An American Idol alum sings along a Huntington Beach shore Saturday, but before launching into your jokes about oversized shorts, a metal detector and an unscrubbed Sanjaya Malakar, you should know that we are referring to a a veteran recording artist at an all-day musical festival.
The former Idol in question is season eight third place finalist Danny Gokey, who is among the headliners at the Labour of Love Music Fest at Bolsa Chica State Beach. The free event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, is hosted by Calvary Chapel of the Harbour in Huntington Beach with the help of hundreds of volunteers from other Southern California churches.
Gokey attended Christian schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and sang and became worship director at his church. But the 39-year-old has said in interviews that he heard a mix of secular and non-secular music while growing up.
Four weeks after Gokey’s wife Sophia died of complications from heart surgery, he auditioned on Aug. 8, 2008, for American Idol in Kansas City, Missouri. He was chosen to go on to Hollywood, where he survived through May 13, 2009. After performing Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful,” Gokey was eliminated, finishing the season in third place. (Kris Allen was the Idol winner that season.)
After the show, Gokey signed with 19 Recordings and RCA Nashville and pursued a country music career. He recently explained that the American Idol experience left him wanting to avoid being “put in a box” as a Christian performer.
“American Idol was a big eye-opener because I realized that so many different kinds of people tuned in to the show,” Gokey told Billboard earlier this year. “It didn’t matter about your race or ethnicity—there were no borders. So I didn’t want to create music just for the church. I wanted to encourage, motivate and entertain people who would never walk into a church because music is a gift that should be shared.”
My Best Days, Gokey’s debut album, was released in March 2010. He left RCA Nashville in November 2011, drifted into more of an adult pop/contemporary Christian musical direction and signed in May 2013 with BMG. Last year, he signed with Capitol Christian Music Group.
The official YouTube song video of his single “Haven’t Seen It Yet” has received more than 9 million views since its January release. Sharing the title of Gokey’s fifth album that came out on April 12, the “Haven’t Seen It Yet” video recently received a GMA Dove Awards nomination.
Gokey will share Labour of Love fest headlining duties with Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Jeremy Camp, R&B-groove-pop artist Jordan Feliz and the groups The Young Escape and Anchored247.
Playing at the family-friendly festival–which includes food and service vendors and activities for children as well as adults–caps an emotional month for Gokey. He and his second wife, Leyicet Peralta, welcomed their fourth child, Emmanuel, on Aug. 16, which would have been first wife Sophia’s 38th birthday.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.