Zach Beeken didn’t always know he wanted to sing professionally.
Now, one of the Top 40 finalists on the popular singing competition TV show “The X Factor,” the 17-year-old is taking his singing career pretty seriously.
The talent wasn’t something he always had, Beeken said.
“It really happened pretty late for me, at about age 16.”
After singing for fun around friends and family through the years, he realized there could be something more to his just-for-fun hobby.
“My staple trademark thing is kind of the low singing and the low notes,” he said. “I guess up until about 14 and 15 I really never sang seriously, I would joke around the house singing and liked music, but I never thought I was good. Sometimes I still don’t think I’m good. … I never considered myself being a singer as a career.”
At 16 Beeken started voice lessons, which he said really helped him progress. He also joined the choir at Indiana Area Senior High School, which he graduated from in June.
“The first time I sang in front of everyone I was so scared. It was a Randy Travis song. I sat on a stool and closed my eyes,” he said, explaining that he made his first debut as a singer at a high school event. “I got a pretty good response.”
He was discouraged with the idea of singing professionally after he was sent home from Fox’s other singing competition, “American Idol,” last season after competing in one round.
“I really took that hard because that was the only time, the first time, that I was told no,” he said. “I put myself out there. I didn’t sing around the house anymore.”
Then he realized he liked the style of “The X Factor” and what the show looks for in its competitors.
Over the winter, he started looking into possibly trying out for the show. He set his mind to attending the closest audition, in Long Island, N.Y., and was on his way to newfound fame.
From there, Beeken started going through many auditions.
“You have to go through several rounds of auditions,” Beeken said. “Sixteen thousand people show up for two days of auditions and that narrows it down a lot.”
To make it onto the first round of auditions that air on TV, he had to perform in front of multiple producers over the course of three days.
His national television debut was Sept. 26, when a clip of his audition was shown on the show on Fox. At one point in the show, it was thought that Beeken would not make it in to the top 40 contestants.
But the end of the previously recorded show had a twist, where Beeken was eventually put in a group with three other country singers. The group has been working together since August, when the auditions had been held.
“We spent about five days together in L.A. working with the music producers on what we’re going to do for the top 40 round,” he said. “We really had time to get to know each other … we ended up spending about three weeks together to bond, get together and practice.”
The group has spent the weeks since the auditions at each other’s houses, in West Virginia and South Carolina. Beeken is currently spending time with family in Indiana
America will have the opportunity to see Beeken perform again on the show next week, though he did not say whether it will be on Wednesday or Thursday’s episode.
“We’re really excited for America to see how we’ve developed and how far we’ve come after being strangers and kind of what we’ve turned into,” he said.
The episode will be Week 2 of the “Four Chair Challenge,” where the top 40 contestants are narrowed down to 16. Following next week’s episodes, the live show will begin Oct. 16. That’s when America — and Beeken fans — will be able to start casting votes for him.
Until then, he’s enjoying the time he’s spending at home.
“I’ve kind of spent the last couple of weeks in Indiana after being in L.A. laying low and relaxing,” he said. He got his first dose of stardom at Indiana High’s homecoming celebration last weekend, where he said he got “kind of mobbed” by girls he had never met — an experience that he calls “different,” but fun.
Until next week, Indiana fans will just have to sit and wonder if Beeken will make it to the next round. Even if he doesn’t make it, he’s happy to have had the experience. Singing as a career is back on his agenda.
“It’s kind of about being more than just being a singer,” he said about the show. “It’s about having ‘The X Factor’ and the charisma about you that can make you a star.”