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AGT Fans Rally Behind Band, Ashes and Arrows, and Boo Howie Mandel

The Nashville-based country rock band offered up an "optimistic" original song that quickly won over the audience, but it wasn't enough to earn support from this veteran judge.

By Jill Sederstrom

The country rock band Ashes and Arrows had America’s Got Talent fans happily swaying to the beat — but not everyone was feeling their uplifting original song. 

How to Watch

Watch America’s Got Talent Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

Judge Howie Mandel just couldn’t get behind the Nashville-based band, comparing them to a good “pub” band but nothing more. 

The critical comment earned Mandel the ire of fans and fellow Judge Sofia Vergara, who loudly booed the comedian for being the sole voice of descent amidst a sea of praise. 

“I love you,” Vergara reassured the group, who still earned the three necessary “yes”votes to move forward in the competition. “I think people love you.” 

What to know about Ashes and Arrows

The band, made up of Ciaran McMeeken, Benjamin Voigt & Jonathan Calhoun, formed in 2021 after the three musicians found themselves feeling some mutual admiration during an open mic night in Nashville. 

“(Ciaran) was playing a song onstage and I used to cover the same song that he was playing and then I was like, ‘dude, you did a really good job on that song. I used to cover that song too’ and he was like ‘well, I wrote that song,’” Calhoun shared on AGT of what first brought them together. 

From there, the trio joined forces to create a “captivating blend of strong harmonies, poignant lyrics and infectious on-stage presence,” according to their website.

Ashes & Arrows performs on stage on America's Got Talent Episode 1902.


The name Ashes and Arrows is a nod to their eclectic backgrounds and honors their individual roots that extend from the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina to the “alps” of Arrowtown, New Zealand. 

The group released their debut EP, “Forward” in the fall of 2022 and is currently working on an album.

“The dream is to play in arenas or big sellout halls,” McMeeken told AGT producers.

What song did Ashes and Arrows sing?

After taking the AGT stage, the band performed their original song "Born to Love."

“It’s basically about the fact that every person at some point has a heavy moment that they have to deal with and that we’re born to love, we’re not just born to struggle,” Voight told the crowd. 

Calhoun opened the number with his rich, distinctive voice that oozed of heartache, before the other two joined in.


Ashes & Arrows performs onstage on America's Got Talent Episode 1902.

The lyrics began:

“Cause we were born to love

To breathe and not give up 

But in the face of darkness I won’t run

Cause we were born to love" 

The “optimistic” ballad focused on themes of perseverance, hope and determination.

Why did the crowd boo Howie Mandel? 

The song had the crowd going wild with applause and earned a standing ovation from Vergara and an impressed Judge Simon Cowell

But there was one judge who wasn’t singing along.

Mandel — who later gave the group their only “no” vote — explained why he just wasn’t a diehard fan.

Ashes & Arrows performs on stage on America's Got Talent Episode 1902.

“The audience loves you, um, you have great voices, great harmony, but personally, um,” he began. 

Sensing there was a criticism coming, Vergara loudly shouted “Boo!” as the audience joined in, before Mandel continued. 

“This was a great song in a pub. If I was in a bar and you guys were playing I would have the best night ever,” he explained of why the song failed to blow him away as the "boos" continued to reign down around him.

Judge Heidi Klum weighed in next, describing it as a “nice song.” 

“Nice? Aren’t we looking for great?” Mandel asked. 

“I think it’s great,” Sofia chimed in. “My favorite part was the beginning when you guys started singing together.” 

With a clear split between the Judges, Simon offered his thoughts sided with Sofia and Heidi.

“You can’t fake how you feel and I really felt that,” he told Ashes and Arrows. “ I thought that your vocals were great. The harmonies were great. I loved the song and this is absolutely the right thing you’ve done to come on here because I think people are going to really like you.”

While Mandel may not be joining the band’s fan club anytime soon, the trio weren’t ready to write the seasoned Judge off just yet. 

 “Howie ain’t part of your community, I can see this,’ host Terry Crews remarked after the group earned passage to the next stage of competition.

“But he might be one day,” Voight replied. 

To find out how far Ashes and Arrows will go in the competition, watch America’s Got Talent Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC or available to stream the next day on Peacock.