As one of the final two contestants on season 11 of American Idol, Jessica Sanchez rose to glory by belting out soaring ballads by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Now, with her forthcoming debut album for 19 Recordings/Interscope Records, the 17-year-old songstress elevates her vocal artistry to a whole new level and channels her powerhouse pipes into high-energy, beat-soaked dance-pop.
“The songs on my album show the more fun, more pop side of me—there’s a couple of ballads, but it’s mostly all about music you can move and dance to,” says Sanchez. To tap into that fresher sound, Sanchez teamed up with songwriter/producers Harvey Mason Jr. (a six-time Grammy-Award-winner who’s previously worked with Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Hudson) super-star recording artist, Ne-Yo, and Toby Gad (whose credits include Beyoncé, Fergie, Alicia Keys, and Kelly Clarkson). And as evidenced by “Fairytale” (a sweetly tender yet deadly catchy track unveiled in August), slick beats and ready-radio melody make for an irresistible complement to Sanchez’s diva-worthy vocal range.
Born and raised in Chula Vista, California, Sanchez has worked on honing that vocal versatility for almost her entire life. “I started singing when I was two,” says Sanchez, who lists Mariah Carey, Etta James, and Ray Charles among her musical influences. “I took any opportunity I could to sing in front of other people—like at birthday parties or just in front of my grandmother’s friends—but I was so shy that I had to stare at the floor the whole time.” Sanchez eventually overcame her shyness and, at age 10, performed Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” on an episode of Showtime at the Apollo. A year later, she competed on the premiere season of America’s Got Talent, reaching the wild-card round before getting cut. “America’s Got Talent was sort of an experiment,” she says. “It helped me realize the importance of pushing myself and not giving up, not letting anything hold me back from going after my dreams.”
Over the next few years, Sanchez performed at venues both large and small (including a 2008 San Diego Chargers game) and released a number of covers (such as Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind”) through an independent record label. After nailing her American Idol audition in 2011, Sanchez climbed to the final two and landed her deal with Interscope soon after the season finale. Diving into the recording of her debut last summer, Sanchez took a break from the studio to tear through a rousing, choir-backed rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “All I Need To Get By” at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “The DNC was such an amazing experience,” she says. “Being up on that stage felt so great, I just went crazy dancing and singing.”
Now gearing up for her album’s release in Spring 2013 and joining the cast of “Glee”, Sanchez is ecstatic to share her own music with the world. “The fact that I get to put out something that’s all my own is so exciting,” she says. “Music has always been what I want to do with my life, and these songs are all me.”