UW-L Grad Reed Grimm on ‘American Idol’

Reed Grimm at Pittsburg audition

Reed Grimm’s Pittsburg audition originally landed him a “golden ticket” to compete on Idol.

By age 2, Reed Grimm was singing and playing air guitar while doing knee slides across the stage with the family band. The 26 year old showed that same spirit and spontaneity as he advanced on the live, hit TV show American Idol. Grimm was among the top 24 contestants on the show, but did not make it into the top 13.

Grimm, ’08, who studied music and philosophy at UW-La Crosse, continually wowed the judges through various elimination rounds.

“That kid is so mad talented, dude, I can’t even believe it,” Judge Randy Jackson said after Grimm was informed he would be in the top 24.

Grimm’s Pittsburg audition originally landed him a “golden ticket” to compete on Idol.

“A mark of a great performer is that you never know what they’re going to do, so you can’t take your eyes off them — you just follow them back and forth on stage — you’re like what’s he going to do next,” said Idol judge Jennifer Lopez at Grimm’s Pittsburg audition. “You have that. It’s so exciting to watch.”

Grimm is no stranger to the performance stage. He was born on the road — literally one night after his parents’ night club act singing 80s pop songs on a St. Paul stage. Soon after he learned to walk, he joined the family as they toured the country. Mother Colleen Raye describes her son at an early age as a “little ball of energy” who improvised well — even ripping his shirt off mid-performance one time in the heat of the moment.

“One thing you knew was: He wasn’t going to walk out and do nothing. He always was going to perform and have fun with it,” says Raye. “People loved him — his energy and his glow. He still has that energy and glow. He has not lost it.”

Grimm now has an outlet to share that spark with the world, says mom.

Reed Grimm auditioning in Pittsburg. Photo courtesy of FOX.

He had auditioned for Idol four times previously. He was granted a fifth chance when his older sister won a “dream ticket” to be at the front of the line in front of the “American Idol” judges. But she didn’t make the cut because of her age and gave it to her younger brother. Grimm says this time around he was more relaxed and himself. For one, he didn’t dress up. In plaid, orange shorts and shirt, he sang the theme song to “Family Matters” — spreading a message of “the bigger love of the family,” in hard times like these, which he says he truly feels.

“As I started singing, I realized I was doing what I set out to do — letting myself go and letting the music come through me,” says Grimm.

Grimm also had a little more worldly experience this time around. During his early 20s, he went to college at UW-L, was a featured soloist with the UW-L Jazz Ensemble I, toured Europe twice with a UW-L performance group and was a lead singer in two bands, Shoeless Revolution and Three Beers Til Dubuque. Grimm was always outgoing and had a lot of talent as a percussionist and vocalist, recalls Karyn Quinn, UW-L music faculty member.

“He is never one to be afraid and is willing to take chances,” says Quinn.

He has a great combination of talent and work ethic, says Greg Balfany, director of jazz studies at UW-L.

“He doesn’t understand no,” says Balfany. “He just understands he has to do something different.”

Grimm says the experience is really helping him learn and grow.

“My dreams are in my hand. Something magical is going on,” he says. “Now I’m in the midst of it and it’s wild, but I’m enjoying it… It’s helped me remember what I’m about and what I want to do.”

Mom says as she watches the TV screen, she gets a little choked up.

“It’s exciting and it’s kind of draining. You don’t know how he will be depicted,” she says. “You’re sitting there holding your breath the whole time.”

But she says as she looks around, she sees fellow viewers are picking up on her son’s natural vibe — the one she remembers from his air guitar days on stage with the family band.

“I think people are understanding he is a bright spirit,” she says. “People are coming up and hugging him and loving him. And the reality of it is, if he had walked into the room before ‘American Idol’ — people would have run up and hugged him exactly the same.”

Reed Grimm performs “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 at the Top 13 Guys performance: