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Southeast Bulloch senior Madi Carter follows in her mom's footsteps to audition for American Idol
Madi Carter
Madi Carter was able to stand where her mom dreamed of standing when she auditioned for the Spring season of American Idol.


Madi Carter comes from a family that loves music, a love that she has also inherited. That love has led her to sing in area churches as well as at some baseball games, and to sing with her parents’ group, Joyful Noise. But she didn’t have any idea that her talent would also take her somewhere her mother didn’t quite make it to —American Idol. 

Madi is the daughter of Roger Sapp and Misty Carter, and is originally from Effingham County. She moved with her family to Bulloch County in March 2020, and she will graduate later this month from Southeast Bulloch High School. 

Misty auditioned for American Idol during Season 2, but didn’t make it past the audition with the producers. Now that her daughter is 17, she decided that her time had come. 

Madi says her mom signed her up for AI, and she got a call one day last fall while she was at work. Her mom told her she had something she needed her to do, so Madi rushed home. She soon found herself auditioning for the producers of American Idol via Skype. She went through three rounds of auditions with the producers before getting invited to Nashville.

But Madi was hesitant to make the trip.

“When my mom signed me up, I didn’t want to do it, because I didn’t want it to get in the way of my schoolwork,” she said, adding that she asked her mom to call them and say she couldn’t make it.

But in the end, she and her mom made the trip to Nashville in November, where she was joined by older brother, Brian Fuller, who is living in Nashville and pursuing a record deal himself. He encouraged her, telling her to be herself and to just do her best.

Madi was in Nashville for about a week, and stood before Idol judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. She performed “Rise Up,” by Andra Day. She got a “yes” from each judge, and a golden ticket to California. 

“Honestly, when I walked into that room, I blacked out, because these are three big icons,” she said. “It was just a really surreal experience. It felt like I was talking to like, just, screens. They were just so perfectly perfect, it didn’t even feel like they were human.”

Madi says she doesn’t remember much about the feedback she received, but she does remember that Katy Perry told her she has all the tools in her tool box; she just needs to learn how to use them. 

And getting that golden ticket is a moment she will always cherish. 

“When they gave me that golden ticket, I almost felt validated. I was like, you know what, maybe I can take my singing and make it big one day. And even if it’s not in the cards, I can definitely use it to do something,” she said. “

In December, Madi and her mom flew to Califor-nia for Hollywood Week, and they were there about two weeks. She made it through the first two rounds. 

The first round was a performance challenge, and Madi said she got to pick her own song. The contestants were given three categories to choose from: stage presence, confidence and song writing. They were told to choose the one that they struggled with the most. Madi chose confidence, saying that’s what she most wanted to work on that week.

For the performance challenge, Madi sang, “I Love You,” by Billie Eilish. 

At one point, the contestants were given mentors, and Madi was assigned Clay Aiken, a runner-up during Season 2. Her meeting with Aiken became one of the most memorable moments of the season.

“To tell you the truth, I could tell you everything there is to know about Clay Aiken, except for what Clay Aiken looks like,” she said. “So whenever I had my interview with my mentor, I didn’t know who I was going into the room to meet. I had no idea. So I walked in and at the time, I had no idea that it was Clay Aiken.”

Madi Carter auditioned in November last year for judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, receiving a "yes" from each of the three judges, and a golden ticket to California.

“It’s been so long since I’ve done the show, that a lot of the kids who are on now weren’t alive when I was on the show,” Aiken said during the video of their on-air meeting, laughing. 

The pair chitchatted, and Madi mentioned that her mom had auditioned for the show. Aiken asked her what season.

“I said, yeah, my mom auditioned for Season 2, whatever season that Clay Aiken was on,” she said. “And I had no idea that I was talking to Clay Aiken the whole time.” 

“This is gonna be fun,” Aiken said to the camera, with a sly smile. 

Madi’s mom was brought in and asked to look up a photo of Aiken on her phone, which she showed to her daughter. Madi says she was thoroughly embarrassed at the time, but she also couldn’t help but laugh at herself.

Madi says that if you know her, you know that doing something like that is “so her.”

Unfortunately, she was eliminated. But despite the elimination, Madi says the experience was “a cool one.” She calls it the highlight of her senior year.

“Not many 17-year-olds can say that they were on American Idol, they got a golden ticket, and they were flown out to California. I met so many amazing people, and the friendships that I made, I will cherish forever,” she said. “Although the outcome wasn’t what I hoped for I know that it just must not have been in God’s plan and what he had planned for me. I strongly believe that he has something greater on the way.”

Madi says she learned so much during her experiences, both in Nashville and in California. It was intimidating to meet some of the competitors, as many of them had a lot more experience than she did. But she learned that she’s strong, and if she truly wants something, she’s willing to work to get it.

“And if I don’t get it, I’m gonna work hard to get it the next time,” she said. 

Madi also learned that everyone’s voice has its own unique sound, and that you can’t compare yourself to anyone else; you have to nurture and develop what you have. 

American Idol likely won’t be the only show she auditions for. She is planning to audition for The Voice as well in the next year or two, but first she wants to graduate, go to cosmetology school, and work toward owning her own hair salon. 

She’ll also keep working to develop her own style and her voice, and is writing some songs. She looks to her inspirations, singers Lauren Daigle, Kari Jobe, Natalie Grant, Adele and Kelly Clarkson. Her biggest inspiration is Jobe.

“She brings the house down every time she opens her mouth. If I were ever to become something with music, I would want to be Kari Jobe, 100%,” Madi says with a smile. “I just love powerhouse singers.”

Madi is going to keep working on her own powerhouse voice and style, and she’ll hold onto her memories of American Idol fondly.

“It was a really cool moment, and it’s something that I’ll never forget,” she said. “And to me, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryant, that was the cherry on top, because you don’t meet them every day.”

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