American Idol’s Dillon James Signs Record Deal with UMG Nashville

(ABC/Eric McCandless) DILLON JAMES

American Idol 2020 Top 5 Finalist Dillon James Signs with UMG Nashville 

Great news from American Idol Top 5 finalist, Dillon James. The country/folk singer, dubbed the “spiritual cowboy” by judge Katy Perry has signed a major label record deal with UMG Nashville, Hollywood Records and 19 Recordings.

“I JUST GOT A RECORD DEAL WITH @umgnashville @hollywoodrecords !!!!!!” Dillon writes on Instagram. “I’ve been playing music my whole life, it’s been a tough road, let me tell you lol. But Because of @americanidol and all of your guys love and support for my craft I was able to make it far enough on @americanidol to get recognized.” Dillon continues, “Without your help and love I don’t know where I would be today. Probably still recording songs in my room. Singing to my laptop aha.”

“To get a record deal has always been a dream of mine and it would never have happened without my squad,” writes Dillon. “WE’RE SIGNED BABY, I love you guys! WHAT A DREAM TO BE ON SUCH A GREAT ROSTER.” Dillon adds, “Huge thanks to @elissajf @stepharuene @blingbam14 @thefakemikedaly #19recordings #recordingArtist #signed #umgnashville #hollywoodrecords”

Dillon James joins a UMG roster full of American Idol alums

Fellow UMG Nashville artists include American Idol judge Luke Bryan in addition to Idol alums Carrie Underwood and Lauren Alaina. Former American Idol judge Keith Urban is also on the roster.

Dillon James, from Bakersfield, California had a remarkable backstory. He originally headed to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. He managed to star in a couple of Hallmark/Disney movies. But along the way, he became mired in alcohol and drug addiction, which left him homeless. He eventually moved back in with his parents, where he spent two years healing from his addictions. Finally, when he was ready, the singer-songwriter auditioned for American Idol. The singer impressed the judges and fans with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin,” Amos Lee’s “Hang on, Hang on,” and more.

Congratulations Dillon! Watch Dillon celebrate the great news in his latest Instagram post. “You’re boy’s got a record deal!” he shouts at him mom from the pool.  “I don’t know how to swim.”  Surf over to page 3 where a label executive zooms in to welcome Dillon to the UMG family.

About mj santilli 33692 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!


  1. this is such awesome news! so happy for him. he so deserves this! can’t wait for his new music!! been waiting for this news for a while! no wonder he can’t stop smiling!!
    meanwhile I highly recommend to get his album “Unstable Pride” from itunes/spotify. really good album! hopefully UMG will promote it as well. some songs like tierra dulce and gunsmoke should be on the radio pronto!

  2. Wow that was quick. Congrats Dillon! I hope to hear something new from him soon. I really really love his voice.

  3. If Dillon could get a joint deal with Universal Nash and HR, why couldn’t they have done that for last year’s winner who Is a country artist?

  4. She didn’t need two labels to have a successful single, so why would Laine need two? Why do you think Dillon got two?

  5. Hollywood Records passed on Gabby and that meant she was free to pursue a deal like any other unsigned artist. They didn’t pass on Dillon, but may have offered the joint venture to sweeten the deal.

  6. Congrats to Dillon! He didn’t win but he made good of the chance to get noticed. Every Idol is different and the opportunities that one gets, or does not get, have nothing to do with any other contestant. Taking the moment to showcase what he had to offer belongs to DILLION. When the dust settles, it is every man for himself. Winner/non-winner/placement has never been the only thing that dictates what happens in an Idol career. Of course everyone knows that, lol. But his success will depend on him, label/management support and interest. I didn’t have any strong favorites his season but wishing him good luck. Very exciting for him.

  7. Country labels only recently started doing joint label deals. It’s not a normal occurrence. In most cases, one label is needed for radio help & the other does everything else.

    I’ve said before that Hollywood Records does not have a radio team. I’m speculating here, but I wouldn’t be surprised UMG Nashville is helping with the radio aspect.

