- 12:53 PM, May 20
entered the Charlotte audition on October 17, 2002. Unfortunately, he failed to move forward to the next stage. This did not make him discouraged; instead he went for the second attempt by joining the Atlanta audition in November. This time being able to impress the judges, he was chosen as one of the contestants.
Having made his way to the top 32, Clay was advised by the American Idol producers to shorten his given name to "Clay" and improve his visual image since he had a bad haircut and wore funny glasses. Supported by this new look, he appeared confidently in the round-of-32. As the result was announced, he only earned third position below Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke. However, he was still given chance to compete in the wildcard round. Beautifully performing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," he ultimately was chosen as the last finalist of the show. From March to May 2003, he appeared on the screen, singing various tunes while also receiving either criticism or praise from the Idol judges. The show came to its climax on May 21 with Clay and Ruben faced each other at the season finale. Clay was announced as the American Idol runner-up for he lost to Ruben by 134,400 from 24 million votes.
After the show ended its second season, Clay was extremely busy because he had a lot of interviews ahead, such as with CNN, E! News Live, and Larry King Live. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a record deal by Idol's creator, Simon Fuller, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of 19 Entertainment Limited. Fuller then signed him with RCA Records. By June 2003, Clay had launched his debut single entitled "Bridge Over Troubled Water"/"This Is the Night." To his surprise, the single rapidly sold over 390,000 copies a week after its release, amazingly broke the sales record of Elton John's 1997 version of "Candle in the Wind." Furthermore, it soared to the chart's peak of The Billboard Hot 100, reigning for 11 weeks as the number one track. The single was finally certified platinum on the next month. This was such a great achievement that could not be accomplished by other American Idol contestants by far.
During July and August 2003, Clay joined American Idol 2 Summer Concert Tour around U.S. before coming up with his first full-length album, "Measure of a Man" on