Singing, tenor saxophone, and wrestling are just a few of the diverse passions of Eve Berrington.
Berrington is from “all over the place.” While California born, she has lived throughout the country and in parts of Europe, but she spent her formative years on Mercer Island. Now she’s got a real shot at a spot on “American Idol” and dreams of competing in the Olympics.
She has enjoyed singing since childhood. It was something she said has always felt natural “since day one,” but she was too timid to sing in front of others — especially those close to her. It wasn’t until she was introduced to the tenor saxophone at MIHS her freshman year that things changed.
The instrument became “like a voice” for her.
“One of the most vulnerable things you can do is sing for somebody… having the saxophone was almost like a voice for me, but I didn’t have to use words, and I could be behind something, but that’s also a megaphone,” she said.
Not long after graduating in 2012, Berrington put down the saxophone only to pick it up again a few years later. This time, however, she knew she never wanted to put it down again.
“I just started going crazy with it,” she said. “I quit my job, sold all my stuff and went by myself with a backpack and my saxophone to Iceland and all over Europe.”
The spontaneous solo tour took her to every jazz club in the major cities — Brussels, Belgium, Paris, Marsee, Oslo, Rome and Naples.
“I just showed up. I’d go up to anyone who was playing, if it was a famous person or just a local group, and even if we didn’t speak the same language, I’d ask them if I could play with them,” she said.
Those experiences turned into making new friends, having a place to stay for the night and new opportunities, according to Berrington.
“It was really formative and important for my personal knowledge knowing I could go anywhere and just do that and know that I’m supposed to do that,” she said.
While riding the exciting life of touring throughout Europe and the U.S. offered Berrington unforgettable connections and experiences, she said she felt her and her music had finally “hit a wall.”
“I wasn’t getting better and I wasn’t getting any more gigs. I was realizing that in order to get better, there was something inside me that really needs to change,” she said.
That change ended up being an underground fighting league she found through Craigslist. As a child, she wanted to join the school wrestling team but her family wouldn’t let her. Now, as an adult with that same desire, she said finding her team allowed her to take more control over her life.
“Before [wrestling], I was really just going with the flow, but when I decided to do this, I took control over everything and it started a series of events,” she said. “It was a real motivation.”
Through the relationships she made at the underground fighting league, she said she started to attract more people who were into jiu-jitsu and kung fu.
“I just started training every day and hanging out with them—just like the same when I started playing the saxophone,” she said. “I just met all these people who were doing what I wanted to be doing. they saw my spark and they wanted to teach me.”
It wasn’t long until she was encouraged to compete in the U.S. Open.
Sponsored by a wrestling coach she met on a bus in San Diego, she competed in last year’s competition with only two months to prepare.
“I barely knew anything about wrestling,” she said. “It would be like if someone said you were going to be in the music competition and you only had two months to prepare, but instead of playing the instrument you knew, you had to play the trumpet or something.”
A torn rotator cuff and bicep later, Berrington still competed in the U.S. Open. What could have discouraged her drove her further, she said. She plans to enter the U.S. Open this year and hopes to enter the Olympics in two years.
To further her training, Berrington just accepted a position to serve as an assistant wrestling coach at Bellevue High School.
“I’m really excited to be doing this, and being able to teach and learn from these guys,” she said.
Wrestling has helped Berrington develop “this animal self,” and she said it’s completely changed the way she produces music.
Through various music projects, performing live shows throughout the U.S. and training with her wrestling team, Berrington was still searching for ways to make money just to get by.
Searching through Craigslist for gigs and odd jobs, Berrington found an ad that said “Are you the next American Idol?” and it caught her attention.
“I thought it was like a knock-off, like a podcast or something, and that they were in town just looking for local musicians. I take every little thing like that and try to make it happen. I applied and sent a YouTube video of an Ariana Grande cover I did with a girl brass band in Vegas,” she said. “I just sent it, and it turned out that he was the executive producer of American Idol.”
About a month after she sent the email, she got a response asking her to audition and that she would skip the line and get a private meeting with the producers.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It just didn’t seem real.”
The Aug. 31 Seattle audition was a success. So much so, Berrington will be skipping the second audition and will be singing in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on Oct. 13.
“I’m so excited!” she said. “I had already written out that exact same scenario in my journal. I was like, ‘I’m going to skip the second audition and go straight to Katy Perry.’”
Berrington is hopeful she will become a contestant on this season of American Idol.
“If I’m on the show and I do well, it will put me on a platform to have a voice. This means that I don’t have to hustle doing Craigslist gigs,” she said. “If I win, I’m going to have the platform to spend all the time I need to learn the intricacies of jazz theory that I’ve skipped over because I have been rushing in doing so many other things.”
For Berrington, being able to perfect her craft will allow her to “say” what she wants to say.
“It’s important to relay on the experiences I’ve been through, and it’s important to bring attention to the concepts that we are ignoring that make people uncomfortable, but in a way that’s soothing and comfortable,” she said.
Berrington credits her snowball achievements to being reunited with playing the saxophone and singing, as well as wrestling.
“It was almost like getting the saxophone and getting the confidence spurred all of these things I’ve always wanted to do but just was too trapped to do it. It’s definitely like another step in the pavement,” she said.
To learn more about Berrington, visit http://eveberrington.com/