Zack Taylor, who grew up in Lee’s Summit, will be among the hopefuls competing for a spot in ABC’s “Boy Band” when it premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday. But locals will know him better as Zack Kaltenbach.
“I just kind of made it up one day,” he said of his stage name in a phone interview last week. “My last name is too hard to say. In audition rooms, casting people had a hard time with it, so I just changed it.”
Taylor, a 2010 graduate of Blue Springs South High School, isn’t a complete neophyte when it comes to reality competition singing series. He competed on Fox’s “American Idol” in 2015. Season 7 “Idol” winner David Cook is also a Blue Springs South graduate.
“I made it to the Top 48, the round just before the live shows start,” he said.
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On “Boy Band,” Taylor, 24, will be the oldest boy in the mix; the youngest is 14. The idea is to put together the next big boy band from a pool of singers, based on judges’ decisions and viewer votes.
Rita Ora hosts the competition, which begins with a two-hour episode that winnows 30 competitors down to 18 who will advance to the next round.
Judges, called “architects,” will be Timbaland, Emma Bunton of Spice Girls fame and Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter. From the 18, the architects will form three groups of six. The winning band will receive a recording contract with Hollywood Records.
Taylor first began singing in fifth grade at Voy Spears Jr. Elementary School and continued through middle school at Delta Woods. Freshman year of high school he switched his focus.
“I thought I wanted to be a chef and I didn’t take music class and took culinary arts instead and ended up hating it,” Taylor said. “Sophomore year I jumped back into music.”
At Missouri State University, where he studied business and finance, Taylor was a member of the all-male a cappella group, the Beartones.
“I did that for three years, and we toured around the Midwest to a lot of high schools,” Taylor said. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. That kind of branched off into a solo journey for music.”
That’s when Taylor created a YouTube channel, where he posted covers of pop music, including Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Rixton’s “Me and My Broken Heart.”
After college graduation in 2014, Taylor took an internship at the insurance company where his mom, Mary Ann Kaltenbach, is a vice president.
“It wasn’t really my thing,” Taylor said. “I was just planning on doing the normal thing when I graduated college. … I just realized I needed to go for it while I was young so I didn’t have any regrets later in life.”
One day at work he saw “American Idol” was holding auditions in Branson, so he went with a friend and landed a spot on the show.
After “Idol,” Taylor waited tables in Kansas City before moving to Los Angeles in July 2016. He continued to wait tables while auditioning for modeling, commercial, singing and acting jobs.
In April he submitted himself for a Disney music video and soon got a call from someone at ABC interested in him for “Boy Band.”
“I’m on the older side of the age range,” Taylor acknowledged, noting that’s the biggest difference from “Idol.” “I kind of played the big brother role in ‘Boy Band.’ ”
Production on the series began the week of May 30, and Taylor said having experience on another reality show proved helpful.
“It helps calm your nerves,” he said. “Doing it a second time I knew what to expect in certain situations. I grew up listening to Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls, so it was cool to see Nick and Emma as architects on the show.”
Taylor hasn’t been home to visit his family, including his father, John, and sister, Maggie, since Christmas, but he’ll be back later this month. He’s scheduled to sing the national anthem on July 1 at the Sporting Kansas City game.
“My friends and family have been super supportive,” he said. “But it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Where to watch
“Boy Band” premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 22, on ABC.