Meet the Idol: Paris Winfrey
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 09:11
Mountaineer Idol finalist Paris Winfrey grew up in Fairmont, W.Va., and is an exercise physiology student. He enjoys the outdoors, where he participates in activities such as climbing and mountain biking.
He began his music education in church. Though worship and gospel music was the dominant music in his household, his mother could not hide her love for the kings: Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. They influenced Winfrey’s early days, whereas today Winfrey draws inspiration from the likes of John Legend.
Winfrey spent time in his school’s choir during middle school, but he really stood out in high school when he joined East Fairmont’s Elizathabethan ensemble.
During his junior and senior years of high school, Winfrey earned West Virginia All-State Choir, and he has continued to pursue musical endeavors since this taste of success.
Winfrey is the lead vocalist for the Cherry Street Band, which performs around town and at University events.
"Tasty groove-rock is what we describe ourselves as," Winfrey said. "It’s kind of jazz influenced, it’s rockin’. You’ve got to experience it. Words don’t describe it."
Winfrey made his presence in the Mountaineer Idol competition known from week one, when a last-minute song change ignited the interest of the crowd in an unexpected way.
Due to illness, Winfrey felt he would not be able to do justice to his song of choice, so he decided to sing an original song by the Cherry Street Band instead.
"We wrote a song for our album about a girl, and whenever you sing songs over and over again you kind of get numb to the sharpness of the lyrics, so I rocked it out," Winfrey said. "I did get a comment from Shirley (Robinson, head judge). She was like, ‘Watch yourself, if you sing that song on family night, you definitely won’t be making it through to the next round.’"
The risque lyrics also caught the attention of other contestants.
"I was so hot, I was getting really hot, and then I started crying," finalist Alexa Gonzalez said. "It was a really good song, and he sounded great. It was awkward, it was inappropriate, but he worked it."
During week two of the elimination round, Winfrey was convinced he was going home after he made a critical mistake in forgetting the lyrics to "Black or White" by Michael Jackson.
"I definitely thought I was gone. I was up on stage expecting not to get my name called; I was trying to be positive and support everyone else, but it really got to me," Winfrey said. "Luckily, I made it through and my name was the last name called, which was terrible. That week was one of the greatest victories ever in my mind."
Last week’s Motown and Broadway theme launched Winfrey into the finals, as he dedicated each of his songs to the inspiring women in his life.
In honor of his mother, he performed "Blue Suede Shoes." Following this, he won brownie points for his rendition of "My Girl," which he dedicated to his girlfriend.
"Before his performance, he had come to me and said he had a surprise for me that night and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it was really nice of him to dedicate a song to me," said Sierra Owens, Winfrey’s girlfriend. "I thought he did a very nice job. He enjoys it, and I enjoy watching him make other people happy when he is on stage singing."
Peering into next week’s performance, the rock ‘n’ roller is going to choose songs that speak to him and will focus on putting on a show the audience and judges will remember.
"My thoughts now are keeping the energy high. I didn’t request my past scores, because I don’t really want to not pick a song because I don’t think people will like it – I want to pick a song because I want to sing it," Winfrey said. "I definitely have some ideas. I definitely want the opportunity to perform and have a stellar show, but I also want to make sure the judges are getting a fair opportunity to hear my voice in other settings."
Winfrey will make his final run for the title of Mountaineer Idol at Morgantown’s Metropolitan Theatre Sunday at 3 p.m.