American Idol Hopeful Jena Irene Chats With DD
June 27th, 2014, 12:59 AM
By Karolina Powalka
Jena Irene of Farmington Hills has had a very exciting couple of months. After making it through American Idol’s Hollywood Round, she was almost eliminated in the show’s semi-finals.
Luckily, a solid wild card performance sent her to the top 13. In the weeks that followed, the 17 year old delivered with great song choices and quickly became a top contender, resulting in a second place finish.
Now, she’s on a nationwide tour which stops at The Colosseum in Windsor this Saturday, June 27th.
I recently got the opportunity to chat with Jena about her Idol experience, development as an artist and what’s next on what’s sure to be a very long and successful career.
DD: How excited are you to finally be going on tour?
Jena: I’m freaking out excited. It’s going to be an awesome, well-rounded tour. I can’t wait for people to actually see it.
DD: What’s the tour prep experience been like?
Jena: It’s actually a lot more fun than I expected. I thought it was going to be a show where everyone just sings their individual songs, but we’re all connected throughout the whole thing. I have my own songs that I perform, but I also get to do back up for some of the other contestants. Plus we’re all on stage for the opening and closing numbers. It’s cool to be back with everyone and working together.
DD: When we talked in February, you said that your strategy was picking songs that people wouldn’t expect you to know or like. How did that change as the season progressed?
Jena: After I talked to you, I just continued to keep my head in the game. I was up against some talented artists that know who they are. I’m 17. I’m still trying to figure out who I am as an artist. I picked older songs like “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Heartbreaker” and then there were songs that were given to me. With each song’s arrangement, I tried to make it sound like me. Some of them didn’t go over as well as I expected, but some of them were slam dunks.
DD: What was your favorite arrangement?
Jena: Definitely “Can’t Help Falling in Love” because that was the first song that I did with just me and the piano. Even though you have this big production and amazing band to work with, sometimes it’s nice to strip things down with just a piano.
DD: As the season progressed, you really came into your own. What were some of the biggest things that contributed to your development?
Jena: The talent was always there, but I was very shy and my confidence was nowhere near where it is today. That was boosted when I started working with so many amazing, talented people who were all adults. Again, I’m only 17 so that was a different lifestyle that I had to get used to. In the end, it taught me that you have to be true to yourself. Even if Randy Jackson is saying to do one thing with an arrangement, if you don’t feel it, you do what you think is best.
DD: As you’ve mentioned, you are still really young. At the same time, you’ve had to adjust to the hectic lifestyle of being in the music industry and having people say some nasty things on social media. How do you handle that kind of pressure?
Jena: I have to be honest when I first started in the top 13 finals, I would read every comment about my performances on Twitter. Most of them would be really good and then there would be those 5 people who would say, “Oh you’re ugly. You suck.” I wanted to please everyone but I was never going to be able to do that. My mom definitely helped me stay away from it all because it can suck you in and stop you from being the best that you can be. I had to have a good mindset because in the end, they’re just douchebags behind a keyboard.
DD: Last time we talked, you said you were most surprised by how friendly everyone was on the show. Any other surprises as the season progressed?
Jena: I think overall the most unexpected thing was to get second place and compete in the finale. I thought for sure I would end up in third place. I had no idea that people voted for me so much.
DD: Did you really live in that kind of bubble?
Jena: I really didn’t have that many connections to the real world. Sometimes you don’t want to break the focus especially when you’re in competition mode. Talking to people at home would make me nervous because I would feel that if I messed up or got something wrong, they would hate me.
DD: What’s your game plan for after the tour?
Jena: I’m still on hold. I definitely want to sign with 19 Entertainment because I’ve already been working with them the past 6 months and they’re really good people. But, it’s up to them to decide if they want to pick me up. I’m also researching different writers that I would want to write with for the album.
DD: Do you have any idea what direction you want to take the album in?
Jena: I want me with a piano playing Paramore-sounding stuff mixed with house. House music has always been my favorite type of music. It gets me so pumped up!
DD: The show allowed you to perform alongside your favorite band, Paramore. Who else would you like to work with in the future?
Jena: I actually texted Hayley (Williams of Paramore) a couple days ago. They just kicked off their summer tour with Fallout Boy and we are going to cross paths this summer. When I asked her if we could see each other she said, “What the heck? We should sing together again!” That would be really cool. Other than her, I definitely want to write with Zedd. I’m such a fan of his music.
DD: How crazy is it to be able to just text your musical idol?
Jena: I kind of have to pinch myself. I was talking to Alex (Preston) and Sam (Woolf) before I texted Hayley and they were like, “Just do it! She’s a regular person.” The fact that she’s my musical hero is one thing but the fact that I get to text her for advice is a whole new level of happiness.
Jena Irene and the American Idol tour will be stopping at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Windsor tomorrow, June 27th. Click here to purchase tickets.