East TN singer defies odds, advances on 'American Idol'

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) - The iconic singing competition American Idol is back on television.

After 15 seasons on Fox, the reboot of the popular show has a new home on ABC, featuring a new panel of judges, and thousands of hopeful artists vying for their shot at super stardom.

One of those contestants is 26-year-old David Francisco, an East Tennessee native, who recently spoke to Elizabeth Kuebel about his Idol audition. He shared his remarkable journey to achieve his dream, despite an accident that left him wondering if he'd ever perform again.

The singer-songwriter lists some of his influences among the biggest names on the pop radio charts: Ed Sheeran, John Mayer and Adele. But it's clear, David is forging a musical path of his own - one that started in his hometown of Knoxville.

"I started playing music probably 5th grade is what I would count as starting," said Francisco.

Three instruments and several years later, David was in a college band, studying to become an electrical engineer at the University of Tennessee.

But when he didn't land an engineering job after graduation, music became his focus.

"I decided I need to go to Nashville, I want to learn from the best of the best," said David.

David enrolled in a recording school called the Blackbird Academy and made the move to the Music City in April 2016.

There, David's life changed forever, just not in the way he imagined.

"About 3 weeks in, I was biking home from class, and it was literally at the last intersection that we were stopped at. I was stopped beside the line of cars, the light turns green, then we start going, but then the car beside me slams on their breaks because they could see what I couldn't see to their left. There was a car coming and not stopping, and so they slam on the breaks, and I was exposed at the last minute and got T-boned," said David.

A nightmare, David says he doesn't even remember, but through scars and stories, he knows he smashed the car's windshield and soared 10 feet into the air.

"Worst of all was breaking my back, paralyzing me from the waist down," he said.

Months of grueling physical therapy followed. Recovery was slow, David says, but there was progress.

"One by one, things just came back. I mean, I remember the first movement, my toe just kind of, one of my toes just kind of went like that," he said.

Now, David says, he's able to walk with a cane - something he never thought he'd do.

So it seems what could have been the end of his story, may have actually been just the beginning.

"I thought what is this going to mean for music? Should I even try to do music if I'm in a wheel chair, and will I be able to get around? And I probably won't want to tour. But I've traveled 15 times as much as I did before the accident," David said.

He's playing shows across the country, and one of the more recent was in front of a panel of three celebrity super stars: Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. It was an audition for American Idol.

"It was incredible. It was really really cool. I think that's all I'll say for now," David said.

Time will tell what David's future with Idol holds, but it's a big piece of his past that he credits with helping prep him for center stage.

"Tennessee I think will always be my home, like where I'm from, I'm very proud of that. I think that Tennessee gave me a great environment, a safe space, to be creative and to try different ideas."

For David, his voice is an instrument, he says, to connect with people and spread a message that speaks louder than lyrics.

"If something seems impossible, it's not, and I am living proof of that. Walking again when I was told that I would never walk again, getting married when I never thought I'd be in a relationship again, and trying out for American Idol when I never thought that I was going to have anything in music again. So I would say that if you don't see yourself as a victim of your circumstances, but if you fight and surround yourself with community, people that care about you and want you to succeed, that you can actually pretty much do anything," David said.

David Francisco's American Idol audition aired during Monday's show.

Copyright 2018 WJHL. All rights reserved.


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