Crouse native Otto Reynolds will showcase his musical talents on MTV’s newest reality show, Copycat.
The 24 year-old first discovered his talent for singing while auditioning for a role in West Lincoln Middle School’s annual musical.
“One of my friends was auditioning, and she begged me to audition with her,” he said. “I had never sang before, and for the audition, you had to prepare a song. I was just like, ‘I don’t really know if this is my thing.’ I had been playing baseball and other sports my entire life, and I didn’t know if I should do this. But she convinced me, and I ended up singing and getting the lead role.”
After his theatrical debut, Reynolds discovered he had fallen in love with performing.
“I decided that I wanted to take it more seriously and get lessons, to learn as much as I could and develop my voice,” he said. “It was a passion and love that I found, and it was amazing.”
Throughout high school, Reynolds became active in the theater community at West Lincoln High School and the Lincoln Theater Guild. After graduating from high school, Reynolds attended Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, where he continued to cultivate his talent in the performing arts.
“I got my degree in Music Business with a minor in business as a back-up, just in case singing performing didn’t work out as a full-time job,” he said.
Eager to begin his professional career, Reynolds graduated in 3.5 years, a semester earlier than the average undergraduate student.
“A lot of auditions take place in January, so I figured out that if I loaded up on course work, I could graduate in December of 2011 and then start auditioning in January,” he said. “So, I did that and started auditioning everywhere — from cruise ships to local theater stuff.”
It took a month of anxious waiting for Reynolds to receive his first callback, an “extra” role on Cinemax’s new show, Banshee, which was being filmed in Charlotte.
“At first, they just wanted me to be an extra, but then I got a call to be a full-time stand-in for the main actor, Antony Starr, who plays the role of Lucas Hood,” he explained.
Reynolds began working with the film crew that March for the series’ first season.
“I worked five days a week and just did everything (Starr) did,” he said. “While he was getting dressed in wardrobe, I would actually act out the scene and everything so they could do the lighting and such. That way, they wouldn’t have to waste the actor’s time.
“So, I got lucky and just went for something kind of different,” Reynolds continued. “I was like, ‘Well, this isn’t singing, but it’s still something within the entertainment industry.’”
After the season’s filming concluded in September, Reynolds received a call to perform at Dollywood for the Christmas season.
“They wanted me to start that October,” he said. “So, as soon as Banshee stopped, I packed up and moved to Tennessee. I had always wanted to perform at Dollywood. I grew up with country music; it was one of my first loves of music. I grew up in the South, and I felt like I had to work there. It’s Dolly Parton’s park, and I felt like could make some really great connections working there.”
After wrapping up his performance for Dollywood’s Christmas show, Reynolds was offered an opportunity continue working as a full-time cast member.
“In 2013, I performed in Dollywood’s country shows that did 90s and pop-country,” he said. “I actually was chosen to perform with Dolly Parton on stage. She was doing a mini-concert for the opening of the park, and they asked some of the performers to join her with singing and doing back-up. So, I actually went on stage as her escort and did back-up for her mini concert.”
During the summer of 2013, Reynolds began looking for reality television opportunities.
“I’ve always wanted to do reality TV,” he said. “I’ve auditioned for American Idol, The Voice — all of those TV shows, and I hadn’t had any luck making it to the TV round. So, I went on MTV’s website and saw a link that they were looking for amusement park workers for a reality TV show…so I told my coworkers about it and told them that we needed to send in audition video to MTV so we could have a our own reality show here at Dollywood.”
After several conversations with one of MTV’s producers, Reynolds learned that a Dollywood’s reality show was not feasible.
“It actually didn’t work out with the rights, and the fact that Dollywood would never allow for that type of reality show to happen,” he said. “But, I was talking to them, and they actually suggested for me to send in a video of me singing for this new TV show they were doing called Copycat.”
According to Reynolds, unlike American Idol and The Voice, Copycat’s participants are purposefully trying to mimic the sound and style of a current music artist.
“The artist I chose that I felt I sounded the most like was Ryan Tedder from One Republic,” he said. “For the audition process, I sent videos of me singing his songs, and then after several rounds, I was chosen to fly to California this past January to film. It was my first time in California, and I was so excited.”
According to MTV’s website, each episode features young adults competing in a series of “catfights” to win over their studio audience. After each catfight, the studio audience must vote for their favorite singer. The highest scoring singer from each episode will then advance to the Big Cat Finals, where the winning Copycat performer will receive $5,000.
“The show’s really cool and very lighthearted — nothing serious,” Reynolds said. “It’s a fun, quirky show. There are six contestants in each episode, and then there’s a winner from each episode.”
Since filming the pilot episode, Reynolds has found a new performing opportunity — one that has allowed him to explore countries he never imagined he’d visit.
“I had heard a lot of great things about cruise lines and performing on cruise ships — the money, the itinerary, the places you were seeing,” he said. “So, I thought this should be my next big thing.”
Reynolds began his six-month contract with Celebrity Cruise Lines in May. So far, he has traveled on tours throughout Rome, the Greek Islands and Turkey.
“We had three weeks of rehearsals before we got to the ship, and those were hardcore,” he said. “What I’m doing on the ship is the big productions, in the big theater on the ship. We put on a Broadway variety show that has everything from Wicked to Cats. And then we have another show that’s more pop-rock that has more dancers. We sing Michael Jackson type stuff. And then we have a Cirque Du Soleil show that has aerialists and different acts going on with people flying through the audience. It’s pretty crazy. It was a big leap from Dollywood to getting out here and doing big production shows.”
When Reynolds returns to Lincoln County in December, he hopes to produce his first album.
“I already have a cover and the songs; I just don’t have the money right now for a professional to get a real CD done,” he said. “And that’s my goal — to get several songs on a CD and get that out there to make it as a mainstream artist. What I’m doing is fun and more money than I ever pictured earning through singing, but I think my ultimate goal is to try to get my own music out there and to become the actual singer-songwriter that you hear on the radio.”
Reynold’s music holds true to his country roots, infused with a few pop culture references. Like many singers, he embeds pieces of his past into the lyrics.
“My songs generally reference my past, going from not knowing what I wanted to do to just finding a love for music,” he said. “A lot of my songs talk about God, where my beliefs are from and where I find my will and power to keep going, and the gift that I’ve got from Him. I talk about friends, like past experiences, and most recently, about my new experiences, about traveling and seeing places I never thought about seeing, about family members and their struggles that I’ve seen. They’re the stories through my eyes, basically.”
While Reynolds is hundreds of miles from his hometown, he hopes to continue to share his music to his North Carolina friends and family.
“At first, I questioned if this was the right thing for me, but since I’ve gotten here, the joy of music gets me through,” he said. “I’m getting to accomplish other goals, being on TV and performing. I want to gain that support of my hometown and for them to rally behind me and my journey, since I can’t really be there to be performing around that area.”
“Copycat” is scheduled to premiere on MTV today at 3 p.m. To learn more about Otto Reynolds and his musical journey, visit www.ottoreynolds.com.