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September 2014

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Oconomowoc native Griffin Peterson earns golden ticket on 'Idol'

Griffin Peterson has a passion for songwriting

Griffin Peterson was excited to unwrap a snowboard for Christmas one year. Eagerly opening the large package, he was even more surprised to find out it was a guitar. But he's been playing ever since, and his strumming recently earned him quite a bit of acclaim when he walked away with a golden ticket on American Idol.

"I tell him, 'I'm taking full responsibility for you being a musician,' " said his mom, Terry, with a laugh. The mother of three told her children when they were young they had to find something to do after finishing homework; Griffin's "something to do" turned out to be playing guitar.

Since eighth-grade Peterson has been playing the guitar, even taking lessons at Hartland Music, his mother said. But a love of music has been a natural part of the family his whole life. Griffin's father, Chris, has been playing guitar since he was in sixth grade, and the family even has a studio in their Lower Nashotah Lake home, where Griffin spent a fair share of his time before he moved to Nashville.

The family was actually on their way to a songwriters festival in Florida Friday afternoon when Terry Peterson took a moment for an interview about her son's big day on "Idol." Griffin Peterson's performance on the "Idol" auditions in Chicago aired on TV Thursday night when he earned a spot for the first big show of the season in Hollywood.

Terry Peterson said it was unfortunate her son couldn't make the trip to Florida this year; it's a family tradition of sorts.

"It's so cool. You get to be up close and personal with the people who write the songs that you listen to on the radio. You get to hear their perspective," Terry explained.

Songwriting is her son's true passion she said. Auditioning for "American Idol" was actually the furthest thing from his mind.

"His true passion is songwriting," said Terry, recalling one year when Chris was battling serious illness and Griffin was going through his own struggles. That year, he came home from college for Easter break shared his first song, "Might Go Crazy."

"We were all stunned, to be honest. He was never really one to play out or perform, and I even think he may have been a bit nervous performing it for us," said his mother.

Griffin graduated from Arrowhead High School and performed a bit, playing in the worship band at Crosspoint Community Church, his mother said.

But that first song led to many others, and "now he's prolific at it. He's constantly writing songs … maybe it was that first song that helped him get over that," she said.

His passion for music and song writing led him to Belmont University in Nashville where he graduated in December with a degree in music business. But it was his internship over the summer at Leo Burnett Worldwide ad agency in Chicago that led him to that fateful day on "American Idol" auditions.

"He was working in the music area, and they were the ones who had heard some of his stuff and called him in and said, 'Do you realize auditions for 'American Idol' are here?' " pushing him to go, his mother said. "He wouldn't have thought of it in a million years. He never even watched it."

Regardless of how he does on "Idol," Griffin's mother said the exposure has helped him get his name out there.

"Oh yeah, he had 150 followers on Twitter before the show aired, and now he has almost 7,000," she said.

"Oh, and they're all girls," she added, laughing.

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