Standout artist Louis Knight made an immediate mark on American Idol 2020 when he performed his original song “Change” for judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. The singer-songwriter, whose family had moved from the United Kingdom to Philadelphia, wrote a moving song about the loss of a dear friend to suicide.
After finishing the season in the Top 7, Louis has hit the ground running, writing and releasing new music, embarking on an unusual “pop up tour,” traveling and more. In this EXCLUSIVE interview, Louis chats about releasing two Christmas covers, Wham’s “Last Christmas” and the poignant and relevant “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
The singer has stayed close to his fellow American Idol contestants. He’s still best friends with Francisco Martin and plans to do some writing with him in the New Year. Recently, Louis took part in a virtual Christmas concert with a few of his fellow Idols. And Louis will be dropping two new tunes, one in January, and another on the American Idol 2021 premiere date, February 14.
Keep reading for more about what Louis has been up to since American Idol wrapped back in May…
You released two Christmas songs and they’re both classics. Could describe some of your thinking behind the choices? One is a retro classic from years ago. And and the other is a more modern tune from the 80s.
It was a last-minute decision to do some Christmas songs. We were thinking that with everything going on in the world right now, it would be nice. The plan was just to do one Christmas song. “Last Christmas” by Wham has always been one of my family’s favorites. My dad [has a] very weird random connection. He went to school and was in the school orchestra with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. I think they weren’t friends at all, but they were in the school orchestra together, so I thought it would be nice to pay homage to George Michael. I tried to put my own spin on it. I recorded [Last Christmas] in my basement with my producer Matt Weber. That was really fun.
And [Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas]–I was obviously familiar with the song because it’s such a popular classic. But it was never a song I listened t0–like really taken all the lyrics in. But [once] I did that, I realized how much it pertains to the time that we’re all living through right now. The lines–it says that hopefully we’ll be together again if the fates allow–which really spoke to everything that we’re all going through right now with the pandemic. That song really pulled at my heartstrings a little bit. I recorded that at my studio in New Jersey.
Have you been living with your parents in Philadelphia since the pandemic started or since Idol ended? Have you been living there the whole time?
Yeah. I have. I haven’t yet moved out of my parents house. I’ve been staying with them through the pandemic, living in the basement. It’s been really nice. Obviously there are times where it can be quite a lot, everyone living on top of each other. But it’s really nice to be with them, especially through this. And to have them there through filming Idol at home was so much support. I don’t think I would have been able to make it through without them.
What kind of traditions do you and your family celebrate at the holidays?
Thanksgiving is our is our favorite adopted holiday. We have some cousins who are originally from England, but they live over in Virginia. We usually go there for Thanksgiving. But obviously we couldn’t do that this year. Typically on Christmas, we try to go back to England to spend Christmas with all of our extended family like my mom’s brother and my cousins and my granddad, which is always just the best. The holidays are about spending time with family. But this year we’re getting a tree. We’re a little late to get a tree, but I think my brother and I are going to get one today or tomorrow, and put that up. And then we have Christmas dinner. We open presents in the morning It’s been hectic. We’ve all been trying to coordinate presents for each other, which has been a lot, but it’s been it’s been a lot of fun as well. And that’s our Christmas tradition. We have a nice roast dinner together and play family games.
As far as the pandemic is concerned, I noticed that you and some of your fellow contestants are getting together virtually for a Christmas concert on the 17th.
Yes, Francisco called me the other day. It’s so funny because he really did become one of my best friends. Obviously we’re both so busy at the moment, it’s hard to talk all the time. But then once every few weeks or once a month we’ll just have a phone call for like two hours straight. He called me the other day and asked me if I would be up for joining him in this Christmas live stream performance concert thing that he’s doing on the 17th, so, I’m really excited to be doing that. (Check out the concert from Francisco’s Instagram below! Stream includes Louis, Francisco, Julia Gargano and Grace Leer)
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Have you guys seen each other since the last time Idol filmed everyone together, the Showcase in Hawaii?
We all went out to Los Angeles for about two weeks right before each state started closing. Idol had put us up in apartments that we were sharing together. We were working with the with the producers and the vocal coaches every day preparing for the live performance for the live shows. The live stage was in the process of being built at that time. And then day by day, it started getting worse and worse and worse and then states started closing one by one. And then one day they just said, okay, we have to send you home.
So we were together for a little while, which was really nice. We would spend every night together eating and some of the nights–I think that was when Hollywood Week was airing–we would watch the Hollywood Week performances together. But I saw Julia [Gargano] at the end of the summer. We’re family friends now. My family went and joined her family one night down at the beach. I think Julia is the only one that I’ve seen.
You don’t really live that far from each other. She’s in Staten Island right?
Yes. It was only like a couple hours. Yeah.
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You also went to Europe over the summer. Was that to go visit family in England?
It was to go and visit my girlfriend. I wanted to try to visit my family safely, but things were just getting so bad in England that I couldn’t. It ended up [that it] didn’t make sense to [go]. But my girlfriend, she just started doing a masters degree in the Netherlands. Because she’s she’s half Dutch, she has a Dutch passport. I spent about two weeks with her in Europe, which was really nice. Covid was a lot better at that time there. It’s kind of gone back now. It’s now gotten a lot worse. But there weren’t really any restrictions because the Covid cases were so low. So we did a little bit of traveling We took a train to to France to spend a couple days in Paris.
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Is she still there?
She’s home now, back in Philly. She went to my high school. She came home for the Christmas holidays and Thanksgiving. I think it was that everything started getting so much worse there. She was living in a box by herself. She wasn’t allowed to leave. So she thought it would be much better to come home and be with family.
Is she going to take school online?
Because of the time difference every morning she’s up at 3 a.m. doing classes on Zoom It’s a little nuts. But she’s getting through that.