  8. I said this is another post that joint record deals is a rare occurrence & only recently happened. Also, I’m not even sure the label thought of this or had the capability last year. The reason I say this is because of an artist named Adam Hambrick. He’s written big hits for country acts such as Dan + Shay, Justin Moore, etc. He might sound familiar to some here because he’s worked with some Idol alums such as Trent & Kris & has been friends with Kris for a long time. Adam was on Buena Vista Records, one of Hollywood Records umbrella’s (same as Laine’s). He released music last year under Buena Vista. It wasn’t until Feb. 2020 where he was signed to UMG Nashville. This isn’t a joint deal. He is no longer with BV & a UMG Nashville artist. Basically, I’m saying they didn’t do this type of deal for him either. He was releasing music for months without any push to radio. He just gained enough buzz for UMG to sign him later.

  9. Not surprised. For me, he had the most charisma of the guys & a unique voice. I am not even a Country fan and he was my favorite!

  10. I’m still surprised that Caleb (who came second to Maddie) didn’t get signed by someone.

  11. Even if he is, it’s not a joint deal. I saw several articles when he was signed & they list him as a Capitol Records (UMG umbrella) artist. Any ads I’ve seen haven’t mentioned Buena Vista so if the label is still involved I don’t know know in what capacity. Just saying, Adam seemed to move to different UMG Nashville labels. Buena Vista Records is a partnership between UMG & Disney. Now he’s on Capitol Records.

    Moving umbrella’s within a label is pretty common. Having a joint deal isn’t common. Cam just received one last week & many industry people were saying in country how rare it is for 2 labels to join together to sign an artist.

  12. I’m not really surprised. If Caleb was stereotyped to many as a traditional leaning country singer, that’s not a great sound for many country labels recently. The traditional leaning artists such as Josh Turner, Easton Corbin, etc. haven’t recently had much success. Also, men have a lot of success in country. But that also means if at a point a male artist starts doing poorly, there’s about several country men that could take his “place.”

  13. When I had posted during the season referring to Dillon as a country singer, many disputed that. Bakersfield, where he is from, is a big country music town, so he fits right in. Who knows if he could have won if the west coast was able to vote.

  14. I was surprised Dillon didn’t win but the judges etc. were determined to push Sam for the win until towards the end of the show; not sure I read this correctly but that’s what I saw. I thought the favorite was no longer Sam. Voters did not get the memo and she won.

  15. I’m sure you are correct about Bakersfield. Hard to know what the outcome would have been had the West Coast had an equal opportunity to vote. Country music is popular throughout the country. Gary Allan, Brett Young, and Cam are all from California. Taylor Swift (who started in country) and Gabby Barrett are from PA. Sara Evans is from Kansas. Artists from the south may predominate in country music, but there are plenty from all over the country.

  16. Even Canada has a ton of country singers, from Hank Snow and Terri Clark to Lennon Stella. :)

  17. If so, he hasn’t said. But he has said he has music coming soon.

    Did he ever sing on Kelly and Ryan Live?

  18. Yes, very traditional. Caleb has a voice that reminds me of Scotty’s in that no matter what he sings it’s going to sound country.

    But he’s also a good singer and not a bad songwriters, and he’s living in Nashville working on it.

  19. Yeah. It is one thing for those from California to split the vote but another for them not to get to vote at all. Not sure why they set it up that way.

  20. The voters will always have the last say no matter what the judges may want, lol. And that Sam was the first LGBT Idol to win probably means little after all this time. And with all that Adam has accomplished without the win and he is still of great demand and media interest 11 years later. So what is there really to say about the win if you don’t accomplish much or have great media buzz? That applies to any winner. But I do hope Hollywood will at least try to do something for her and give her the chance to make a living in music. However, they have not really tried with anyone. All indications seem to point to Dillon being the one to make it from his season.

  21. “All indications seem to point to Dillon being the one to make it from his season.”

