DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Evita and "The X Factor" Star Rachel Potter

By Andrew Gans
08 Nov 2013

Potter performs on the Nov. 6 live episode of "The X Factor."
Photo by Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Question: When you finally got on stage and saw those judges, what was that experience like?
Potter: That was a pretty surreal experience—especially [seeing] someone like Simon Cowell. We’ve been watching him on TV for upwards of 10, 12 years, and he’s also kind of scary, because as a singer, you’re like, "What is he going to say to me?" [Laughs.] And I know Simon’s background—he’s not always been the nicest to people who were Broadway performers or musical theatre performers, so I was really nervous. But the difference between the "X-Factor" and some of the other shows is they film in front of stadiums of people. So there was not only those four judges but also 4,000 people. That was a trip, too, because that was more people than I’ve ever played to. It was electric; the energy in the room was just overwhelming. Marty Thomas actually went with me. He was there for my audition, so when I walked offstage I just remember saying, "What happened? Please tell me everything that just happened. I don’t remember." [Laughs.] I felt like I blacked out.

Question: In the package intro for you, they didn’t mention your Broadway credits.
Potter: You know, after they didn’t air anything, there was such a backlash on YouTube. After that first audition, you better believe I stood up there and was so proud of what I’ve done on Broadway. I rattled off every single show that I’d done, and the crowd got wilder and wilder with every credit that I mentioned because they love shows like Wicked and Evita and Addams Family, and that was a New York audience, and probably half of those kids in the room had been to the shows… I talked about everything, and that’s why Demi Lovato made the comment, “So you know a lot about the music industry?” and, I said, “Yes, ma'am, sort of,” meaning I know Broadway, but I don’t know recording or country music as well as I’d need to be successful. But I do know how to audition for a Broadway show, but those two things are not the same. "X-Factor" really wants to find people from the beginning. They want America to feel like they plucked someone from obscurity. And, to many people, Broadway means famous. But people don’t understand that people in the Broadway community are known within the Broadway community, but that doesn’t mean you can sell a million records. So that’s what I need, the next step to help me get to that.

Potter on opening night of Evita.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

They really wanted to focus on that, but what they found was there was such a backlash and such an anger because so many people did know about the shows that I'd been in because they were such loved shows. So from that, there was an episode last night called "Getting to Know the Top 12," and they actually put a factoid in the bottom of the screen: "Rachel used to work on Broadway before she moved to Nashville." I’m so excited that they’re excited to start talking about that. Where I believe the story lies is not that I’m a bartender in Nashville, but that I went from doing something I truly loved and being mildly successful at it and giving it up and moving to Nashville to start from zero because of this dream. I’m excited they’re embracing that because the last thing I’d ever want is for the Broadway community to think I didn’t own and love them.

Question: You just advanced to the Top 12. What was your reaction to hearing that you had made that group?
Potter: That was a major relief and honestly a huge surprise. After the 4 Chair Challenge, I was fairly certain I was going to go home and more than anything else, I was so grateful I had the chance to sing again and redeem myself from that bad performance. Because that was not only one of the worst performances I’ve ever given on television, but maybe one of the worst performances of my whole life… I had eaten a bunch of zinc tablets because I felt like I was getting a cold, and someone kept giving me Zicam, which is pure zinc. My doctor was like, “I can’t even eat a zinc tablet without vomiting. You have to eat it on a full stomach." Of course, on a day like that, I hardly ate anything, and I probably had like six Zicam tablets, so half an hour before we started to sing, I was feeling really weird, but I was chalking it up to nerves, and I downed a bunch of water before I went on stage. And I was literally gagging; my gag reflex was like, "We’re going to throw up on TV!” I actually threw up in my mouth while I was singing. You can actually see it on the playback if you watch for it — it’s very clear. [Laughs.] My esophagus was moving, and to all the singers out there, they’ll know when your esophagus is moving up and down, you can’t control your voice. How do you say on TV, "I almost threw up!" and try to maintain some sort of attractive quality? [Laughs.] A lot of that they didn’t show because it was edited. They asked me, "Is something wrong with you? Are you sick? What happened?" I said, "I’ve been sick and taking medicine all day," and I did say to them, "I almost threw up," and they laughed. And, I said, "Well, I’m not joking." And Simon said, "That would be great TV." Of course, they edited it out.