Mario Vazquez – the 28-year-old New York heartthrob who was favored to win this past season’s American Idol until he suddenly dropped out of the competition – has signed with J Records and is working on an album to be executive produced by recording legend Clive Davis, a label rep confirms to PEOPLE.
The album is due out in spring 2006. Sources at the label say Vazquez auditioned for Davis, BMG’s chairman, after American Idol‘s fourth season ended in May.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is sing and I’ve always dreamed about having a career in music,” Vazquez said in a statement. “There’s no better label to achieve that goal with than J Records.”
Adds Davis: “Mario Vazquez is a multitalented, young American-born Hispanic singer with the voice and charisma that we’ve been trying to find for a long time. His live audition for us was truly special.”
Vazquez, who names Motown among his musical influences, is recording R&B/pop material for the album, say sources at J Records.
Last March, Vazquez made headlines by becoming the first finalist in the four-season history of the FOX talent hunt to quit the competition, after scoring on the show with such songs as the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do” and the O’Jays’ “I Love Music.”
“Mario Vazquez has withdrawn from the competition for personal reasons,” the network said in a statement at the time. He was replaced by Nikko Smith, who was ultimately voted off the show.
When he quit, Vazquez told TV Guide that he did so “to take care of some personal issues with my family in New York. And with Idol being a live show, it just wouldn’t have worked out schedule-wise. I’m healthy, I’m fine. It’s just a personal family thing. My family is my top priority.”
The New York Post, however, quoted Vazquez’s mother saying she didn’t know what family issues he had to deal with.
“Look at me, I’m fine, I’m still kicking,” his mother, Ada, said. “I don’t know his reasons, but whatever they are, I respect him for it and will be very supportive.”
The speculation at the time – and there has yet to be a revisionist view – is that Vazquez did not wish to be tied to an American Idol management contract with 19 Entertainment and Simon Fuller, the entities that produce the series.
According to a recent FOX News report, Vazquez will be managed by the Arnold Steifel, who guided Rod Stewart’s career for more than 30 years.