America's Got Talent hopeful Brian Justin Crum shares just a little bit more in common with American Idol alum Adam Lambert besides powerhouse vocals. They're childhood friends with the same vocal training.
"I actually grew up with Adam," he tells Billboard. "We are both from San Diego. We both took lessons from the same voice teacher, so we definitely have a similar kind of technique behind our singing."
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As Crum competes in the finals, airing Tuesday (Sept. 13) and Wednesday on NBC, he said he is grateful for the support both Lambert and Queen guitarist Brian May have shown him.
"He's the best," he says of Lambert. "Brian May actually shared my video of 'Creep' on his Twitter and his homepage. It's so nice to have support."
Crum isn't a newcomer to the stage. He toured in Queen's We Will Rock You musical and scored roles in the ensemble of Broadway productions of Wicked, Grease and Next to Normal. But, ready to take his career to the next level, America's Got Talent felt like the right move. He auditioned with Queen's "Somebody to Love" and elicited such a strong reaction many pegged him to make it to the finale.
"I have been performing for a long time and had some really cool opportunities along the way, so this was another chance for me to try to get heard by the masses," he says. "This is the first time I ever auditioned for a show like this, so I really wanted to get my voice heard."
Crum's voice was heard all right. Week after week, he has impressed with dramatic versions of Radiohead's "Creep," Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" earned a standing ovation and high praise from judge Mel. B, who said Crum is getting "hotter and hotter as time goes on."
After his performance of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" on Tuesday night, he earned yet another standing ovation and high praise from Heidi Klum, who told him he sounded like he was "singing for his life... or a million dollars."
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"It's so cool because the more that I am here, the more I am on stage, the more comfortable I am feeling," he says. "There is more lights, tech, costumes. The look is tighter. I feel better and better each time I am performing and that comes off in confidence. I think that is what she is referring to-owning a performance."
One thing Crum brings to the table is emotion. While some call it dramatic, Crum has another interpretation.
"People will say that Adam Lambert or I are dramatic, but I never think about it as dramatic. If you look at the old greats, the rockers, the classic performers, even if you look at Whitney Houston or Celine Dion or Judy Garland, they are all such big voices that told such emotional stories and I guess today in pop music that just doesn't happen anymore so it might come across as being dramatic," he says. "But I think about it as storytelling and I miss those big powerful voices you can feel in your gut. A big voice and a lot of good stories to tell.
As for feeling more comfortable, Crum -- who has inspired viewers by openly talking about his experiences with bullying as a gay youth -- said he got an off-camera pep talk from judge Simon Cowell.
"Simon came off camera a couple of times to talk to me and he said that he is so proud that I really embraced myself and what I can do," he says. "I have zero qualms about it anymore. I am happy to talk about what I have been through and how I got to this moment today, and having someone tell you that you have nothing to be insecure about makes you feel good."
That confidence has propelled Crum all the way to this moment -- the finale.
"I'm super confident in my abilities as a singer and a performer. I had hoped I would get here, but you never know with these kind of shows," he says. "It's not always about talent, it's about a lot of other things as well. I didn't know but I was hopeful."
If he does find himself standing in the confetti this week, what can fans paying for a ticket in Las Vegas expect?
"My show will be like what I have done on this show," he said. "That is important to me all along -- to show what my live performance will be like."
Watch Crum perform "Man in the Mirror" below: