Jimmie Herrod jokes that he may not be on the "A list" of singers, yet, but he has climbed in the ranks, thanks in part to appearances on "America's Got Talent" last year.
"I'm on the K list," he said. "Somewhere in the ether."
Herrod has been well-known locally as one of the singers of Pink Martini for nearly five years, through studies and teaching at Portland State University and with other music projects. He went on "America's Got Talent" in season 16, impressed judges with his rendition of "Tomorrow," enough to earn Sofia Vergara's "golden buzzer," and then made the finals.
It was a rewarding experience in some ways, and not as satisfying professionally in other ways. He later moved with his boyfriend to Las Vegas to participate in the "America's Got Talent Las Vegas LIVE," a variety show featuring nine former "AGT" acts at Luxor Hotel and Casino, for about five months — and moved back to his beloved (and green) Pacific Northwest after his time with the show ended, and resumed touring with Pink Martini, doing other music events and preparing to record songs.
He'll be returning to Portland State for a one-night vocal performance, 7 p.m. Monday, June 6 at Lincoln Performance Hall, joined by mentor George Colligan on piano along with drummer Micah Hummel and bass player Marshall Peterson. From Tacoma, Washington originally, Herrod earned a Master of Music in Jazz Studies at PSU while singing in the Portland State Chamber Choir.
In the same week he performed alongside other singers for "A Joni Mitchell Songbook" at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Herrod, 31, reflected on the whirlwind time with "America's Got Talent."
He impressed judges and many fans with his beautiful, ethereal, high-pitched voice, and then continued to wow audiences in Las Vegas, singing "Tomorrow" and more.
Upon his audition, "AGT" judge Simon Cowell called "Tomorrow" the "worst song in the world … you should do another song" before Herrod sang, and then afterward said, "It's not my worst song anymore."
Herrod sang "Glitter in the Air" in the semifinals.
"You are unbelievable," Vergara said.
"That was a master class. What an amazing, amazing singer you are," Simon Cowell said. "I think you are incredible."
"I'm waiting for your album to drop," Heidi Klum said. Added Howie Mandel: "What you do is perfection. I could listen to you day and night."
Then, he sang a version of "It's a Wonderful World" for the finale, but it wasn't enough to win. Magician Dustin Tavella was victorious.
"That process was definitely a learning experience, being on such a grand stage. It's beneficial to my career, you can't get an opportunity like that and not have it benefit you.
"It wasn't my favorite experience, but you can never be thankful enough being given the opportunity. Lots of people would love to be seen doing that; it definitely opened a lot of doors. … If you can glean something out of it, you've done what you can do."
Herrod added that he wasn't a fan of the contest/competitive nature of "AGT," which allows a stage for and promotes seemingly unknown performers and tries to help elevate their careers.
Some would say Herrod was already elevated in his career.
But, having such notoriety now helps him. "I was invited to perform with top-tier performers at Kennedy Center, which was quite humbling," he said.
Herrod returned to Portland after the Las Vegas show and immediately started touring again with Pink Martini. He serves as one of the group's vocalists, along with China Forbes, Storm Large, Edna Vazquez and guest singer Ari Shapiro. He said Pink Martini will play road dates in June and then throughout July.
He's writing music and hopes to record some songs this summer.
"The big goal right now is to record and do an independent tour. I've never toured by myself," he said. "A lot of that is the concern of it, being in this industry, thinking about the (monetary) loss you're going to take rather than the benefit of being out there.
"Now is the moment for me to go do some individual stuff. I have the visibility, something you'd be foolish not to acknowledge on your trajectory. It's really profitable to go do someone else's thing, something established. But, it's rare that thing becomes something you can enjoy."
As far as his time with Pink Martini and founder Thomas Lauderdale: "I speak of it as this uniquely amazing opportunity. Thomas had this idea for a band for inclusion, that's been an integral part of the mission statement of the band. My function in that as well as anybody who guests is the opportunity to accentuate and to add to that message, the inclusion of bringing others together.
"I've come to really understand, what I'm doing with Pink Martini is this wonderful message and being trusted to further realize someone's vision. Because of always being a part of other people's projects, there's nothing as special as what I get to do with Pink Martini."
Herrod's quest now is to "define myself as somebody who does something other than sing 'Tomorrow.'"
For more on Jimmie Herrod's Lincoln Performance Hall show, see pdx.edu/music-theater/herrod.
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