Karaoke enthusiast sings his way to Country Idol title

By Laura Latzko - March 12, 2015 | Photo by Bill Gemmill

To see Darricksen Dempsey sing karaoke to a Country hit at 414 Pizza in Tempe – his favorite spot – you’d never know that he didn’t grow up a fan of the genre.

Today, however, Dempsey said he appreciates country songs with deeper stories or meanings. In fact, it was a combination of Keith Urban’s “Making Memories of Us” and “Somebody Like You” that earned him the title of Country Idol 2015 Feb. 13 as part of the Arizona Gay Rodeo weekend.

Dempsey advanced to the fifth annual Country Idol finale after winning the preliminary round Jan. 19 at Stacy’s @ Melrose.

Since he began performing karaoke regularly about three years ago, Dempsey has hit spots around the Valley with his friends or sisters nights several nights a week. But, ultimately, he credits his mother with his participation in his first-ever singing competition.

“I secretly had wanted to try out for ‘American Idol’ or ‘The Voice,’ but I never had the confidence,” he said. “[My mother] recently passed away, and the cliché of ‘life’s too short’ rang true, so I did it. I wish she could have heard me sing. I think she would have liked it.”

Dempsey, 31, learned his first karaoke song, George Strait’s “Cross My Heart,” from watching Pure Country, his mom’s favorite movie.

“Growing up, I was so focused on academic aspirations, which didn’t leave me time to explore my creative side or develop any talent I may have had,” he said. “It wasn’t until later in life that I’m now finding out I’m good at a lot of other things, singing being one of them.”

Dempsey said the open, accepting and friendly environment of karaoke has always drawn him. And, he added, some of his favorites – for both listening and performing – include George Strait, Keith Urban, Brooks and Dunn and Reba McEntire.

“The songs that I sing are the ones that I usually have a connection with so that when I sing them, I think people can hear it. I either identify with the song, or it gives me a memory of when I was younger,” Dempsey said. “… If you read the words or hear the story in the song, you can connect to it, whether it’s about heartbreak or the trials of living their life. There’s something human in country music that you can connect to.”

And he certainly connected with the judge, despite Dempsey feeling a little out of his element at the competition’s finale.

“When you are doing karaoke, you can kind of blend in with the crowd, and you don’t really have a platform to stand on,” he said. “When the lights are all on you and there’s people looking at you, it’s a totally different story.”

While Dempsey considers Country Idol a valuable learning experience, he isn’t yet certain yet whether or not he will take his love of music further. He does know that the experience has instilled a greater confidence in his singing ability and he’s already learning his new guitar.

And he continues to generate interest in the hobby he enjoys so much.

“[With karaoke], everyone is supportive of each other,” he said “You can just go up there and try, and that’s good enough for everybody, and everybody claps for you.”

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