It's not every day you see Broadway legend Idina Menzel get flustered, but that's what happened when American Idol contestant Cade Foehner met her for a one-on-one vocal lesson for Disney Week. "See? I think he's getting a little flirty!" she told the camera crew in disbelief. This season's rock 'n' roll contestant, Foehner's plunging neckline and flowing hair evoke a young Robert Plant, while the feather dangling at the end of his guitar is more emblematic of Willie Nelson. But beyond his good looks and charisma, who is Cade Foehner on American Idol?
The 21-year-old is from Shelbyville, Texas, per Idol's website, but if you think Foehner is a poser in those cowboy boots and flannel, think again. He revealed in an interview with KQBB, a local Texas radio station, that he used to do rodeo when he was younger until he broke his leg riding a horse. After that, he decided rodeo wasn't his future and began thinking of alternatives. "I asked for a guitar for Christmas and picked it up, and then I just kind of fell in love," he told KQBB. "And that's kind of what sparked it all was falling in love with the guitar."
But other than his East Texan roots, Foehner's interests are threefold, according to his social media: kale, Jesus, and music (you think I'm kidding about kale?). In fact, the contestant is quite vocal about his Christian faith and has been enrolled in online classes at Liberty University since the Fall of 2016, per an article on the school's website.
Foehner's ultimate goal is to become a pastor and views his music as a form of ministry. "Other contestants on the show, when they found out I am studying biblical theology, they started coming up to me and sitting with me during breakfast and asking me different questions about it," he told Liberty. Indeed, after Foehner's rendition of "All Along the Watchtower," judge Katy Perry said, "You sure are a minister, and you can preach to me any time you want."
However, much to Perry's chagrin, it appears that he may already be taken. Ryan Seacrest let it slip during Disney Week that Foehner and Gabby Barrett, a fellow Idol contestant and country singer from Pittsburg, may be an item. Backstage, Barrett covered her face, clearly embarrassed, which may have been a confirmation of the rumors.
During American Idol's Disney Week episode, his sister, Blaine, made sure to take him down a few pegs. "He wasn't exactly what you'd call a rock star growing up," she told the camera in that good-natured, sisterly way. She added that it was bizarre seeing him emerge as this sex symbol. "Grown women are fawning over him," she commented. "It is insane." In fact, after his rendition of "Black Magic Woman" by Santana, Luke Bryan said, "My wife loves you, by the way. A little mad about that."
But despite Bryan's faux-jealousy and Perry's ongoing flirtation with Foehner after each performance, the judges have been impressed with his talent, as well. "We call that the package, my friend," Lionel Richie said after he covered "Black Magic Woman" by Santana. "You are the package."
His raspy voice has similarities to Dave Grohl from The Foo Fighters and Metallica's James Hetfield, but when Foehner told radio station KTRE that his favorite band was Led Zeppelin, his Robert Plant aesthetic made even more sense. "Guitar-wise, Jimmy Page, and then, you know, vocally, Robert Plant," he said. "I hope I can hit somewhere in the middle of those two, usually, when I perform."
And Foehner's performances have been consistently solid — he's covered songs in his wheelhouse, like Gary Clark Jr.'s "Bright Lights" and "Feel It Still" by Portugal. The Man, but also "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid.
"Instant identity — that's what we're looking for," Lionel Richie told Foehner after his Disney cover. "And you have brought that to the table in spades, my friend."
Whether that instant identity will be enough to keep him in the competition, only time will tell. But until then, rock on, Cade.