‘America’s Got Talent’ Star Drake Milligan Says He ‘Felt the Pressure’ During Live Show Performance

by Suzanne Halliburton

There’s no hotter country singer right now than Drake Milligan, the first selected finalist for America’s Got Talent. And yes, this young Texan was nervous before he stepped to the national stage this week to perform live.

As the judges said, Milligan is a talented singer/songwriter. He’s charismatic and loves to play to the crowd. His boot scootin’ drew wild applause. And so did his shoulder shimmy as he ended his performance of “Kiss Goodbye All Night.” Milligan had his band right there with him to absorb it all.

So it was no surprise that America’s Got Talent voters selected Milligan as the first finalist to qualify for next month’s championship round. Saxophonist Avery Dixon earned the other spot up for grabs this week.

But keep this in mind. Although Milligan looked and sounded like a seasoned performer, he’s still the kid who grew up in a Dallas suburb, one who recently moved to Nashville to earn his place in the country music world. He did American Idol four years ago, but after earning a spot in the live rounds, decided he wasn’t ready for that kind of mind-numbing pressure.

That wasn’t the case Tuesday night before he stepped to the America’s Got Talent stage.

“I felt the pressure, but we did a lot of prep this week,” Milligan told NBC Insider. “So once I was out there, I was like, ‘OK, we’ve done the work, I’ll loosen up.’ And once you get out there on that stage with the crowd, you’re like ‘Alright, this is awesome.’ I’m feeding off of them.”

The first 11 acts performed live before the America’s Got Talent judges Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the show unveiled the results. The summer talent show will repeat this process for the next four weeks. The judges selected 55 acts for the semifinals. Ten finalists, plus a wildcard pick, move along to the championship, Sept. 13-14. The winner receives $1 million, plus the headliner spot in the AGT Vegas show.

Simon Cowell, a judge and America’s Got Talent producer, told Milligan that he didn’t know whether the young singer would show up this week. After Milligan’s audition aired in June, his song “Sounds Like Something I’d Do,” zoomed to No. 1 one on the iTunes country chart.

“In my opinion, I think you are the real deal,” Cowell told Milligan. “You’re a great songwriter. You have real charisma.”

And on Thursday, the top two country songs on iTunes both belonged to Milligan. Cole Swindell and Morgan Wallen were at Nos. 3-4. Milligan is in rare air.

So what does he have planned for next month’s America’s Got Talent finals? He’s already scheduled his debut album for release Sept. 15.

“I just wanna keep raising the bar,” Milligan said. “I wanna bring a new song out there.”