"Around 2½," Bice, 29, "started singing songs off the radio," recalls his mom, Nancy. "We'd walk in a store and they would say, 'Bo, sing that song. I'll give you a quarter.' " The top request—"Long Haired Country Boy."
Growing up in Vegas, Gordon, 17, was encouraged by her parents to be outspoken. "We wanted her to express herself," says her mom, Victoria Cavaricci. That approach paid off when a family connection helped her gain entry to a meet and greet following an Idol tour concert in 2001. "I was watching her talk to Ryan Seacrest, and she said, 'One day I'm going to be on this show,' " says Cavaricci. "And look where we are today."
The New Jersey music teacher, 25, taught himself the piano at 4. "I brought home this Casio keyboard with prerecorded songs on it," says mother Elaine. "We were like, 'Oh God, if he pressed that button on more time for 'Greensleeves' "...We didn't realize he was playing it himself."
The 27-year-old Brnox Native honed his skills in high school vocal classes and Manhattan's City kids Repertory Company, then singing jingles for CD-ROMs. As a kid, "he would sing his own versions of songs off the radio," says cousin Claudia Mena, 26. "He's always had his style too." And a fondness for headgear.
The Oklahoma farm girl began her music career with a baptism by fire: She started singing in her church choir in third grade. "People were like, 'Hey, you're pretty good,' " says Underwood, 22. "I've never had any formal music training."
The 19-year-old Tampa nanny has been singing since she could talk, influenced mainly by her paternal grandmother, Betty. Encouraged by her "Mima," Sierra never stopped pursuing her musical dreams. "She had this beautiful operatic voice," she recalls. "I was in a daze every time she would sing."
As a child, the 28-year-old gentle giant had an appetite for more than just music. "When he was 4, we had a couple who lived two doors down," says his mom, Cathy. "Scott would go down there and say, 'What are you making for dinner? Can I eat over?' Unbeknownst to us, he was eating two meals every night!"
Shaping up as this season's heartthrob, the 19-year-old Ukrainian immigrant was always popular with the ladies, even as a third grader. "He was always protected by girls," says brother Denis, 27, a paralegal. "Every time they went out to lunch, he was with five or six girls so boys would not come and beat him up or something!"
The 29-year-old gained a number of his influences, rock and otherwise, from older brother Athan, 40. "I think because I was a fanatic for the Doors that he became a fanatic, " says Athan, an album reissue producer. "He didn't really grow his hair until his early 20s. He picked up all my bad habits, but they work for him!"
As a child, the Ponchatoula, La., native belted jams into her "Singalodeon" karaoke machine, which she still owns. "I put Little Mermaid stickers all over it because she was my favorite," says Cardinale, 20. "The very first song I performed was 'Part of Your World; I love her."
The 28-year-old Florida native has never been shy. "When other kids were asked, 'What do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor? An attorney?' She wanted to be 'a star,' " says her mom, Rosita Silverman. "If one kid came on this earth knowing what to do, it would be her."
When she was 8, "Baby V" would perform local martial arts displays with her instructor dad, Larry, before knocking out the crowd with her singing. During one of the now 20-year-old's first shows—an outdoor festival in front of 2000 people—Larry told the crowd, "Remember this name. She's going to be famous."