Bradenton teenager Sam Woolf says he grew up watching “American Idol” and now he’s living a dream come true, singing on the “American Idol Live!” tour.
This week the tour travels through Florida, with stops at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on Thursday and Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Friday.
“This will be a chance for my friends and family, my grandparents and my sister to see me perform in concert,” Woolf said in a telephone interview. “So far, the tour has been good and the audiences have been good.”
The 41-city trek started on June 24 in Binghamton, New York, and is scheduled to end Aug. 23 in Redmond, Washington. For the first time since the tour started in 2002, there is no live band, so the top 10 finalists are performing to a recorded track.
Woolf was 6 years old when “American Idol” debuted in 2002. It went on to become one of the highest-rated talent shows in TV history.
This is the 13th “Idol” tour, and it marks the first time the tour has played the Tampa area since 2010, when it played the Forum for an eighth consecutive year.
The ratings and venues are smaller this year, but “American Idol” still can launch careers, and that is what Woolf is hoping. “I want to record an album when the tour is done,” says the 18-year-old, who finished in fifth place this season.
The Braden River High School graduate, who missed his high school prom because he had to rehearse for the tour, became a heartthrob. His fans, mostly female and dubbed “the Woolf Pack,” had expected him to go all the way, and many were upset when he was sent home.
He says the hardest thing about this season was enduring the anxiety on those episodes on which someone had to leave.
Born in Michigan, Woolf moved to Florida with his family when he was 9. His great-grandfather was a bandleader in Detroit, and an uncle is a composer. After his parents divorced, he lived back and forth between the homes of his mother and father.
He has lived with his grandparents in Bradenton for the past two years so he could finish high school. He wasn’t well known at Braden River High until his debut on “American Idol” this spring.
He says he became seriously interested in music when he was about 13. He took singing lessons and started writing music. He says he has written more than 50 songs.
Last summer, he took a course at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and was selected to perform in a singer-songwriter showcase. While in Boston, he auditioned for “American Idol.”
He was accepted at Berklee, but that might be put on hold because of his “Idol” success.
“I want to go to California or Nashville and perform my music and see what happens,” he says.
On the tour, Woolf performs a duet with Alex Preston on “Let Her Go,” by Passenger; “Lego House,” by Ed Sheeran, and “Sail Away,” by David Gray. He also performs in group numbers and as backup on others.