LATEST PAPER
73° Good Afternoon
73° Good Afternoon
Entertainment

‘American Idol’ sends former subway busker Amalia Watty to Hollywood

Watty performed her own rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.”

Amalia Watty's 'American Idol' audition

"American Idol" heads to New York City as the search for America's next superstar continues on its new home on ABC. (Credit: American Idol via YouTube)

New York City is headed to Hollywood, by way of “American Idol” contestant and former busker Amalia Watty.

The 28-year-old Brooklyn resident, who used to hop subway cars daily with friends while performing a variety of reggae medleys, impressed the judges during Monday night’s episode of “Idol.” Nabbing herself a pass through to the next round of the reality series, Watty just might become one of the season’s competitors to watch.

“Oh my gosh, I was a big ball of emotion. It was a nerve-wracking moment to be in that room,” she says, gushing about her experience. Though she’s tried out for “Idol” in the past, this marks the first time she’s made it past the show’s first round of judging.

Watty chose to perform her own rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” during the audition. Viewers saw judge Lionel Richie take a particular linking to Watty’s performance as the two bonded over their Afros and genre of preference. Her sound gives off a Macy Gray vibe — or, as she puts it, a Passenger-meets-Pharrell Williams-meets-Corinne Bailey Rae vibe.

“They all thought my tone was very different, very interesting,” she recalls. “I just tried to be me 100 percent and I got it.”

As a longtime “American Idol” fan, Watty says hitting this high point in her music career has been “surreal.” Just three years ago she was hopping the cars on L, 5 or S trains with friends to gain performance exposure.

“We had a short medley prepared and every time the train stopped we’d hop on the next car during nonpeak hours,” she recalls. “I’ve been gigging around the city for a couple of years.”

Originally from Anguilla in the Caribbean, Watty, a professional dancer, moved to New York City six years ago and slowly began to find her footing in the entertainment industry. She’s performed regularly at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, The Blue Note near Washington Square Park and Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side. She’s performed at the U.S. Open since 2016 and, for the first time last year, participated in the Afropunk Battle of the Bands competition in Brooklyn.

“I’m definitely hoping this will open more doors for me,” she says. “I’ve been independent in the NYC jungle for three years, at least. It’s been a crazy journey.”

Watty says her career path has evolved in part due to her open-minded approach to success. As a general rule, she tries not to turn down any opportunity that comes her way, big or small.

“One of my first gigs was at The Path Cafe (in Greenwich Village) that no longer exists,” she says. “Before that, it was just me being in the shower, singing for fun. But I always wanted it to become something I’d do 24/7 for the rest of my life.”

The performer already has two original tracks on Spotify, “Needing You” and “Some One to Know Me.” Her official YouTube page boasts live performances and an original music video for her track “Cry Sometimes,” which she recorded three years ago.

To follow her journey, tune into “American Idol” Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Entertainment photos & videos