While appearing this summer on the hit television program America's Got Talent, Nolan Neal got a standing ovation before even playing a single note. On his audition episode that aired June 16, the singer/songwriter had the audience on its feet after sharing his emotional backstory. 

Neal grew up in Nashville, the son of a drummer. But his father was troubled and told Neal he needed help. After a phone call between the two that didn’t go well, his father took his own life. That shocking revelation right out of the gate appeared to stun the reality show audience and judges, some of whom gasped while others looked about to choke up.

“I blamed myself for sure,” Neal said on that episode. “When it happened, I felt I didn’t matter that much—that I wasn’t important enough for him to stick around.”

Neal went on to describe how he got his own record deal after being discovered singing on the streets of Nashville. But his life spiraled out of control and he lost his chance at stardom.

“I partied really hard,” Neal said. “I started to become unmanageable.” Still under contract, the musician was set to record in New York—but because of his drug habit he blew his shot. His label dropped him.

In his tape, Neal described becoming washed up and hitting rock bottom before eventually getting clean and sober. The uplifting story got AGT audience members to their feet in support of Neal and his fortitude.

The singer/songwriter performed his composition “Lost”— the first he’s written since kicking his habits. “Lost” is an anthem of sorts to overcoming addiction and the healing power of recovery—a subject that has touched so many lives. His heartfelt, powerful performance won the judges over and had the audience on its feet again for another standing ovation. His next AGT appearance was scheduled for Tuesday night, July 28, just as The Malibu Times went to press.

Neal is not a stranger to reality television. He appeared on The Voice in 2016, where judge Alicia Keys said, “You are made of the thing that inspires the next generation to reach inside and find their voice. You’re a classic all timer.” Another Voice judge, Malibu resident Miley Cyrus, is quoted: “Nolan, you’re somebody that I would want to go see in concert ‘cause you’re just so fun to watch!”

Of his shot on AGT, Neal said, “The coolest thing that happened is that Simon Cowell told me, ‘Maybe now is your time.’ He’ll tell me if I’m terrible or not. It means the world to me to have this chance. Simon knows talent.”

Asked if stardom is his goal, Neal answered, “I really just want to play at treatment centers.

“When I play at treatment centers, I’m my happiest,” he continued. “If that’s what the universe has in store for me— to be able to help people on a grander scale—then sure. I just want to help others with music. When I got clean and sober and started playing at rehab centers I was beaming with joy and happiness.”

Singing “Lost” on television has connected the musician with others seeking recovery. Neal said he received messages from hundreds struggling with addiction. He even helped get one person into rehab earlier this month.

“Two people said they decided not to take their lives because of the song,” he said. “That’s what I want. Record deal, shmecord deal—if I can help others, that’s all that matters. That’s the dream for me.”

The Calabasas resident has been known to spend time in Malibu. He says you’ll always find him with a guitar.

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