Modesto singer’s ‘American Idol’ audition set to air, how to watch and root him on

Watch Modesto’s Ryan Hammond at 2015 Valley’s Got Talent competition

Valley's Got Talent grand prize winner Ryan Hammond of Modesto sang a cover of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” (excerpt)
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Valley's Got Talent grand prize winner Ryan Hammond of Modesto sang a cover of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” (excerpt)

Modesto native Ryan Hammond is ready to be judged.

The Modesto High graduate’s audition before the “American Idol” judges is set to air Monday, March 18. In an interview earlier this month, Hammond said he was thrilled to be a contestant on the show’s 17th season, which started two weeks ago.

“It was really exciting to finally be able to go stand in front of the judges and get to meet (“American Idol” judges) Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan,” Hammond said. “I’ve been watching it from the beginning and being a part of it was a surreal experience.”

Hammond won the Valley Talent Project (then called Valley’s Got Talent) in 2015. That same year he competed in and won the title of Nor Cal Idol.

Ryan Hammond 3.jpg
Modesto native Ryan Hammond, 25, will compete on the 17th season of “American Idol.” His before-and-after weight loss journey will be discussed on the show. Courtesy Ryan Hammond

The 25-year-old grew up singing in his family’s Modesto church, Celebration Center, along with his three sisters. He has competed in some local talent shows, and tried out for “American Idol” twice before making it onto the show.

But he said his past weight held him back. At his heaviest Hammond said he weighed 331 pounds. But in 2017 he underwent bypass surgery and since then has lost 170 pounds. He discusses his dramatic weight loss journey with the judges.

Hammond has compared his singing style to British crooner Sam Smith, and he sang the artist’s hit “Lay Me Down“ to win the Gallo Center talent contest. Last year he released the EP “Tragedy to Triumph,” a six-song album of Christian music. This year he has released three singles of more mainstream pop, which are available for download via iTunes and other digital platforms.

While Hammond moved to San Jose late last year, he still works in Modesto and his family will be rooting for him from here. If he advances in the competition, he hopes fans will use the #HamFam hashtag.

Hammond’s “American Idol” episode airs at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC. For more on his music visit his website at www.ryanjonhammond.com.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.