Lawton native amazes American Idol judges

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:48 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Lawton has an eclectic group of aspiring artists that work each day to make themselves seen, and one local musician is getting the opportunity of a lifetime.

PJAE is a Lawton-born and raised musician hoping to get his big break, and he’s doing just that thanks to American Idol.

He got to travel to Las Vegas and audition in front of guest judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, and he says his audition was a slay.

“It felt like a dream. I was like, actually pinch me. Me and my mom were like pinching each other throughout the experience. We were like, ‘this is not real.’ Like, we’re going to close our eyes and open our eyes, and it’s going to be, like, gone,” PJAE said.

He says growing up in Lawton’s culture directly influenced his sound and gave him a sense of community unlike any other.

“Being from a small town has actually helped me because I learned what community felt like from such a young age,” PJAE said. “I learned what being supported and backed by my Fort Sill family was. I think Lawton especially has something that not a lot of communities have. And it’s like when you’re out wherever, and you’re like, ‘Oh, you’re from Lawton,’ like, ‘Oh, you’re from Lawton, you get it!’ like, you know, we’re in this thing. That’s 580; you know what I mean?”

However, he says his mother and father played a significant part in his love for music beginning at a young age, even if he didn’t realize it at the moment.

“My mom, she was definitely the Saturday morning mom. She would, you know, clean and turn up the music super loud. I would wake up at like 7 am, and I’d be like, ‘what is happening?’”

Despite PJAE’s talent and love for music, it hasn’t always been his main focus. He originally went to school for architecture, something he enjoys to this day, but knows wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

“I was like two years in, and I was like, dang, I really just paid two years for college, and I think I’m about to throw it all away and go start another thing. But I’m so happy that I got to do it. Looking back on it, I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret losing myself because if I didn’t lose myself, I would never be able to find myself,” PJAE said.

He said part of what held him back from pursuing music was his inability to see the support he had in front of him.

“I was never willing to see it, to open my eyes and see all of the support that was always there. I think once I opened my eyes and realized that, that’s when I started to really step into who I feel like I wanted to actually become,” PJAE said.

PJAE will make his official American Idol debut on Sunday, March 19, but the official page released his audition tape early, revealing that he will indeed be going to Hollywood!

He says he’s ecstatic to progress forward on American Idol and cannot wait to see what the journey has in store for him, but more importantly, to tell the story of the Lawton community.

“I am excited to represent them, and I’m excited to represent their stories because my story is Lawton. My story is that you know, the community is who I am. That’s what runs through me, and so I’m excited to carry that torch and see where it takes me.”

You can watch his full audition this Sunday, March 19, on Channel 7.