Grasping a microphone beneath bright lights, Tim Olstad drew roaring crowds to their feet and left judges speechless as he soared up the ranks of the competitive singing show "The X Factor" this fall. The young Winonan finished in the top 10 of the televised contest of vocal prowess before coming home late last month. It may not be the last time his singing wins standing ovations; Olstad said he has hopes for a record deal in the future.
In between performing for national audiences, "X Factor" star Tim Olstad (center) caught up with his parents, sisters, and niece: (from left to right) Julie, Jeanne, Lily, Megan, and Gene.
Time and time again on "The X Factor," Olstad stood in the beam of the spotlights to find out whether the show's Hollywood judges would let him continue on the show or send him packing. "Waiting for my name to get called — the dramatic music — was the worst," he groaned in an interview with the Post. There are special speakers directly behind where the contestants stand waiting to be culled (or not). Olstad said he is pretty sure they are there for the sole purpose of sending shudders of anxiety up contestants' spines. "I will never forget that music," he said. When the drumroll was suddenly silenced, the judges would begin to announce their decision, then pause for agonizing seconds before uttering a name. Time and time again, all of the apprehension ended in joy for Olstad and his fans.
After a stunning performance early in the season, the Winonan was actually told he was cut. Judges told Olstad to hit the road. "I was out in the lobby; my family was being taken out of the building," he recalled. "And then they said they wanted a mic back on me." In a last-minute change of heart, judges called Olstad back on the stage, where they hemmed and hawed before giving him a berth in the next round. The applause was deafening. "I can already hear your voice on the radio," judge Kelly Rowland said of Olstad's performance, quieting the cheers.
"To be taken out, that made me realize how much I wanted it," he said. Ultimately, Olstad was taken out of the running for good, but his top ten finish may be the success he has been dreaming of.
"I'm on a little bit of a hold, waiting to hear some things," the singer said when asked about what is next for his music career. Olstad explained he could not say much, due to restrictions in his contract with "The X Factor," which is still active. However, he said he would know more once "The X Factor" season is over. "I'm hoping that somebody reaches out to me for a recording contract." Olstad's dream is to "make it" as a music star: to sing, perform, and record for a living. The exposure "The X Factor" has given him may well be the foot in the door he needed. The Minnesota golden boy now has fans across the globe.
Olstad also hopes that he may be called back to Los Angeles to sing in the season finale, as the top 12 competitors have done in seasons past.
Either way, "that's pretty cool to say that I got to sing eight times in front of a national audience," he said. "As much as I feel like, 'oh, man, I got cut from the show,' I can look back at all the videos and see how much I grew."
Olstad has been practicing music since he was a child, but "The X Factor" gave him a crash course in "show biz." From practice to performance, his experience in the music industry was fast-paced. "Commercials were our time to MOVE!" He remembered. There was no time for being star-struck, either. "With the initial audition, it was like wow, you're so used to seeing them on TV," he said of the show's famous judges. "So getting into live shows, you had to just train yourself. 'There's Demi [Lovato], Kelly [Rowland], Mario [Lopez].'"
He added, "You have to be just cool with it" or else you will wind up a nervous wreck.
"As corny as it sounds, I really got to be good friends with everyone on the show because we're going through the same things: long days, interviews, 4- to 5-hour rehearsals," Olstad said. Working with the same illustrious coaches in voice and music that have counseled American legends was an incredible opportunity, he said.
Still, being home feels good, too. "I did nothing last week. No interviews. Nothing," he said of Thanksgiving week. "It was a weird transition coming home. Going from go, go, go," he continued. "It was nice to come back and just chill."
Tim's parents, Gene and Julie Olstad, visited their son nearly every week during his television stint. "They were super supportive and they always have been," he said.
"You can see a difference; the pressure has eased up," Tim's father Gene said of his son's homecoming. "It's like we just now landed back on earth again after floating through the air."
Gene said it was elating to watch his son give breathtaking performance after performance. The Olstads had company over to watch their son on television and "the house just erupted when we heard him."
These days Tim is back in Winona. He dropped a job and apartment in Chicago to try his luck on national television. It was a big risk, but he had to take it, he said. Now he is waiting to see if that risk might prove to be his big break into the music business.