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News / Life / Clark County Life

Vancouver pianist on ‘American Idol’ part of multiple trios

Mac Potts is playing Friday in Ridgefield

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 14, 2019, 6:04am
4 Photos
Hailey Potts with baby Aria and Mac Potts on the “American Idol” stage.
Hailey Potts with baby Aria and Mac Potts on the “American Idol” stage. American Idol Photo Gallery

Mac Potts, a busy Vancouver piano man who plays and sings everywhere from local restaurants like WareHouse ’23 to concert stages in Portland and New Orleans, is about to appear in an entirely new venue: the small screen and the 17th season of “American Idol.”

Potts is sworn to secrecy, but he did admit during a telephone interview that he personally auditioned before Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie for a slot on the TV singing competition, and that his audition performance will be aired sometime soon — but not before he participates in an important annual fundraising concert Friday at Ridgefield High School, he said.

That’s all the information he’s allowed to share. “You just have to keep watching to see me and know if I got to Hollywood,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ridgefield’s annual 3 Grands concert will raise money for student scholarships and the arts in local schools. The annual concert features three blind pianists who make amazing music together: Potts of Vancouver, Nick Baker of Edmonds and Brent Gjerve of Battle Ground. Also on the program is jazz singer and educator Darcy Schmitt.

If You Go

Who: Pianists Mac Potts, Nick Baker and Brent Gjerve, plus singer Darcy Schmitt.

What: 3 Grands concert.

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Where: Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center, 2630 S. Hillhurst Road, Ridgefield.

Cost: $20 in advance or $25 at the door; $10 or $15 for students; $30 for admission plus meet-and-greet with the artists at 5:15 p.m. (adults only).

Event details:https://ridge.revtrak.net/events/3-grands-concert-

Learn more:


‘American Idol’ airs at 8 p.m. Sundays and Mondays on ABC.

As always, Potts said, the 3 Grands program will feature both careful planning and the sort of artistic spontaneity that arises naturally from musicians who can’t see but have ears like radar. This trio always plays together and plays off each other in ways that surprise and delight, Potts said; each will also take a solo turn.

“I never know exactly what we’re going to do,” he said. “But we’ll do some Irish songs for St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll get people singing along.”

Correcting the birthday record

It’s been a turning-point year for Potts professionally and personally, he said. For one thing, “We have a baby now.” Potts’ wife, Hailey — who is a classical pianist and teacher — gave birth to their daughter, Aria, in September.

“We’re lucky she’s a good sleeper and everything’s fine,” Potts said. Aria also travels well, he said: “We went to my ‘American Idol’ audition when she was exactly a month old. We drove to Idaho. It was really cold, and we had to stop every couple hours, but we survived.”

The young family has also been to Florida, Los Angeles and all over Washington, he said. “We’ve been able to have fun with it.”

Potts also finished and released a new album of Ed Sheeran songs — a lingering recording project that has vindicated his checkered record as his wife’s birthday celebrator, he said.

He wanted to rectify that problem during an especially troubled time for the couple, he said, and he made some quick, secret recordings of songs that related the couple’s love story — most of them by Sheeran, one of Hailey’s favorite musicians. Potts said he stowed the new CD in their car player so it was ready to go first thing in the morning, when the couple got in.

“I gave it to her on her birthday. She finally had a good birthday,” he said.

But Potts was surprised too: This gift for his wife actually sounded “really good,” he said. It had been a few years since his last CD release, so Potts realized this was the next one: an all-Sheeran album. He spent more time in the studio, using all its sophisticated tools and tricks as well as inventing some of his own.

Life and performance kept getting in the way, he said, but eventually the project was finished. Joke titles like “Simply Ed” and “Grateful Ed” were dismissed before Potts settled on “Three,” which is ambiguous unless you know what Potts is talking about: the size of his new family. Now you know.

“Rainbow baby, rainbow project,” he said. “I put a lot of faith into it, feeling like it was meant to be.”