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“I just need a small army of people.” American Idol finalist enlists fans with tour

Danny Gokey brings the Hope Encounter tour to the Saroyan Theatre in Fresno, CA, Oct. 16. 2018.
Danny Gokey brings the Hope Encounter tour to the Saroyan Theatre in Fresno, CA, Oct. 16. 2018. Submitted

Danny Gokey tried out for “American Idol” in 2008, just a month after the death of his first wife.

It had been a devastating loss, something that could have ended him, but he’d made her a promise. And besides, it was a last chance kind of deal. He would have aged out of competition the following year.

He didn’t win the season (he finished third behind Kris Allen and Adam Lambert), but it was the springboard for a recording career and now his first headlining tour, which stops Tuesday at the Saroyan Theatre.

“Setbacks can become a tombstone or a stepping stone,“ Gokey said in an interview in advance of the concert.

“I needed something to instill hope into me. That show instilled hope.”

Which, in turn, is what he’s hoping for with his tour. It is called the Hope Experience for a reason.

It’s not short on the entertainment by any means. The show is a funk, soul dance party, Gokey says. He brought in Laurieann Gibson, who’s done choreography for Puff Daddy and Lady Gaga and Beyonce.

Tauren Wells and Riley Clemmons open the show.

But Gokey will also be sharing from his own experiences of loss and struggle. He’s been clinically diagnosed with OCD and the show is designed to be open and accepting to those struggling with mental health issues, Gokey says.

Then, there is his “Better Than I Found It” campaign, where fans can nominate members of the community to be recognized for their work and contributions during the concert. That’s also the name of a planned video series in which Gokey helps nonprofit organizations around the country. Gokey’s own nonprofit, named Sophia’s Heart after his wife, helped house 200 homeless families before it ran out of funding and shut down in 2016.

The first episode of the series is up now.

“It’s the vision I’ve seen for myself and my music. I’ve always seen it as a movement,” Gokey says.

“I just need a small army of people,” he says.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee