NEW YORK -- Bobby Bones is back as American Idol's in-house mentor this season, helping the singing hopefuls try to improve their performance.
Bones says the pandemic has changed how he approaches his role.
"In the past, when these contestants would need a hand on their shoulder to be talked to because they're going through a rough situation at home or on the show, that's what I would do. I would put my hand on their shoulder. I'd give them a hug. Can't do that obviously," he explained. "The only difference for me is I stand 6 feet away. I really didn't hang out with them. I try to create bonds before we went on camera and after we went on camera."
Idol's Hollywood Week kicks off 2 nights of shows on Sunday. Bones says it's the first crack in the door that we are getting back to some kind of normal.
"It's really the first time you could be back with folks when they are performing in a room with other people. So the spirit that I think we are all starting to feel now about life is what was in that room and I think it comes through on the screen," Bones said.
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The two-nights of competition opens with the Genre Challenge and a twist - some fan favorites from the auditions get a shot at performing. Bones says night 2 fearturing Hollywood Duets provided yet another twist.
"The judges had an idea of why don't they pair people together," he said. "The judges picked people based on their skill set, their talent and what they would bring to the duet."
You can check out every audition on American Idol's YouTube channel.
Hollywood Week on 'American Idol' airs Sunday and Monday on ABC!