The bracelets enabled the approximately 17,000 attendees to get into auditions at Bridgestone Arena. “It was a little intimidating,” Haleigh said of the number of people there.
They got in the arena about 6 or 6:30 a.m. The area seemed rife with “tall, blonde divas,” she added. “I’m a short little fun-sized girl,” Haleigh noted.
Contestants were placed in groups of four, and Haleigh ended up in a good section of the arena: It ended up being the section picked first. Then, at about 9:30 or 10 a.m., on 45 minutes of sleep, and in her blue flannel shirt and flip-flops, Haleigh performed Carrie Underwood’s “So Small.”
“Whenever all the contestants were done, the judges got clipboards and covered their faces” to discuss who would move on to the next round, Haleigh explained. “They said, ‘Contestant 2 (which was Haleigh), step forward. The rest can go.’
“They said, ‘You really hit the notes. We would like to see you come back,’” she added.
Haleigh headed out of the audition room to find her mom in the stands. “You go with hopes but not big expectations,” Haleigh noted.
At the end of the day, fewer than 180 made it to the second round — about 1 or 2 percent.
She had to spend time filling out paperwork, writing down her life story and signing confidentiality forms.
“They emphasized that a lot,” said Kim Lanham, Haleigh’s mom.
She had to keep her progression to round two under wraps, a task Haleigh found especially difficult for a number of reasons: She’s not one to keep secrets, and she had posted on her Facebook status she planned on auditioning.
“It was hard on her not to tell her friends,” said Scott Lanham, Haleigh’s dad.
Added Haleigh, “I had to delete stuff (from Facebook). People were asking me how I did, and I kept saying, ‘That information is pending.’ People were texting and asking me stuff.”
Round two was held Sept. 17 in Nashville, at a hotel. Haleigh sang at a football game the previous evening.
“We planned to leave Friday night and get to the hotel room, but it was 11 before we got back from the game,” Scott Lanham said.
Fortunately, their arrival time was changed from 7 a.m. to noon, so that gave the Lanhams a small cushion.
A couple of Haleigh’s friends as well as her little sister, Tori, traveled with the Lanhams.
Haleigh got a small sticker indicating she was auditioning while her parents were given bracelets indicating they were with her.
She had her guitar with her and had to haul it up six or seven stories. Those auditioning were assigned seats.
They had to learn the song “Rawhide” — the one from the television show. The girl next to Haleigh had made it to Hollywood a few times.
When Haleigh’s row was called before the panel of four judges, the contestants were led down a hallway to seven seats. As each person was called back, the contestants moved up a seat. When it was Haleigh’s turn, she performed Martina McBride’s “Lies.”
“They said they liked my voice and I had a great personality. They said I had the look, and if I auditioned next year, I’d probably have a spot to Hollywood,” Haleigh said.
What she lacked, though, was a spot of confidence. Her homework until next year’s auditions is to work on bolstering her confidence.
“She did an amazing job to get through 17,000 people,” Scott Lanham said.
Kim Lanham said one of the neat things they got to see was how everything worked — the golden tickets, the taping, the mad dash through the double doors.
Added Haleigh, “It definitely was a really good experience. God really blessed me. ... It’s always been my dream to make it on the show.”
In the meantime, she intends to perform more, do some theater to enhance her “emotional effect” when performing, work on a CD she has begun, continue songwriting, take piano lessons and learn to read music.
And if it all comes together next year as she plans and hopes, she will