Born to Do It: The 'American Idol' Top 5 Talk Musical DNA - Rolling Stone
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Born to Do It: The ‘American Idol’ Top 5 Talk Musical DNA

Alex Preston


Last year on “American Idol’s” rival show “The X Factor,” a contestant named Bree Randall claimed she was “literally born to do this! — a semantically incorrect sentence that was ultimately her undoing. But when it comes to the current crop of contestants on “Idol” Season 13, there’s actually some truth to that statement. Music truly seems to be in their DNA.

[Related: Season 11 ‘Idol’ Winner Phillip Phillips Premieres New Video]

Alex Preston has the most famous musical relative of all the contestants: his cousin is country star Jo Dee Messina. “She was my first concert, too,” he reminisces. “She’s been so supportive of me, and she even let me live at her house in Nashville as I pursued music. She supports me in this ‘Idol’ journey, too — always tweeting to her fans to watch! She is a big inspiration.”

Reminder ! Watch my cousin Alex Preston tonight on idol. Gooooooo Alex !!!

— Jo Dee Messina (@jodeemessina) March 12, 2014“>

As for Alex’s other musical kin, he says: “My dad sang growing up, and my uncles and aunts were in a band with him as kids. That’s how he met my mom. So I was kind of made from music.”

However, Sam Woolf, who attended his “Idol” audition with his grandparents in tow, has the most impressive, or at least most extensive, musical family pedigree. “My great-grandfather, Sammy Woolf, was a well-known Detroit bandleader, and my uncle is composer Randall Woolf; he was a Guggenheim Fellow. He helped me with notating my original songs and other advice, and got my first spot on radio,” Sam says.

[Related: Season 9 ‘Idol’ Winner Lee DeWyze Discusses Season 13]

The branches of Sam’s musical family tree extend even farther than that. His cousin, Danny Blume, is a Grammy-winning producer, musician, and composer. Another cousin, Fred Woolf, was a songwriter and producer back in the early Motown days. Another cousin, Norman Letvin, was a chamber music recitalist, playing with the Weston Wind Quintet and Yo-Yo Ma. Sam’s great-uncle, Mickey Woolf, was a prominent Detroit musician. Yet another one of Sam’s cousins, Jerome Rosen, was a member of Boston Symphony Orchestra and Concertmaster of the Boston Pops, and is currently the music director of the Independence Sinfonia Orchestra. And Sam’s other relatives include cantors, musical theater veterans, clarinetists, violinists, and even noted pianist Kathleen Supové, his aunt by marriage.

The other contestants in the top five don’t necessarily have famous musical relatives, but their earliest and/or fondest family memories are definitely associated with music.

[Related: Season 8 ‘Idol’ Winner Kris Allen Performs for Yahoo Music]

“My cousin first taught me how to play piano when I was 9 years old,” Jena Irene recalls. “And when I was about 18 months old, I knew all the words to the song ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia and was singing them in my carseat when my mom was taking me with her to run all her errands!”

“I discovered my unconditional love for music one day when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I was sitting on a rocking horse in an addition my father had built onto our house in Texas,” says Jessica Meuse. “I started belting out my own take of ‘Home on the Range.’ That was when I fell in love! Later, my mom and dad bought me a violin, when I was about 12 years old. My brother had gotten one and experimented, but I decided I wanted one, too. To prevent me from stealing his, they got me my own.”

As for “Family Tree” belter Caleb Johnson, classic rock was always in his life. “My mother used to play Aerosmith and Heart and the Eagles while she would take me to school when I was a kid, and that was what got me started into rock ‘n’ roll music,” he reveals.

Were the “Idol” top five literally born to do this? It seems so. While only one of them can win this season, there’s no doubt they’re making all of their families proud.

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