Wade Cota is greeted warmly in Tim Finnegan’s Irish Restaurant and Pub, the one-time home of his open mic nights.
Things have changed since the imposing 27-year-old took fourth on “American Idol” this year. He is recognized everywhere he goes. He makes sure his hair is properly flipped, and he’s picture-perfect before he heads out.
On Thursday, June 20, Cota will sing the national anthem just before the D-backs vs. Dodgers game. He admits he’s nervous about singing a cherished song like that. Cota is mainly excited about his show with Wyves, Chad Rubin and Michael Coughlin on Saturday, June 29.
“I plan to play the covers I sang on ‘American Idol’ and some of my original stuff,” Cota says.
He is working on an album of original songs. Cota’s happy with the two completed songs, one of which will be released before his Marquee Theatre show.
Cota grew up a music fan. His mother, Terri, formerly managed bands and was the woman behind several music festivals in Arizona. He has a musical family as well.
“My mom put music on to everything,” Cota says. “I would do my math homework to Pantera and try to do it as fast as I could, to stick with the music.”
His time on “American Idol” was bittersweet. He didn’t care for the stress of “Hollywood Week.” Flying to Hawaii for the show was disturbing.
“As I was flying over the ocean, I was disgusted at what I saw at 30,000 feet in the air,” he says. “I’m looking at the ocean and I could see literally just miles of garbage. It’s disgusting. It made me feel really, really bad about the world these days.
“It was floating on top of the ocean for like a half hour. It wasn’t going away.”
Cota was also unhappy with the songs that were chosen for him. He said they weren’t in his wheelhouse, except for Joe Cocker’s rendition of “With a Little Help from My Friends.” For his friends, Cota counts Alejandro Aranda, this year’s runner up.
Cota is taking his career one step at a time. Record labels are expected to attend his Marquee show.
“I want them to see that, ‘Holy crap. This guy can sell out a 2,500-person theater in his hometown,” Terri says.
He adds, “I want to strike while the iron’s hot. I don’t want to be one of those people who had their claim to fame on ‘Idol’ and then did nothing with it.”
Cota and his mother are pleased “American Idol” didn’t send the top finishers on tour. Cota doesn’t want to spend three months playing other people’s material. Instead, he can perform original songs on his own tour.
“I want to do my own songs now,” he says. “I don’t want to be on tour for three months, until they’re already casting for the next season. Then, I risk the chance of people forgetting about me.”
Wade Cota w/Chad Rubin, Wyves and Michael Coughlin, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480.829.0607, luckymanonline.com, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 29, $20-$70.