    What indications? Getting signed to a label deal doesn’t indicate anything other than the fact that someone at the label thinks he’s worth taking a risk on. It definitely doesn’t guarantee any kind of success. But hopefully it works out for him.

  22. “All indications seem to point to Dillon being the one to make it from his season.”

    What indications? Getting signed to a label deal doesn’t indicate anything other than the fact that someone at the label thinks he’s worth taking a risk on. It definitely doesn’t guarantee any kind of success. But hopefully it works out for him.

  23. Having a joint deal may simply be a way to split costs. I’m not sure if it is any kind of advantage for an artist. Having two labels doesn’t seem to have done a hell of a lot for Adam Hambrick. He’s still far more successful as a songwriter for other people than he is as an artist. If an artist isn’t being promoted, does it really matter how many labels he is part of?

  24. I didn’t give a ringing endorsement for that reason. I know there are lot of great singers out there. But coming second off Idol, I thought Hollywood or someone might have give him a shot.

    As far as I can see, he’s doing what he should be doing, and since Kristen Bush produced his last EP I’m hoping he’s still working with him.

    And I personally think being indie can be the very best place to be, but that’s because I like being in control. I had three different publishers before decided to indie publish. However, most of us have to learn that the hard way before we can be comfortable with it.

  25. I guess I am not surprised. Dillon likely had people in his corner who were just waiting for him to clean up his act. Once he did that they felt they could take a chance.

  26. I don’t think being a good singer, songwriter, etc. is necessary nowadays. There are country artists currently charting or popular I wouldn’t say have good voices or songwriting.

    I was pointing out that being a traditional leaning country artist currently isn’t a sound many in the genre are looking for including radio airplay, labels, etc. There are established traditional leaning country artists in recent years who are unsigned (Ex. Easton Corbin). That’s just the reality of the market. I understand the Scotty comparison. But remember Scotty on UMG Nashville had good sales #’s, some radio success, etc. was dropped by the label & was unsigned when he released “Five More Minutes.” Basically, at a point no label was interested.

  27. the difference is that dillon already has an album out and my guess it was what helped him get noticed by the label to sign him. it will give him the promotional back that he needs to get his music out and the resources to make his sound better. his album is very good and if he managed to make it in his home studio think what he can do in a professional one.

  28. I thought he had a shot when he did the Beatles and then Dylan; neither country but folksy enough. He had a certain style that had star quality imho. I did not get the same vibe with Gabby she wasn’t on my radar at all.

  29. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Nashville who are “good” singers and “not bad” songwriters. You go to any venue in Nashville on any given night and you’ll see them playing out. And most of those artists don’t have record deals, either.

    IMO, if Caleb wants to have a long music career, he can’t worry about whether he has a record deal. He just needs to focus on making his music as strong as it can be, release it and then find a way to try and promote it. If he can do this, maybe he’ll end up getting signed someday. Or maybe he won’t. If his goal is to try and get a label deal, then he should definitely keep pursuing the goal. I’m just saying it does no good to stress over it.

    There’s nothing wrong with being an indie artist. Hell, there are more than a few indie artists who have had more success than a sizable percentage of artists who have major label deals. After all, only a very small percentage of artists on major labels actually have big success.

    As for Dillon, it’s exciting that he’s gotten signed to UMG. But again, it guarantees him nothing in terms of whether he ends up having any kind of commercial and/or critical success. Hopefully it works out for him. But if it doesn’t, again, there’s nothing wrong with being an indie artist.

  30. Said nothing about a guarantee, lol. But not hard to think being signed to something other than Hollywood, or being signed at all, might give him the better chance.Tho it is just too hard to predict what will happen for anyone, I think I would rather be in his position.

  31. I am not a big country music fan but I love Dillon. because he is not country per se. he’s more folk/country (kind of like neil young soundish) and if you listened to his album then you’ll hear that his sound is a mix of folk/rock with country and some blues influences. something that makes his sound his own. my guess it was that album that attracted the label to sign him.

