Grammy Awards contest: Ex Wellington teen needs your vote

South Florida, one of your own needs your help in his bid for a share of the Grammy Awards spotlight.

Self-described former Wellington High marching band "nerd” Ricky Ficarelli and his pop trio, King the Kid, are among seven finalists in the Grammy Awards’ Gig of a Lifetime contest. Online balloting, which began with more than 1,500 entries, continues until 3 p.m. Thursday at Facebook.com/TheGrammys.

Among the most valuable rewards for the Gig of a Lifetime winner are a chance to play for music-industry influencers at a Grammy Awards-sanctioned event and an appearance in a Microsoft TV commercial.  

Ficarelli, 19, left South Florida during his senior year of high school to seek musical fame in Los Angeles, and now lives in Bend,  Ore., where King the Kid is based. The drummer met the other members of the band, lead vocalist and bass player David Michael Frank and guitarist Jose Mostajo, both 21,  in L.A. Their Gig of a Lifetime entry, “We Are the Ones” (below), is from the band’s debut album, “Start Something,” released on iTunes last month.

The past several months have been a blur for Ficarelli, who says the move from L.A. to Oregon (where Frank had gone to college) gave them the slower environment necessary for the warp-speed recording of “Start Something,” which was done in less than four months. No friends, no fans, no distractions.

“The nature and the outdoorsiness are out of this world,” Ficarelli says by phone during a break in early-morning recording work. “I’m on my patio right now looking at a volcano covered in snow… In five minutes I could be at an amazing waterfall.”

Ficarelli was in a band backing the L.A. rapper De Storm when he met Frank, who was friends with the Peruvian Mostajo. The three clicked and quickly threw themselves into the idea of creating a band and an album. The name, King the Kid, is an acknowledgement of youthful empowerment, he says.

“We think of it as taking your life into your own hands, being independent,” says Ficarelli, who  admits that his parents pay for his health insurance.  “People think of kids like us, that we need management and whatever. But we have the attitude that you can do it yourself.”

But for the Gig of a Lifetime, King the Kid will need help. Ficarelli says they were nominated by some fans, and didn’t think they had a shot until they saw their vote totals climbing.

“We saw fans tweeting and thought, ‘We’re not gonna win this,’ but in the last week or two we went with some songs on live streams, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube. Our fan base is not deep yet but they’re growing,” he says. 

That social media is a key tool in the success of King the Kid (at KingtheKid.com and Youtube.com/kingthekidla) will not surprise anyone familiar with the Ricky Ficarelli backstory.

About three years ago, Ficarelli started uploading video of his pop-song covers to YouTube, including a solo drum version of Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” A week later, Bieber himself turned up on "American Idol" and ended a performance of "Baby" with a brief, but memorable drum solo. The subsequent flood of  Google and YouTube searches for variations of "Bieber Baby drums" ended with Ficarelli's face up next to Bieber's.

Ficarelli’s JoBro good looks made it impossible for Bieber fans not to take a shot on his video, and the clicks just kept rolling in. After 10 million views and 60,000 subscribers, YouTube itself branded Ficarelli a “YouTube sensation,” and added him to its 2011 Digitour, a 27-city club tour that included web stars of the day such as Dave Days and the Gregory Brothers of "AutoTune the News" fame. 

At the time, Ficarelli scoffed at the idea of "sensation" and his name in the same sentence. But on Monday the comments under King the Kid's "We Are the Ones" video included "i think im in love with you Ricky...<3"

So, parents, the next time marching band tryouts come around, get out there and make your kid feel like a king.

Photo courtesy King the Kid

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