You also did this kind of funky tour which I thought was very creative. You looked like you were having a lot of fun. Could you talk a little bit about that?
We started that at the very beginning of October. It was such an amazing time. It’s really sad. No one’s touring right now and American Idol typically does a tour which would have been so much fun. My manager and his family was supposed to be doing a road trip vacation just themselves. Just driving across America together. And then he had the idea to bring me along, to try and do a few pop-up performances. Somehow his wife said okay to me crashing their family vacation (laughs). Honestly I felt quite bad! Then we realized what an opportunity it could be and how much we could safely expand on the idea.
I made an Instagram post with our initial planned route across America to California and said ‘would you like me to stop anywhere?’ And I was so surprised. I had no idea that I was going to get that many comments. It was crazy to me that so many people would want me to come and stop in and safely meet. So I made a spreadsheet and I typed in every single username that commented. One night I stayed up until like 4:00 a.m. making a spreadsheet with their usernames and the places that they were located in. And then I handed it off to my manager and he and his intern organized the data and figured out the best route where we could perform and meet as many fans as we could across the country.
We would play in Walmart parking lots across America and tons of parking lots. Sometimes it was two people. One show we ended up getting there really late, it was 11 o’clock at night in a Walmart parking lot. There were two girls there, and we played a little show to them. And then sometimes we had 10 people show up or 20 or 30. And then at the Nashville show, which was the last show of the tour, there were, like, a hundred people socially distanced with masks. It was the most incredible experience being able to meet people and have these intimate little pop-up performances. And sometimes we would pop up at people’s houses and play outside in their front yard, which was really fun. In terms of the experiences I’ve had so far. I think Idol is the top, and then the tour. I’m so grateful because those two experiences have totally changed me as a person.
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And that’s not a thing that would have happened under any other circumstances. If there wasn’t the pandemic, you would have gone on more traditional tours, maybe clubs and maybe had meet-and-greets afterward. Maybe the pandemic had a tiny silver lining where you got to have this incredible experience with your fans.
I think it totally did. It totally was a nice silver lining. Especially in times like these we have to try to find the silver linings.
One thing that fans missed about the live shows was the interaction between contestants and the resulting friendships and romances. There was really just no way to highlight any of that remotely. Also, I was hoping for a longer season because you guys were all pretty talented. American Idol found a crew of not only good singers, but artists who were writers and I wanted more of those original songs.
Being able to perform “Change” my original song on the show? That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was really hoping that I was gonna be able–I think we all were hoping that we were going to be able to do more originals. And then the pandemic came, then all of a sudden it became ‘how can we do originals because we’re not really working with the band directly anymore?’ It complicated things so much that they decided we really can’t do originals for the rest of the season. .
I remember the band leader saying in an interview, ‘this is not sustainable.’
Idol did such a good job at making the rest of the season happen. There was a period of time where we didn’t think that the show was going to go on. We thought they were going to cancel the rest of the season. Everyone on the production side of things, they’re just so amazing at what they do and they really did become family. I still talk most of them like every every few weeks.
You guys were the first to go virtual–even before The Voice or America’s Got Talent. I think those shows looked at what you guys did and said, ‘okay, this is maybe the template for how we move on.’
It was so interesting because boxes and boxes of equipment just started to to come. We were like ‘okay is this what’s happening?’ Everyone was essentially producing their own segment of the show from home, which really amounting to a lot more work. The days got way longer.
What are your future plans? Are you are you working on new music?
Yes. We put out these two Christmas songs, and now we have two new upcoming releases which are going to come out in January and February. My song “London” is coming out on in January. We haven’t exactly worked out a date yet. And “Maybe That” is coming out in February. I believe that one’s actually coming out February 14, the premiere date for Idol. But we really haven’t announced that yet.
I’m really excited about those and I’m starting to get back into the studio to record more songs that I’ve been working on during the pandemic. The plan for right now is to keep releasing songs every month to two months. And then we may do another kind of road-tripped tour–maybe up and down the east coast. We’re waiting to see what’s going to happen with the pandemic. With the vaccines starting to come out thank goodness…I’m really hoping to go out to LA come the new year to do some writing sessions. Maybe do some sessions with Francisco.
I’m not sure if this is a secret, but I think Francisco might be moving to LA come January. He’s been living with his brother in Las Vegas since since Idol ended. He went down to Las Vegas to spend some time with his brother to decompress and I think it was supposed to be like two weeks and then he ended up being there for months and months.
When would that be?
I think he might be moving there come the New Year. I’m not exactly sure, but he said that he is planning on moving to LA.
So, next year more new music. A couple of songs– one in January, one in February. Do you think you might put out an EP or an album at some point?
I would love to put out an album. I really would. I think for now, as we’re trying to get my music out to more and more people, we’re going to just stick with singles. But the end goal without a doubt–knock on wood–would be an album.
You’re releasing all of your music independently at the moment, right?
Yeah, it’s all independently. So that’s another thing. I’m really hoping to sign a record deal when the time’s right–this next year.
Are there deals in the works or are you talking to anybody?
Nothing as of yet. We’re starting to build some relationships with people. We’re starting to talk to some labels. But nothing concrete or anything, just starting to get to know each other–more on that level.
How’s the last few months been been for you with the quarantine and everything? (Louis aske me)
It was definitely hard! It felt a little bit apocalyptic at times? I don’t know if I’m making any sense.
It totally felt like that!
Do you find that you’ve gotten a lot of writing done during the pandemic that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise, or has that been hard?
It’s honestly been hard at times. I’ve got quite a lot of writing done, but sometimes it’s been really difficult because I haven’t felt that inspired. Inspiration comes in waves and goes in waves. I’ve definitely written quite a bit, but not as much as I hoped. I can’t really complain, though.