AMERICAN IDOL - "203 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" travels to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; New York, New York; Louisville, Kentucky; and Los Angeles, California, as the search for America’s next superstar continues on The ABC Television Network, SUNDAY, MARCH 10 (8:00 - 10:01 p.m. EDT), streaming and on demand. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal) WADE COTA

Wade Cota is determined to win “American Idol.”

It’s not completely about the recording contract or the adulation for the Valley native, who has a residency at Tim Finnigan’s Irish Pub in Glendale.

His mission is giving back to his family.

“I just really want to take care of my family,” Cota said via telephone from Los Angeles where he was relaxing in a hot tub. “We struggled through everything our whole lives. I need to take care of my mom.”

He very well may be on his way. On April 21, Cota made the top eight on “American Idol.” Judge Katy Perry called him “approachable and relatable” after he sang “You Got a Friend in Me”, a Disney song from “Toy Story.”

“I think you did Randy Newman proud,” Perry said.

A Moon Valley High School graduate, Cota admitted to “different passions” – anything but a 9-to-5 job.

“He’s been writing music since he was 12 years old,” added his mother, Terri. “He left music for a little bit. He started acting in high school. My kid was a rock star in high school. He was homecoming king. He was nominated for prom king. He was the Beast in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ He got every award possible.

He was also in a heavy metal band in high school and received several Valley accolades. His current project is his band SugarWater, and his bandmates traveled to Los Angeles to cheer him on.

“He had a heck of a scream,” Terri said. “I feel that intense scream and that thrash metal voice he had as a kid ripped his vocal cords and now he has that raspy sound. He probably wouldn’t have had it if he wasn’t a metal singer first.”


Striking talent

The Cotas lived in Phoenix, Peoria, Tonopah, Tempe, Apache Junction and now Phoenix. Terri Cota said her son is sensitive and talented.

“He’s fun and special,” she said. “He doesn’t even know how good he is. Wade is the youngest and concerned about me. I’d fall asleep and when I woke up, all the dishes would be done. His whole life, I told him, ‘Wade, you’re so special. You’re destined for something good in your life.’”

She said “American Idol’s” music director, Kristopher Pooley, recognized his talent and personality.  

“He came up to me and said, ‘Are you Wade’s mom?’” she recalled. “He said, ‘I just want to tell you we love your son. He is so fun and humble and teachable. That’s an ‘Idol’ dream for us.”

Dave Gill owns Tim Finnegan’s Irish Restaurant and Pub in Glendale, where Cota regularly plays.

“I remember when he told me he was going to audition for ‘Idol’ in the summer of last year,” Gill said. “I said, ‘Dude, go for it. That’s awesome. Knowing him for nine years, and watching the constant battle with music and being an artist, it’s amazing to watch what’s transpired.”

Gill is also close with Cota’s family, saying they’re “salt of the earth, real people.”

“The evolution of Wade Cota,” Gill continued. “The presence he now demands and commands when he’s playing now is second to none. He just has it. It’s unreal to watch.

“He’s a true artist. He can just connect. People connect with him as a person and an artist. People feel comfortable when they listen to his voice. When he plays, people always ask when he’s going to be back. I could turn off the lights and play that music. That voice is really what they want. It has nothing to do with image and appearance. It’s that voice.”