With 11,000 people already registered and thousands more expected to walk up to audition at Nassau Coliseum, all the singers are looking for ways to get noticed by "The X Factor" producers. (Judges Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato aren't expected to attend, and no replacements have been named for Britney Spears and L.A. Reid, who were judges last season.) Here are five tips from last season's winner, Tate Stevens, for those looking to stand out from the crowd:
1. BE YOURSELF Stevens says the exhaustive screening process is designed to shake people who are putting on an act for the cameras. "Don't try to be anybody you're not," he says, "because they'll see through it."
2. DO WHAT YOU DO BEST Trying to pick songs the judges will like instead of something you do well is a bad plan, says Stevens. "Don't second-guess," he says. "Don't say, 'I could really do this Ke$ha song because that's hot on the radio right now.' Whatever's the best thing you've got, bring it."
3. PICK GREAT SONGS Stevens says his show mentor, L.A. Reid, told him early on that he didn't know much about country music, but he responded to great songs. "Our whole mentality was to pick the best song for each situation," he says. "It worked, apparently."
4. SING FROM THE HEART Though Stevens knew he'd face an uphill battle if he stuck with country songs throughout the competition, he thought fans would respect it. "I wanted to stay true to what I would do," he says. "I would stretch here and there, but I didn't want to stray too far from country."
5. GET READY TO WORK "It's a lot tougher than I ever thought it ever could be," he says of the rigorous schedule of the show. "I'm not gonna lie. It's a long grind. But it was an amazing experience. It changed my life."
From a rainy audition to reigning 'X Factor' champ
Tate Stevens wasn't going to audition for "The X Factor" last year.
"I didn't even really want to do the show," says the reigning "X Factor" champion, sitting in the lounge of a midtown Manhattan hotel. "My wife and kids . . . signed me up without me knowing."
The 38-year-old country singer from Belton, Mo., said he decided to go to the show's Kansas City auditions only because his wife agreed to stand in line with him, and he thought she would decide to go home pretty quickly. "We had to get there early early in the morning," Stevens recalls. "It was kinda drizzly rain, and I thought, 'Uh-huh, she's not going to want to stand out here with all these thousands of people.' But she hung in there. Luckily, she did."
After leading for most of the season, Stevens won "X Factor" and a $5 million recording contract in December. His major-label debut album, "Tate Stevens" (SYCO Music/RCA Nashville), hits stores Tuesday, with the single "The Power of a Love Song" starting to climb the country charts.
Regardless of how it performs, the album already has made several dreams come true for Stevens, who got to co-write "I Got This" with one of his favorite singers, Joe Diffie. "He's one of my heroes and a super-super nice guy," Stevens says. "It was a great experience, and we got a great song out of it."
Stevens was able to co-write three of the album's songs, despite the intense time pressure to finish the record quickly. "I would have liked to have written all of them, but that just wasn't possible," he says. "I'm thrilled I was able to work on three of them, but I would have been OK if I didn't write any of them. It was best song wins."
"I'm just really excited for the chance to get people to hear it," he says.
WHAT "X Factor" tryouts
WHEN | WHERE 7 a.m. April 25, Nassau Coliseum (If you're not in line by 7 a.m., you won't get seen by producers.)
WHEN TO REGISTER April 23 and 24 at Nassau Coliseum; no overnight camping allowed.
(You also can register online. Either way, you'll need to go to the coliseum on those days for a wristband.)
WHAT TO SING Prepare to sing a verse and a chorus from three songs a cappella. If you move on to the next round, you may be asked to sing two songs with a backing track.
WHAT TO WEAR Clothing that does not have any visible names or logos.