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Although born in Perth, Australia, singer/songwriter Michael Johns pursued a music career after moving to America, where he cut his teeth as an Atlanta-based solo artist before piecing a band together in Los Angeles. Johns handled vocals and songwriting duties for the Rising, who signed with Maverick Records and released a debut album, Future Unknown, in 2003. The album's lead-off track, "Cradle," received some radio airplay that summer, but the Rising nevertheless broke up after losing their contract with Maverick. Johns chose to go solo once again, this time setting his sights on a slightly different platform -- television.

At the age of 28, Michael Johns auditioned for the seventh season of American Idol in July 2007. "You're like a white soul singer," remarked judge Simon Cowell, who granted Johns admittance into the competition. Johns sailed through his initial weeks on American Idol, receiving comparisons to Jim Morrison and Michael Hutchence in the process. He eventually finished in eighth place, having received a surprising dismissal after a performance of Aerosmith's "Dream On." (One year later, Idol introduced a rule allowing the judges to veto one elimination per season, inspired in part by Johns' unexpected exit).

Like fellow contestants Brooke White, David Cook, Carly Smithson, and Kristy Lee Cook, Johns had already released material before joining the show, and he parlayed those songwriting skills into another record deal. He made his solo debut in 2009 with Hold Back My Heart, which paired his voice with a batch of soulful, Southern-styled songs. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi