It hasn't been an easy road for the three final "American Idol" contestants.
Candice Glover was twice rejected by the show before making it to the final three. Kree Harrison chased her dream for so long in Nashville, she thought it might be time to give up. And Angie Miller sang despite having suffered ruptured ear drums and impaired hearing.
Now the three women will duke it out Wednesday night on Fox as the journey winds down for two of them — and one is crowned the winner on next week's finale. Here are their stories.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The third time has been the charm for Candice Glover.
She made it past the first round of "American Idol" auditions in Season 9 and Season 11, but didn't make it to the semifinals. This season, her slow, burning, powerful version of The Cure's "Lovesong" was called the greatest performance ever on the show by judge Randy Jackson, who has been there since the beginning.
"I'm definitely proof dreams come true," Glover said when she returned last weekend to her hometown of St. Helena Island, S.C. "No matter how many times you get a 'no,' you keep trying to get a 'yes.'"
Glover started singing and performing at Oaks True Holiness Church at age 4. She got her first standing ovation there when she was 8, and was hooked on entertaining.
Glover first auditioned for "American Idol" in 2009, making it to the final 70 contestants. She made the top 60 in 2011 before bowing out. But she wasn't on TV either time.
She headed back to St. Helena Island after each failure, making her living renting scooters and golf carts in resort areas nearby and singing at weddings and funerals.
After last season's near-miss, Glover said she took time to assess her strengths and weaknesses as a performer. She never had a vocal coach, and she credits what she did with herself — not the turnover in three of the show's four judges — with her success.
"It's the change in me, not the judges. It's the fact I worked really hard and prepared myself, compared to before," Glover said.
She also has a whole state cheering for her. Despite the success of Southern artists on the show, South Carolina has never had an Idol contest make it this far, even with a rich musical tradition that includes jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, the Godfather of Soul James Brown, 1960s dance icon Chubby Checker and rock and now country star Darius Rucker.
"You could not have made South Carolina more proud than we are right now," said Gov. Nikki Haley as she declared Saturday "Candice Glover Day" in South Carolina.
— By Jeffrey Collins
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — "American Idol" finalist Kree Harrison has a piece of advice for aspiring contestants: "You have to know who you are because if you don't, it's even harder."
The native Texan has spent the last 13 years in Music City chasing the dream, and part of that long journey has been maintaining her personal vision as an artist. That vision has landed the 22-year-old as one of three finalists on "Idol." After a couple of failed deals that would have required her to change her sound, she had started to think it might be time to give up, though.
"Nashville has taught me so much — the people, the writing community, the whole town," Harrison said in a phone interview. "They'll make you stronger. Probably since I was not trying anymore, I thought what do I have to lose (trying out for 'Idol')? I can maybe create this following that I need. That was my initial goal. 'Idol' gives artists such a great platform to start your career. Hopefully however big your following will be, you'll make great music and someone will get it. It's been crazy. And worth it."
One of those friends is Kacey Musgraves, who had Harrison sing backup on her recent hit album, "Same Trailer Different Park." Musgraves thinks she knows the secret to Harrison's success so far.
"I've literally never heard the girl hit one bad note," Musgraves said. "Her instincts are spot on always. The thing I love about her is she never tries to overdo it, she never tries to over-sing. And it's always really believeable and real, and I think people are craving that."
And if it doesn't work out, she'll always have that tweet from Merle Haggard, who complimented her on her version of "Help Me Make It Through the Night."
"Oh my God, I don't even think it's real still," Harrison said. "I was like, 'Who's punking me?' First of all, Merle Haggard has a Twitter? That's amazing. I kept refreshing the page thinking, 'There must be something wrong.'
— By AP Music Writer Chris Talbott
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Angie Miller's poise and confidence seem as effortless as her high notes.
The 19-year-old "American Idol" finalist from Beverly, Mass., took guest mentor Harry Connick Jr.'s teasing in stride when he claimed that his family — Connick aside — loves her voice.
Earlier this season, when given the choice of picking a song from a playlist or an original for the show's crucial Hollywood auditions, Miller went with her own tune, "You Set Me Free," although only family and friends had heard it.
"I'm really confident in myself as an artist and the music I do," Miller said during a break in rehearsals for this week's showdown. She did seek a less partial opinion, from "American Idol" vocal coach Matt Rohde, and no punches pulled.
"I looked at Matt and said, 'You need to tell me if this song isn't good enough. Tell me if it's a bad idea,'" she said. He applauded it, and so did the judges who gave a standing ovation to the piano-playing brunette with the wide smile.
One her most rousing "Idol" performances came after the Boston Marathon bombings, when she dedicated the song "I'll Stand by You" to "my home, Boston."
Miller, who grew up in a musical household ("My family was like a worship team," each on a different instrument, said the churchgoer and former worship leader), started writing songs as a youngster, with "Little Little Sparkle Dress" her inaugural effort.
It was in childhood that she suffered ruptured ear drums and impaired hearing, Miller said. The problem worsened when one ear drum deteriorated further, and the doctor who diagnosed it last year recommended that she undergo skin graft surgery post-"Idol."
Miller, who's gotten used to adjusting on stage for her condition, is facing that prospect with the same public composure she displays toward her "Idol" experience. Even the inevitable social media praise and scorn ("Nothing is private anymore") won't rattle her, she said.
"I'm still growing up, but I definitely feel like I'm not super immature. I feel like I can handle this competition and the haters and everything else going on. I have an incredible support system, my family," Miller said.
— By AP Television Writer Lynn Elber