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Soundtracking ‘American Idol,’ Liverpool’s Banners ‘Just Want to Be Someone’

As the audition rounds come to a close on “American Idol” tonight (March 25), Liverpool band Banners continues to amass streams of the song “Someone to You,” which has been featured in the ABC show’s ad campaign and to soundtrack contestants as they advance to Hollywood. With its very “Idol”-appropriate lyrics — “I just want to be someone / Well doesn’t everyone?” — “Someone to You” was up 37% in consumption the week of March 11, while the official video is pacing at 100,000 views a week, just topping 1.6 million.

Michael Nelson, who is Banners, says the song came out of an intense writing session with Sam Hollander (Fitz and the Tantrums, Train, Daughtry) just as he was about to fly home from Los Angeles to the U.K. “I was so tired by that point, that I think if I could have flown home the night before, I would have,” Nelson tells Variety. “But luckily I didn’t.”

The song, which captures the hopeful optimism that personifies the ABC singing show, is available on Banners’ EP, “Empires on Fire,” released by Island Records.

The music of Banners is not new to television, however. Nelson’s song “Shine a Light” was recently featured on “The Good Doctor,” and another composition, “Start a Riot,” was heard on “Lucifer.” But “Someone to You” led to a mentorship slot on “Idol,” which will air in the coming weeks, alongside Colbie Caillat, Luis Fonsi, Andy Grammer, Lea Michele, Pat Monahan from Train, Bebe Rexha, Sugarland, Allen Stone, Aloe Blacc, Bishop Briggs, Cam, and Rachel Platten. Nelson says all of the scenes have already been shot, and he can’t wait to see how it all looks after editing.

“Television is quite fascinating and it’s such a well-oiled machine,” he says. “I think the thing I was most interested in is kind of how it all works.”

Nelson didn’t have much close contact with judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, but says there was still plenty to take in from his view onstage. “I played a couple of songs with the two guys that I was mentoring,” Nelson recalls. “It’s kind of funny because you’ve got Katy Perry right there, 10 feet away, and you are trying to do your best with the song and not look at them.”

Mentoring is a responsibility he took seriously. Adds Nelson: “I was slightly nervous and thinking, ‘What can I pass on [to the contestants]?’ What really struck me was, having toured for the last two or three years, is how much you learn from playing live. … People who have never done it before realize how difficult it is.”

Indeed, playing the correct chords, remembering the lyrics and perfecting the art of stage banter takes many gigs to get right, but Banners, who is heading out on his own headlining tour this Spring, is pleased with the progress he saw from the contestants.

“I am absolutely amazed by the way [the finalists] are able to bring so much together in such a short time,” he says. “If they can get through this experience, regardless of whether they get to the next round, whatever happens after is going to be easy.  You put pressure on yourself because you want to [excel], but it’s not the same as going to play in front of Katy Perry every week.”

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