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Ashton singer auditions for 'American Idol'

ASHTON – "American Idol," began its final season Wednesday and continues at 7 p.m. today on Fox.

Could it also be the beginning of the road to stardom for local singer-songwriter Tristan Bushman?

The 18-year-old Ashton-Franklin Center High School grad auditioned in San Francisco, which is the setting for tonight's show.

How did the local singer end up auditioning in California?

Well, Bushman's journey began with an event called "Dream Night Talent Search," at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

"I was selected through [ReverbNation]," Bushman said. "I actually won that competition and from that was given the opportunity to audition for 'American Idol' on Skype."

The Skype audition took place Sept. 18, and Bushman was a hit.

"I got the Skype audition kind of late in the process of auditions and San Fran was the last city," Bushman said. "They just said 'You're going to San Fran!' … and I just went with it."

So, Bushman traveled to San Francisco on Oct. 10 with his mom and dad, Amy and Dave, and 11-year-old brother, Griffin.

When he arrived, he performed another audition in front of executive producers, and that same day went in front of the panel of judges the public is more familiar with: Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr., and Jennifer Lopez.

Last year, Gina Venier of Dixon and Alex Fischbach of Morrison both made it through to that stage.

Bushman played shows with both in 2015, and he got to hear Venier talk about the "Idol" experience while on stage at one of their shows together.

"It was really nice to have an idea of what it would be like," he said.

It's been a pretty busy year for the young musician.

Bushman released his seven-song debut EP, "Heartwood," on May 2. The album is available on iTunes, Spotify, ReverbNation and Google Play.

He also released a new video for his song "Underdogs," which can be seen on YouTube.

There's no guarantee that Bushman's audition will be shown, and he can't disclose many details, including how it went, but regardless, it doesn't sound like he'll be giving up on the dream anytime soon.

"I love making and playing music. I just want to find a way to make a living doing this," he said.

"Music and music only."

Gina Venier releases 'Cloud 8 Mixtape'

DIXON – Gina Venier, the Dixon singer-songwriter who appeared last year on "American Idol," has released an 8-song EP, "Cloud 8 Mixtape."

The EP is available in Dixon at Roxie's, 302 W. First St., Books on First, 202 W. First St., and Venier's Jewelry Store, 117 W. First St.

It is also available for purchase on iTunes and streaming on Spotify.

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