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How Kieran Rhodes went from self-taught Berklee student to getting a standing ovation on ‘America’s Got Talent’


His original song “Disengage” about his Simon Cowell-related struggles with depression.

Kieran Rhodes during his audition on America’s Got Talent. Trae Patton/NBC

Kieran Rhodes wowed the celebrity judges on “America’s Got Talent” with a vulnerable original song and a strong vision for success.

But Rhodes didn’t always want to be a musician.

His teenage dreams took the form of slipping into his home base as a Division 1 baseball player in college. That was until his freshman year of high school, when he made the sudden decision to pursue music.

“Music came out of nowhere and I taught myself to play and write. I just had a sudden urge to be a musician and my life took a completely right turn,” he said. -he declares.

His vision was spurred on by a love for Billy Joel, something he discussed during his audition. He even performed part of the singer’s “She’s Got a Way” before being cut and asked to perform his original.

“I would just lay in my bed at night and watch videos of him (Billy Joel) on YouTube… I’d be like that’s what I wanted to do. I was trying to emulate him and learn things by myself,” he said.

After some time as an instrumentalist, Rhodes decided to try singing along to the piano accompaniments he played.

“I opened my mouth and tried to sing and realized I could… which is another thing I’m so grateful for. I didn’t know I had a voice,” he said.

When Rhodes decided to apply to colleges that would meet his musical aspirations, he only applied to one school – Berklee College of Music in Boston.

While at Berklee, Rhodes made some best friends and collaborators, put names to skills he learned independently from different corners of the internet, and recorded an entire EP in his dorm when COVID restrictions -19 left it as the only place to do it.

One night, unbeknownst to Rhodes, an “America’s Got Talent” producer saw him perform and loved it.

“She contacted me two weeks after the performance and she said I blew her away and she needed me on the show. She said she immediately introduced me to her executives,” did he declare.

His audition contained the Billy Joel cover and an original track titled “Disengage”.

The song tells the true story of Rhodes’ own struggles with depression. As he hummed a powerful chorus of “someone’s gotta help me, get out” and lyrics like “it’s all in your head, your life is fine, your love isn’t dead,” onlookers are wiped their eyes, nodding in affirmation.

His tune is even linked to the famous judge Simon Cowell. Cowell said that in his early days in the music industry he was teased by other kids and that stayed with him as he grew up despite the success.

“It plays on your mind, you get depressed. But I didn’t have the talent you have… I really hope this audition can change your life,” Cowell said.

Rhodes said “Disengage” was the most vulnerable and truthful he’s ever been with an original song.

Since her audition aired, Rhodes has received “so, so many” messages from others struggling with their mental health.

“It blew my mind that something I wrote had such an impact in someone’s life. I’m very happy that this song could reach the people who listened to it,” he said. declared.

He said the same on his Twitter account, posting an image of himself in his baseball uniform at a much younger age alongside an image of him on the America’s Got Talent stage.


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