A budding singer is swapping Hartlepool for Hollywood after wowing the judges on American Idol.

Michael Rice, 26, has always dreamt of appearing on the US singing contest and decided to apply for the show last summer.

After a rigorous audition process, Michael got to audition before judges Lionel Ritchie, Katy Perry and country singer Luke Bryan, with his episode airing in the States on Sunday (March 17) night.

The Teessider wowed with a version of American Idol season one winner Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Because of You’ and earned himself a golden ticket straight to Hollywood – the equivalent of a golden buzzer on Britain’s Got Talent.

The Northern Echo: Michael Rice from Hartlepool appeared on American Idol on Sunday (March 17) night.Michael Rice from Hartlepool appeared on American Idol on Sunday (March 17) night. (Image: MICHAEL RICE)

Michael told the Echo: “It’s always been a big dream for me to do American Idol. Growing up me and my mam would sit and watch all the audition videos.

“I thought why not just take the risk and apply.

“I was in London with my mam and grandma and as soon as the email came through we were just like, ‘what the hell!?’.”

“On the day of the audition I was so nervous waking up – it was a 5.30am call to be ready. I was the last audition one of the day so I had to wait all day.

The Northern Echo: Michael got a golden ticket sending him through to Hollywood.Michael got a golden ticket sending him through to Hollywood. (Image: MICHAEL RICE)

“I got lost in the moment and didn’t realise how much the judges were enjoying it. It was only when I stopped and saw them giving me a standing ovation I realised how well it’d gone. They said to come and get my golden ticket and I was going to Hollywood.

“These things never happen to people like me.”

He’s now preparing for the next round and will have to fly out to LA again in the coming months.

Michael lost his dad, who had battled drug addiction, in 2017 to a heart attack after they rekindled their relationship when he was 17. He told the judges his song choice reminded him of his dad and he wanted to do him proud.

“I said to him one day I am going to be on American Idol but never thought it would happen.”

The Northern Echo: Michael Rice performed a cover of Kelly Clarkson's 'Because of You'.Michael Rice performed a cover of Kelly Clarkson's 'Because of You'. (Image: ABC)

It isn’t Michael’s first foray into the spotlight. He previously auditioned for X Factor when he was just 16, making it to bootcamp and won the first series of BBC show ‘All Together Now’  in 2018.

He then represented the UK at the 2019 Eurovision final in Tel Aviv but failed to win over the audience finishing in last place with just 11 points.

But he didn’t let his Eurovision disappointment and losing his manager during Covid put him off pursuing a music career.

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He released his Kelly Clarkson cover on Sunday and has new music ready to share after the show.

After the audition judge Lionel Ritchie told Rice: “You gave it all to us. That was the most emotional, most giving. That was powerful.”

Michael added: “The reaction has been absolutely amazing. My phone hasn’t stopped. Instagram and TikTok blew up.

“To represent the North East, where you come from, it’s amazing.”