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From Geneva to Hollywood

"You're going to Hollywood!" A phrase that forever changed the life of a Geneva high school student.

Olivia Moreno, Fashion Editor

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“You’re going to Hollywood!” A phrase that forever changed the life of a Geneva high school student. Kayla Mickelsen, an eighteen year-old  senior with a big voice made it to the Top 51 in a sea of thousands of American Idol contestants. On her website,  she describes herself as; weird, nature-loving, and an energetic vegan. Although her time on American Idol has come to an end she continues to follow wherever her talent takes her. In an interview with GHS Voyager, Kayla revealed the following;

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music?

I probably realized it my sophomore year that I wanted to pursue performing. I always wanted to do music education, though. I really started focusing on it when I realized, this is going to sound really weird, but [music] is the only thing that can make me cry. I’m not a very emotional person at all, music is the only thing that can trigger that. I think it’s good to do something you’re passionate about and feel emotionally connected to.”

What pushed you to audition for American Idol?

Well, I tried out the voice when I was fifteen. I made it to the executive producers, but I definitely didn’t know who I was as an artist. It was not a good time. My guitar teacher who’s pretty much like my life mentor pushed me to do a talent show at the Arcada Theatre in August. The woman who put [the talent show] on was a talent agent and she really pushed me to audition for the show.”

What was it like performing for the judges?

Oh god. You walk in the room and they all look so perfect, so it was definitely one of the most intimidating things. Also, it’s weird because you know who they are but they have no idea who you are. What I’ve been telling people is I’m way more nervous performing in front of people I know than performing in front of them.”

What was the most memorable moment for you?

Probably my group performance. I just had a lot of fun, and I love collaborating with people. I worked with some really insanely talented musicians. Keith [Urban] told me that he kept his eyes on me even when I wasn’t singing, so that gave me a lot of confidence in terms of my stage presence.”

Do you think your taste in music influences your sound?

“Well, my taste in music is very broad, but definitely. I listen to like Bob Dylan and The Beatles a lot, and I think I went from a ‘blues-y’ sound to more ‘folk-ish,’ I know what category I’m in now which is indie-folk, so it probably does influence my sound a little because that’s probably the type of music I gravitate towards.”

How do you think your time on American Idol affects you today?

“It taught me a lot about the industry, and it introduced me to some really cool people. It just taught me to stay focused, and that I thrive under high pressure situations. When I was out there we stayed really busy, so what I’m trying to do now is stay busy and focused. It was definitely a learning experience, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Is there any advice the judges gave you?

“No, not really. I got positive feedback the entire time, even the final judgement which is where you walk down the runway. Even then they didn’t say anything bad they said, ‘You have so much talent, we loved you since you first walked in here. You’re so unique and different, we think you have a lot of star quality, but unfortunately there’s not a spot for you in the top twenty four.’ So I definitely left with a lot of questions because I was just very confused since I really wasn’t given any criticism. Thinking back to my first audition though, Harry [Connick Jr.] said that I would have to push my range a little bit because I’m kind of staying in that sweet spot that a lot of singers stay in. I mean, that helped me, but other than that we got mentored by some people, like Taylor Swift’s ex-manager came in and talked to us on the first night in Hollywood about the importance of social media. So, naturally I re-downloaded my Twitter, made a Facebook page made a website, I had deleted my social media years ago. It has actually helped me a lot in terms of opportunities.”

Who do you hope to win American Idol?

“MacKenzie Bourg. He was my really good friend throughout the entire competition, and we still stay in touch. He was in my group performance too. He’s honestly such an artist, which I think is the most important thing that he knows who he is as an artist and he’s experienced.”

What’s next for you?

“I am pursuing my options, I guess. I’m the type of person that puts all my eggs into one basket, so I only applied to one college and auditioned for one college. I got in, so I’ll be going to Belmont University next year for commercial voice. Other than that my guitar teacher is really good with music technology, and we’re going to start recording. I wrote my first song last week that I really like. I’ve been writing songs since middle school, but I’ve never really done anything with them. It’s the stereotypical crumpled up pieces of paper of lyrics that you throw out. So yeah, I’m going to start writing more, and I’ve been performing around locally with my friend Graham Swidenbank.

    Keep an eye out for Kayla Mickelsen as she continues her journey to stardom. 

Kayla Mickelsen
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From Geneva to Hollywood