Singer-songwriter Louis Knight almost quit American Idol during the difficult Covid-affected season 18 in 2020. Covid shutdowns made navigating the season brutal.
But it was nothing like coming off the show and coping with the aftermath: The sudden loss of the spotlight, and a management team who gaslit and manipulated Louis. When the singer tried to sever the relationship, they demanded tens of thousands of dollars from the singer.
It was a lot. Louis stopped writing songs for a time. But now he’s back with a new EP that tells the difficult tale of his struggle with mental health during and after American Idol. He has also dropped a new confessional vlog that frankly describes the roller coaster experience of the past few years.
Louis finished American Idol in 7th place. But once the show was over, the path was not all “roses and daisies,” the singer described.
The singer shares the challenges of the past few years in his new EP, the deeply personal Twenty, Twenty Two. Fellow season 18 contestant, Francisco Martin, served as producer on the emotionally ambitious set.
“This project is the last two years of my life; the highest highs: a jump start in my career (coming off of national television), falling in love – and then the moments where hope feels hard to find: falling into a pandemic, dealing with depression, severe anxiety, and relationships falling apart.” Louis wrote in an Instagram post. “2022 is the year I would have graduated from college and I’ve always told myself that I would have some sort of footing in the music industry by then. I really hope with this, that is the case.”
Louis shares his story in a confessional vlog
As American Idol prepared to film the semi-finals, the Covid pandemic shut TV and film productions across the world, Louis recounted. Producers had no choice but to send the contestants home.
Eventually the show figured out how to continue. “They sent us lighting equipment stuff for set design, working out camera angles over Zoom, It was insane. It was madness,” Louis shared. Singers filmed their performances at home with iPhones and ring lights. “It was definitely tough finishing out the season in Covid. I’m really grateful that they were able to Find a way to carry out the season.”
Louis almost quit American Idol during Hollywood Week.
He and Francisco stayed up all night rehearsing their performance for the duets round. Subsequently, they both forgot the words. But the judges blamed Francisco. Somehow they let us through,” Louis said.
The next morning, Louis panicked. “…my body just started shaking uncontrollably. I threw my suitcase on the bed, and I just started throwing all my s*** inside the suitcase. I called my mom and told her I need to leave the show. I need to leave. I can’t do this,” However, production intervened. “One of the contestant managers showed up to my door. I thought I couldn’t do it and they all just kind of slowly convinced me to just not to perform that day, but just to get to the venue. Like, if I had chosen to walk away from the show that day, I don’t know if we would be sitting down here, having this conversation.”
Constantly sharing his backstory took a toll on Louis’ mental health
Louis made his mark on the show after performing his original song “Change” for his judges audition. He wrote the song after a close friend committed suicide. But he didn’t realize how much he’d have to “retell and retell” the story again and again. “To constantly be talking about it. It’s like reliving that.” he said.
However, Louis felt the issue was urgent. “I was kind of dealing with my own mental health issues and it was so important for me to spread that awareness,” he shared. But he felt “boxed in” by the story at times, and “overwhelmed” as thousands of fans reached out to him to share their own stories.
He is “grateful” to the people who felt like they could reach out to him. But he urged his fans who reached out to “please, please go and talk to a mental health specialist, I’m not qualified to talk about this.”
When American Idol ends, the attention suddenly stops
Competing on American Idol was tough. But the aftermath was even tougher, “…you’re on national television every single week. The city knows who you are, your Instagram is blowing up, you get verified you’re having celebrities DM you, and then all of a sudden, it stops.”
Back in Philadelphia, Louis worked with a local team of managers. “….we did Idol from home and someone on my team at the time, they lived at my house pretty much for the six weeks that we’re [filming Idol].” But it was not easy. “I felt like I was belittled a lot, that I was wrong whenever I would have a question about something they were doing, I think it was just we were all going through a lot.”
Louis’s toxic management team abused him
The relationship with the team continued to be abusive.
“There was one specific occurrence where I wasn’t talking to my parents at the time and I needed money for a campaign for my song “Say a Little Love.” But Louis’ management “offered me a sum of money for a percentage of my business. I felt like ‘Oh what do I do? Do It take it? It’s probably a good deal.’ I want to be in business with them for life.”
“I finally called my parents and they talked me out of it. I told my team member, no, I don’t think it’s the right thing for me. Then they came back and said ‘that’s the right answer. This was just a lesson that I was trying to teach you about the music industry.’”
At first, Louis didn’t understand that his team was manipulating him. “I couldn’t see in the moment how incredibly inappropriate that was and kind of psychologically manipulative, when they knew I was in a position with my parents where I wasn’t talking to them.,” It took friends to convince him that his team was gaslighting him. “A lot of people in my life thought…that was just an excuse. That was just a lie. That they actually would have gone through with it. If I had said, yes.”
His former team presented a “list of demands” including thousands of dollars
After a trip to Los Angeles, Louis decided that he wanted to relocate there and find new people to work with. He stayed with Francisco. “I was around him and the industry out here and I was like ‘Wow this is not what I’m living in Philly.’”
When Louis told his team that he wanted to end the relationship, at first they said they’d “walk away with nothing. We won’t option your sunset clause.”
While getting ready to release new music, American Idol called with an offer to appear on the season 19 Comeback episode. Louis was one of 10 of the season 18 Top 20 who would compete for a spot in the current season’s Top 10. The show allowed him to promote his new music, a single titled “Maybe That.”
The Comeback episode “a once in a lifetime opportunity”
The singer considered the Comeback a once in a lifetime opportunity that he could not turn down “in a million years.” But, the day he was supposed to leave for the show, he received an email from his old team with a “list of demands.”
“They said I owed them forty thousand dollars. It was just the most ludicrous thing,” Louis said. “This is a side of the music industry that a lot of people don’t get to see. And as a 20-year old, it was a lot to experience.”
While Louis got a splashy spot on the Comeback show, second place finisher Arthur Gunn won the coveted spot in the Top 10. Afterward, Louis “kind of lost my relationship with songwriting.”
Songwriting became a struggle
I definitely did struggle…with my relationship with songwriting,” which he described as a helpful way to process “things in my life.” But between the drama with his team and the “ups and downs” of American Idol and the pandemic” the well ran dry.
.”…every time I sat down to write something, it had to be the same massive, emotional release that ‘Change’ was and then it kind of set that bar for me. It was my most successful song so far.” He continued, ‘Change’ was something I tried to write so many times to get that story out. And I was just setting myself up for failure. I ended up hating everything I wrote because I didn’t think it was good enough. I didn’t write for months at a time.”
Louis learned to love songwriting again
But he eventually learned to deal with pressure when it comes to writing songs. “Sometimes it’s going to be so deep and sometimes I’m going to write happier songs,” Louis shared. “Sometimes they don’t need to be as personal to me. Just the art of actually songwriting, no matter what it is, is okay.” He’s back in a place where he “absolutely loves” songwriting.
“I’m so happy that I went through everything…because I’m here now,” Louis said. He’s moved out to Los Angeles and is releasing new music. “I’m telling the story of this whole process and all the absolute crazy highs and lows of it all. He finishes the clip. “There is so much to come. I am with a new team and I’m so hopeful for the future.”
“There’s so much opportunity and hope for what the future has in store.”