Thanks to a growing fanbase, the 27-year-old has been getting his fair share of airtime on the Fox show this year.
No matter how you feel about season 12’s contestants, themes, song choices or judges, most viewers — and certainly those of us in the press corps — can agree on one thing: that American Idol guitarist is something else.
Taking the leads for Ray Chew’s band is Brady Cohan, a seasoned player who first picked up the guitar at age 12. Now 27, the native of Los Altos, Calif., up north in Silicon Valley, studied music at USC and graduated in 2007 with the aim of “becoming a better musician,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. Being in a band wasn’t a top priority for the dashing musician. Rather, he saw himself more behind the scenes.
“My ultimate goal is to score films,” he says. “As much as I love touring and playing all around the world, it’s nice to stay in one place.”
Among the artists who Brady has traveled with: Natalie Cole, Cee-Lo Green, Keyshia Cole and Queen Latifah, until a friend told him about an opportunity to audition for American Idol.
What’s it like to try out for the singing competition as a member of the band? Not unlike the tens of thousands of hopefuls, Cohan says it felt like a “very unnatural kind of situation — all you can really do is play and be yourself, but it is a little nerve-wracking.”
He was handed the great American songbook, which included the song “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith, nailed it, and in season 11, became a regular player. This year, he’s gotten even more airtime, no doubt because of a growing mostly female fanbase. Not that he has much time to enjoy it. The band’s Idol schedule is nearly as grueling as the finalists and includes not only rehearsals, but studio sessions that can sometimes feel like “recording an album a night,” basically,” adds Cohan. “It’s crazy … and a sprint to the finish, that’s for sure.”
Since Cohan has performed with his share of seasoned artists, how do the Idol hopefuls compare? “They don’t sound like amateurs anymore,” he defends. “Angie [Miller] sang a great rendition of ‘Cry Me A River,’ Candice [Glover] and Amber [Holcomb] have that soul thing, but the stuff that rocks a little bit harder, that’s fun.”
Indeed, accompanying a bluesy singer like Kree Harrison is certainly in his wheelhouse, and in a way, both performers seem to boost each other.
Still, Cohan admits, even he gets nervous. “My guitar could go out of tune, I could forget a part … it’s a lot of pressure playing in front however many millions of people,” he says. “And it’s live so you can’t redo or mess it up.”
You can also end up making semi-embarrassing expressions which, Cohan admits, he’s struggling with. And he’s not alone: John Mayer, another stellar player, has the same problem with “constipation face” (our description, not his).
Cohan’s own personal idols: Paul Jackson, Jr., who had the lead guitar gig before heading over to The Tonight Show with ex-Idol music director Rickey Minor. “And the people who got me excited about music in the first place — Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King.”
The fact that Cohan, by virtue of his talent (and, let’s face it, his looks) has built his own fanbase is “a pleasantly nice surprise,” he says. “This show is not about us and coming into it, you’re well aware of that, so people taking notice is really nice. Of course, I miss playing my own music but I’m having a blast.”