When it comes to choosing his songs for NBC competition series "America's Got Talent," Louisiana contestant Archie Williams says it's all about the meaning behind the music.

His renditions of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today" reverberated with hope earlier in this season's competition.

When Williams performed Westlife's "Flying Without Wings" in the semi-finals two weeks ago, he said he was singing it for his newly-discovered daughter, Ayesha. The joyous song reflects on finding that one special thing that makes life complete. In his finals performance on Tuesday night, he'll again be singing for his daughter, this time a Beatles tune he hopes will lead him to victory. The AGT winner, to be announced in a two-hour results show on Wednesday night, gets $1 million and their own show in Las Vegas.

Williams is up against nine other finalists, including 10-year-old Canadian singer Roberta Battaglia, Stockton, California; spoken word artist Brandon Leake; and Alan Silva, a Brazilian-born aerial performer living in Las Vegas.  

"We're ready," Williams said by phone Monday from rehearsals at Universal Studios in Pasadena, California.

"It's just my keyboard player … he wanted everything on point, so that's him wanting me to be here today, but I didn't need to be here," he added, laughing.

"It feels wonderful. It's the time of my life," 60-year-old Williams said of advancing so far on the show.

Standing on the AGT stage was once only a dream for the Baton Rouge native. He began following the show while serving a life sentence at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after being falsely accused and convicted in the rape and stabbing of a woman at her home in the Hundred Oaks area of Baton Rouge in 1983.

Does he still think about that?

"Oh yeah, all the time. That was my spare time, watching 'America's Got Talent,' Williams said. "Oh man, they used to just almost want to fight me in the TV room 'cause I wanted to watch that and they (his fellow inmates) wanted to watch something else."

Williams, with assistance from Innocence Project New Orleans, was exonerated in 2019.

Besides auditioning for the show, also on Williams' free man to-do list was meeting his 41-year-old daughter, who lives in Baton Rouge. He went to prison not knowing for certain if she was his biological child.

"She is just so much like me. The personality, the characteristics, it's all the same," Williams said. "And we laugh at each other because we're just so much the same. That's what's so amazing about it."

Vivian Butler is her real name, but her dad bestowed the name Ayesha on her, and it's stuck.

"Ayesha means life (in Arabic), that's my name for her. I called her that when I first set eyes on her. Now everybody calls her that," he said.

So win or lose the competition after he sings for Ayesha on Tuesday night, Williams wants the audience to remember one thing about him.

"If you trust in God, anything is possible in this life, in this world," he said.

"America's Got Talent" airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday. To vote for Williams after his performance, go to https://agt.vote.nbc.com/ or vote on the AGT app. 

The results show airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday. For cable viewers, that's WVLA, Channel 33 (cable Channel 3 in Baton Rouge), KLAF, Channel 15 (cable Channel 3 in Lafayette) and WDSU, Channel 6 (cable Channel 7 in New Orleans).


Email Judy Bergeron at jbergeron@theadvocate.com.