Simon Cowell Speaks Out About Former ‘America’s Got Talent’ Contestant’s Death

by Samantha Whidden

Weeks after former “America’s Got Talent” contestant Nolan Neal died at the age of 41 following an ongoing battle with substance abuse, Simon Cowell is opening up about the loss. 

Prior to “America’s Got Talent” live shows on Tuesday (August 9th), Simon Cowell opened up about Neal’s death to PEOPLE. “Unfortunately, it happens too much over the years. I was thinking about this the other day. People [who] passed too soon. Every time it happens, because you’ve gotten to know them, it’s horrible. At that moment, it’s hard.”

While also referencing the death of “America’s Got Talent” contestant Nightbirde, who died earlier this year, Simon Cowell shared, “After the last three years, it’s been tough. And then you think everything’s okay and then something hits you like a story like that and it’s hard.”

The “America’s Got Talent” judge also spoke about what he has learned about these kinds of losses. “But all I can say is, what I’ve learned from this, is that you just take every day as it is and you try and stay positive, you try and stay healthy. That’s it. I mean, I was talking about this to someone earlier on, you’re never prepared for these days.”

Former ‘America’s Got Talent’ Contestant Nolan Neal Recalled Losing His First Record Deal Due to Substance Abuse

Neal appeared on the 15th season of “America’s Got Talent” and made it all the way to the quarter-finals. During his audition, Neal spoke about how he lost a record deal because of his substance abuse. “I got a record deal in Los Angeles. I was like, ‘This is it!’ And I partied really hard. Pretty soon I started to become unmanageable. Because I thought I was a rock star. I got to NY to record my record. And I just remember I couldn’t sing because I was so messed up. The label decided to drop me.”

The “America’s Got Talent” star then shared that he decided to head back to Nashville, but he ended downward spiraling. “It got so bad, people had to step in… I haven’t touched the hard stuff since,” he said at the time. “I really do believe in fate, and it means the world to me to have this chance.”

Neal did say that he was feeling very clear and focused before performing his song “Lost” to the “America’s Got Talent” audience. The track was what he wrote after overcoming addiction. It was well received with a standing ovation from all four of the show’s judges. 

Caylin Cate, the daughter of the late “America’s Got Talent” contestant, set up a GoFundMe after his passing. She revealed that her father did not have life insurance or any money what’s so ever.

“The expenses that come from this are extensive as we are trying to prepare for his funeral and fly in his son & loved ones,” her statement continued. “If you want to help in anyway, you can donate here. Anything is appreciated and I am so grateful for the community rallying behind us.”

The GoFundMe fundraiser has raised $24,600 from 205 donors so far.