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The upside of getting eliminated from American Idol early on? "I got to go to the White House correspondents' dinner, Ellen DeGeneres invited me to her 50th birthday party, and I was able to work on my first album," says Australian singer Michael Johns, who wowed television audiences with his rendition of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" last summer during auditions for Season 7. Simon Cowell dubbed him the "white soul singer." Now fans can sample more of Johns' searing Memphis-style sound on his debut CD Hold Back My Heart. Though most of the album consists of new songs, there is a cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," which Johns heard already got a thumbs-up from Barry Gibb. We asked the crooner for his biggest influences. Here are his picks:
1. The Beatles
"I'm particularly a fan of Abbey Road -- songs like 'Golden Slumbers' and 'Carry That Weight.'"
2. Joe Cocker
"His voice conveys such emotion, I will never be able to sing that way...but I can try."
3. Otis Redding
"He's the ultimate showman. I love him to pieces."
4. Wilson Pickett
"All of his songs were fun, but you can still feel something intensely."
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, July 2009.