  32. Yes, I realize sounding trad country (and not really being able to sound anything else) is a problem. (His duets with Maddie unfortunately did now work at all!) And Scotty had an uphill battle because he wanted to do his own music his way (not the first to do that).

    Hopefully Caleb will be able to build up a fanbase that can keep him going in music. And have some of his songs sung by other people.

    One of my favourite singers is John Arthur Martinez who finished second to Buddy Jewell on Season 1 of Nashville Stars, and has carved a niche for himself in southern Texas with occasional jaunts to Europe and a number of albums. I have one of his songs (with his permission) playing as my “theme song” on my website.

  33. A major label is better than no label. The right people interested is better than no one interested. Having someone fund you is better than no funds. Those sound like indicators.

  34. True. And Dillon will have a better chance of making the Billboard 200. Satiago’s (or some other random name) favorite can’t do that and it is a bitter pill, lol. But I think most artists would like to land there, even for one week, when they put time and effort into writing and recording their music. Who knows what kind of success Dillon will have? However, your chances of success are much better with a label behind you. And I would think most go on Idol hoping to get signed instead of wanting to be indie artists and leaving it to chance.

  35. There’s a huge difference between being a truly independent artist and being signed to an indie label. A small label is still a label.

  36. Again, not necessarily. Maddie didn’t make the BB Top 200. Neither did Alejandro. Neither did Trent. Laine hasn’t even gotten an album out.

    Meanwhile, Morgan Wallen, one of the few artists to have any significant success after coming off The Voice, is an INDIE artist (Big Loud Records is an indie label). Gabby had significant success as an indie artist prior to getting her label deal. Adam Lambert -currently an indie artist. Scotty McCreery got his current label deal at least in part because of his success as an indie artist after losing/walking away from his original label deal. Although Kris Allen’s last album did not chart, his previous album as an indie artist DID make the Top 200 list. As did David Cook’s last album as an indie artist.

    Outside of the reality show world, Bad Bunny, who is the #6 artist on HDD’s YTD Overall Activity chart, is an INDIE artist. Country superstar Jason Aldean is an indie artist. The K-Pop supergroup BTS is considered an indie artist in the U.S.

    To dig a little deeper, 10 of the Top 100 and 26 of the total 200 albums on this past week’s Billboard Top 200 chart are from indie artists.

    So while in theory, it’s probably still better to be on a major label than to try and make it as an indie artist, I don’t know if that idea holds true as strongly in 2020 as it did 20, 30, 40 years ago.

  37. No one said that indie artists could not make the Billboard 200 or have successful careers. No matter how often or how many examples you give, most DON’T go on Idol because they want to remain indie artists. And no one is putting down indie artists if that is what is so bothersome. Dang, Adam is worth $30M and an established worldwide artist before his indie label deal. As a headliner, he will fill up those midsize and+ worldwide venues/occasional arenas and get magazine covers. And he has QAL and their arena/stadium tours. Major/or small indie label, how fortunate for him. But he got his start on a major label, thanks to Idol, with very good success. And if Idols are happy with their indie careers, that is all that matters for THEM. But Dillon is just getting started so yes a major label deal is good for him any way you look at it. It doesn’t matter if anyone else is happy about it or think it is worth his while. Or what others did or did not do. He got it. He/his fans are happy that he did. And hopefully it will work out for him.

  38. dillon has already released 1 full album independently! and it charted on the singer/songwriter chart for a while. the good thing about this deal is he has someone to do the promotion and radio play he needs to get his music out which many new indie artists don’t get. dillon himself mentioned that he had no expectations coming to idol but eventually it worked out for him and got him what he wanted.
    major deal is better than no deal and UMG is perfect for him. and as a fan I am very happy for him and thrilled for what’s to come.

  39. And I would not compare Aldean’s so called Indie Label (the guy is worth $80M) to some truly indie artist playing 200/300 seat clubs and maybe breaking even. That is some kind of weird fantasy/comparison going on.

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