Jessica Sanchez was a part of one of our favorite musical goosebump moments in recent memory. In the season 11 finale of American Idol, Sanchez (then just 16 years old) took the stage with Dreamgirl Jennifer Holliday for the very song that Holliday (and that other Jennifer H.) made iconic. And Sanchez went stride for stride with the veteran! It was thrilling. Of course, the voters ended up crowning Phillip Phillips the champion, but everybody knows Jessica got robbed.
Ever since that duet, we’ve been eager to see Sanchez enter the post-Idol world. For her debut album, Me, You & the Music, she enlisted the help of the always-dependable Ne-Yo, and the veteran even dropped in on clubby lead single “Tonight.” Ahead of her album’s April 30 release, we phoned Jessica for a quick chat about that Ne-Yo partnership, her unforgettable “And I Am Telling You…” duet and the album’s surprises (like a Tom Petty sample!). Read on for the Q&A.
I can’t start without bringing up your powerful Jennifer Holliday duet. Was that the highlight of Idol for you?
It really was, just being with her and seeing her energy got me pumped up, too. So I hope that translated well over the television.
Oh it did.
Thank you so much!
Your debut has some unexpected moments. For instance, one song samples Tom Petty. Did you want to surprise people with some of the sounds?
Definitely. I just want people to understand that ballads aren’t all that I do. I love doing this poppier stuff, too. There’s a song that has a more reggae feel to it, even though I’m not a reggae singer. Some of it has an urban kind of feel to it, so definitely I had a lot of input on what kind of songs went on the album. And I’m glad my label supported me on that. People know me from the show, so it’s definitely a big risk, but I want people to understand that I’m trying to open up as an artist.
Did you pick up any tips or tricks from Ne-Yo throughout the process?
He’s so supportive of me and had so many tips. Ne-Yo just helped me become a new artist in a really short time. He was very helpful.
There are hints of Beyonce and Rihanna on a few songs. Were they big influences on this record?
I wanted it to be completely me. I wasn’t trying to compare myself to another artist, music-wise, but of course it’s cool that I’m being compared to those big pop stars. That means a lot.
You’ve filmed Glee, you did the Democratic National Convention…What’s been the craziest or most memorable thing about this past year?
Just recently — not even just recently, everything that’s happened in my life has been so amazing and memorable — but I think going back to Idol was one of the biggest things for me.You know, not singing for votes, and it was my new single and it just meant a lot. It’s where I started, and now here I am.
Speaking of…Would you ever consider doing a duet with Phillip, like in the old days?
Of course! He’s amazing. And, you know, when we did group songs with each other — I just loved performing with all of them, they have such amazing talent.