wanted him to sing for the judges in Nashville.  


In early November, Luetjen and his girlfriend, Delaney Blaylock, flew to Tennessee, and the process lasted three days. Luetjen and Blaylock spent their time filming interviews for the show as they waited for him to be called into the audition room.  


“A much as it was a blast, it was also very intimidating considering that we’d be recorded and possibly put on national television,” Blaylock said.  


On the third day, Luetjen was called backstage to audition.  


“Tanner was called up to talk with Ryan (Seacrest), just before entering the room to perform for the judges,” Blaylock said. “And then he left. I was sitting there, still very nervous when a producer came up and said they were going to mic me up.” 


Blaylock joined Luetjen as he sat in front of the piano and performed a song he wrote for her called “Golden Eyes” in front of judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. 


Luetjen was met with compliments from the judges.  


“They’re meant for each other,” Perry said, referencing the couple during the audition. “There are a lot of singers that come to this show, but you are an artist.” 


All judges voted “yes” for Tanner to move to the next round.  


The first week of December, this time alone, Luetjen set out to Los Angeles for Hollywood Week. He stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Hollywood.  


The schedule was brutal, with wake-up times at 4 a.m. and practices past midnight, Luetjen said. Cast members did interviews and practiced for their performances all day. His performances, however, were never televised.  


The first round, Luetjen sang by himself to “Yours” by Conan Gray and received a standing ovation from the judges.   


The second round, he was paired with singer Caroline Cole to perform “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John.  


“She was really nice, but our voices didn’t parallel,” Luetjen said. “When it came to deciding a song together, I let her do it because she seemed to be really opinionated on it. But then the song we chose was just not me.” 


Perry told Cole she would continue in the competition. Luetjen got a different response.  


“It was stone cold,” Luetjen said. “They looked at me and said, ‘This is the end for you.’” 


Luetjen had to wait months until the season aired in April.  


“We didn’t know until a week before whether we’d be aired,” Blaylock said. “In the end, we are very happy with how things turned out. It was one of the coolest experiences and something we can look back on a treasure forever.” 


The end of his time on “American Idol” was not the end of Luetjen’s musical career. He will release a new single, titled “Yours,” this summer on all platforms.