MODESTO, Calif. — It came as a shock to fans of the likeable and talented Modesto singer Ryan Hammond, when American Idol judges ended his time on the show. 

Between its Sunday and Monday night shows this week, judges whittled down the competition from 20 contestants to 14. On Monday night, 25-year-old Hammond did not make the cut.

He and his parents, Nicole and Mark Hammond, sat down with ABC10 for an interview this week, at the family’s Valley Home Realty business in the heart of historic downtown Modesto.



Hammond said he was distracted during his final performance on the show and wasn’t able to put the judges’ full coaching to use.

He sang a duet with celebrity Cynthia Erivo. Producers assigned the pair the song "Hold On, I'm Comin'," which Hammond had never heard before that week.

“I was so focused on learning the lyrics and learning the song and the melody,” Hammond said. “I only had a couple days from the time I found out I was singing with her.”

In American Idol, the judges want to see contestants’ growth, as they build on feedback from week to week.

“Even though it was fun, and I loved the way that I did it, part of the competition standpoint, it may have seemed like I backtracked on their advice that they gave me,” Hammond said.

The judges have also encouraged Hammond to loosen up on stage and move around more – something he said he hasn’t done much in his performing, especially since he grew up singing in church.

“You don’t necessarily work a stage and say, ‘Look at me.’ You know, you look there,” Ryan said, pointing heavenward.

As he grows as a performer, Hammond plans on “learning how to work the stage a little bit, learning how to loosen up a bit. It’s out of my comfort zone. It’s not what I’ve done.”

If he can grow in those areas, judges said, “if I would put the performing along with my voice, that I’d be unstoppable.”


Katy Perry’s dad has served as a pastor in Stockton and knew of Hammond’s dad, who is a pastor in Modesto. Perry herself grew up singing in the church.

“So many of us (contestants) started in church and that’s where we learned and she did the same,” Hammond said.

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Perry coached Hammond to expand his vocal style.

“She really wanted me to not get stuck there in the ‘church sound,’ like ‘the gospel sound,’ because my voice is so big,” Hammond said. “She was like, ‘I want to see the pop star start to come out in you.’”

The judges also instilled Hammond with confidence.

“They just kept telling me, like, ‘You can just sing without having to do so many tricks,’” Hammond said. “It was the first time, really, in my life where I finally felt, like, good about my voice, as is, without having to do so much all the time.”


Hammond amazed the judges during his audition by revealing he’d lost 170 pounds in the past year, dropping from 330 pounds to 160.

“I always struggled with my weight. It just created so much insecurity within me. It was affecting my voice, and I kept running out of breath,” he said on the show.

That was a storyline within the show that kept coming up, over and over.

“I don’t mind because it’s going to help somebody out there,” Hammond said. “I’ve actually had a lot of people reach out to me and say, ‘we just were flipping through the channels and saw you and then saw that you lost weight and I’ve actually been struggling and trying to figure out how I’m going to get the weight off.’”

People have asked for his input on their personal weight-loss journeys.

“So many people that had the same situation are saying, ‘We were here feeling alone because we’re in a smaller town, and now seeing your story. I’ve lost so much of my anxiety and depression because I thought I was alone in this,” he said.

People from both the weight-loss and fitness communities have been supportive of him.

“My story is that I overcame so much because I lost weight and I let that weight hold me back from reaching my dreams, and once I lost that weight, I gained more confidence that I finally made it (onto American Idol),” Hammond said.

He auditioned for three different seasons of American Idol – and the third time, season 17, was a charm.


Hammond isn’t the only American Idol contestant Modesto has produced. Last year, Effie Passero made it to the top 24. Like Hammond, she did not advance onto the top 14 contestants. She says her exposure on American Idol allowed her to launch a successful career as a full-time musician in LA.


Passero and Hammond will appear together in concert in their hometown on May 10. They're performing at Modesto High School at 7 p.m. Ticket information can be found on Hammond's website.

American Idol continues on ABC10 this Sunday and Monday 8 p.m., when voting opens up to the public. Fourteen singers will be narrowed down to 10, who will advance on to live rounds, which begin Sunday, April 21 at 6 p.m., with a re-run at 8 p.m. April 21 is Disney Night on American Idol.

Even though Hammond is out of the running, two California natives are still in the competition: Alejandro Aranda, from Pomona, and Ashley Hess, from Fremont.

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________________________________________________________________WATCH MORE: Modesto native Ryan Hammond wows judges on American Idol