On Sept. 18, Castleton student Isaac French posted a status on Facebook that read, “I’ll put a cover of Jason Mraz’s ‘I Won’t Give Up’ Friday if this gets 50 likes!” In 30 minutes, French’s status had 86 likes.
“I was working the crowd and working my friends. It just so happened that like, 90 people liked it in 30 minutes. I was like ‘wow, people really want to hear me sing,'” he said.
One week later, French joined music major Ulises Estrada to record the cover his friends had been waiting for.
“We practiced the song for one day and we recorded it at 11:30 at night. I posted it that night and when I woke up in the morning it had over 150 likes and 50 comments. I was reading all the stuff and was like ‘this is amazing,'” he said.
French was at a loss for words at the warm reaction the Castleton community showed him.
“You can’t really explain how it makes you feel. It’s like your birthday party and you’re a girl and you get a pony. You know what I mean?” said French, smiling. “You get goose bumps. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had.”
French is no stranger to the enjoyment he feels through music.
Throughout his childhood, French’s brother and father have influenced his style, which he calls a mix between “soul and pop.” French says his father would play piano for him growing up and that everything he was taught had something to do with music.
“He is a strong believer in music is good for the mind and the soul,” said French about his father.
French’s brother Dominic is a rapper who performs at various venues in Vermont, including opening up for rapper Moufy at higher ground this summer. Dominic allowed French to be a part of that show.
When French came to Castleton, he pursued clubs to allow him to maintain his vocal abilities. He knew that most college’s had A Capella groups and eventually CSC’s choir director encouraged him to audition. French was one of two freshman to make the Vocal Unrest group and he has been a member for four years now. Vocal Unrest performs at various events throughout the school year including open houses and caroling for the president during the holidays.
French has always had his sights on a larger prize though. One of the singer’s goals since the eighth grade was to audition for American Idol. Then, in his sophomore year a friend told him about ‘The Voice.’
French didn’t audition then, but one year later he found the motivation he needed after seeing a member of the UVM TopCats on the show.
“I was like wow, a kid could actually do it from Vermont,” he said.
So in the spring, French packed his bags and traveled to New York City to audition.
“At first I was standing in line at 4:30 and it was freezing cold because it was March. I had to stay outside for five hours until they let us inside,” said French.
Even after a rough beginning, French was confident as he entered the room alongside ten other hopefuls where the show’s producer was waiting. French sang an A Cappella version of Gavin Degraw’s ‘Chariot.’
“The last person went and [the producer] was like, ‘alright, thank you!’ I never heard anything after that,” said French.
Despite feeling disappointed, French said he’ll try again and hope for a different outcome.
“There’s no sense not to. It’s free, really fun, and you meet a lot of people. You never know if you could get that lucky break, which I would love to have,” he said.
For now, French is focused on the music he creates for his friends and others at CSC to enjoy.
“I can’t believe he didn’t make it onto The Voice over some people that are on it now,” said senior Jade Werger.
The most powerful responses came with French’s cover of ‘I Won’t Give Up.’
“I have watched it about 10 times now and it still gives me the chills every time I watch it,” said student Cassie Ross.