Matt Mauser is opening up about his emotional America’s Got Talent audition. In an interview with ET’s Nischelle Turner, Matt, who lost his wife, Christina, in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant last year, revealed how his audition song choice, Phil Collins’ 1984 track, “Against All Odds,” was in honor of his late wife.
“There’s one lyric in there that was really appropriate for me, and it was, ‘There’s so much I need to say to you / So many reasons why / You’re the only one who really knew me at all.’ That’s so true,” Matt told ET. “When you lose that sounding board, when you lose the person who you’ve confided in, you lose the most important person in your life, you just have to, against all odds, find a way back.”
As for what Christina would’ve said after his performance and success on Tuesday’s AGT episode, Matt said, “She would’ve just said ‘good job.'”
“She was never overwhelmed… We kept it even-keeled,” Matt told ET of his wife, with whom he shares three kids. “Christina… she kept me grounded, never let me get too high, and never let me get too low. I always really respected her for that.”
The decision to audition for AGT, Matt said, was “something that kind of came available” at the right time, when he was feeling as if he couldn’t “sit still anymore” and had “to do something.”
“The main reason I did it is I want to make sure… that my kids saw me do something instead of just being sad. We’ve been mourning for about a year now, and we’ve been in lockdown, so it was one of those opportunities that we had,” he explained. “… I had so many days… just [asking], ‘How do I move? How do I get through the day?’… When opportunities present themselves, you have to take a risk. It’s a terrifying reality, but that’s life.”
It’s a lesson Matt learned thanks to both his wife and Kobe.
“If there’s anything I learned from my wife and from watching Kobe for those years that I was working with him, it’s that he was fearless,” he said of the late NBA star. “That Mamba mentality that he talked about in public was who he was. I used… his example as being able to go through something like this.”
Prior to his incredible performance, a pre-taped package aired, in which Matt discussed his “dreamy kind of life” with his late wife, whom he described as a “very humble, powerful, beautiful human being” who “would want me to carry on.”
While speaking to ET, Matt gushed over their relationship, which began in 2004 after they met when his band was performing at a dive bar.
“The memories I have are of us laughing, her humor, and just being a friend more than anything else. She was my best friend. That’s what I think [about]. That’s what I carry with me,” he said. “… We had a very close relationship. We worked together as teachers, we coached together as coaches. She was the leader of the band. We had both retired at the same time to pursue other interests from teaching… She was just my everything.”
Matt told ET that he felt Christina was there with him through his performance, something that is not out of the norm, even in his day-to-day life.
“I always feel her with me. She was the voice in my head when she was alive, and she is even more the voice in my head now that she’s not here,” he said. “I think she’s kind of pulling strings and making things happen. She would want us to be happy. She wants her kids to be well taken care of. There are days that I wake up and I hear her from my dreams and she was saying, ‘You better not mess this up.'”
After his show-stopping performance, Matt broke down in tears as he earned a standing ovation from the judges. Howie Mandel said he felt Matt’s “emotion” and Sofia Vergara praised the performance as “very touching.”
For Matt, though, the performance was for his and Christina’s kids, all of whom were cheering him on in the wings.
“It was good. I was glad they were there. I needed them there. I include them with whatever I do,” he said. “They’re your kids and you want them to see you… grieve and [to] let them see you live. That’s what you have to do.”
“Your kids are not dumb. They figure that stuff out if you’re dishonest with them, if you’re not open about what you’re going through, they will see it. It will manifest itself in other ways,” Matt continued. “It’s really important that they were there. It’s really important that they’ve seen me grieve and now they’re going to see me hopefully survive and live.”
The judges were quick to send Matt through to the next round, something he said is “a little emotional” and “a little overwhelming.”
As he progresses in the competition, Matt hopes to both shine a spotlight on The Christina Mauser Foundation, which he started in his wife’s memory, and set a good example for his kids.
“I just want to stay busy. The first half of life has been fun and challenging. The second half, I want it to be interesting,” he said. “I just want to keep moving with the children. I want them to see that life is a journey. Life is not just this thing that you get through. You have to take challenges, you have to take risks, and you have to continue. That’s what we’re doing.”
Tune in to Wednesday’s episode of Entertainment Tonight for more of ET’s interview with Matt. America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays on NBC.
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