Musician Julie Zorrilla, 20, had come a long way since wowing all three judges with her rendition of “Summertime” from the opera “Porgy and Bess” during her very first “American Idol” audition in January.
Singing her way into the semifinals at the end of February, Zorrilla, who is originally from Colombia, impressed the country for more than a month with a number of performances including Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” and The Beatles’ “Something in the Way.”
Her “American Idol” journey, unfortunately, came to an end on Mar. 3 when viewers did not vote her in as one of the 13 finalists. The night before, judges Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, and Steven Tyler were not overly enthusiastic after hearing her sing Kelly Clarkson’s single “Breakaway.”
The day after being eliminated from the show, Zorrilla took some time to talk with me about her early departure and why a reality show like “American Idol” really wasn’t the best platform to show off her talent.
What was going on in your mind when you were center stage and Ryan Seacrest announced you were not one of the finalists?
Honestly, I was just very happy for all my peers who made it through. They are all incredibly talented people who have worked hard to get to where they are. I was also happy for myself because being in the top 24 was still an incredible thing.
Other than knowing you can compete with some of the best singers in the country, what else did you learn about yourself though all this?
I actually shocked myself at how calm I was and how well I handled the news, especially backstage. Everyone who didn’t make it to the finals was falling apart. I was just trying to cheer everyone up. I was happy that I wasn’t in tears. I actually haven’t cried at all.
Because you’re not only a singer, but a musician, too, do you think “American Idol” was the best platform to show your musical talent?
I think the special thing that I have is the singer/songwriter approach I take to my music. I love my music and playing [instruments]. That is who I am. I don’t necessarily know if that is right for a show like “American Idol” because it’s about performing on stage without instruments. I thought I had what it would take, but my skill set is different than what everyone else was doing on the show.
How did you think the judges came across this year without Simon Cowell?
I thought they had a great chemistry. I loved having them there. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are huge icons in the industry. It was amazing to get feedback from them. I thought there were harsh on me and my “Breakaway” performance. What I really wanted to do was get onstage with a guitar and sing that song. I wasn’t allowed to do that for that round. I would’ve been able to make it my own that way.
So, did you feel like you were limited by the producers to perform the way you would’ve liked to?
I mean, at the end of the day you have to take responsibility for yourself. One of the hardest things about “Idol” is that people are giving you advice all of the time. But at the end of the day, you’re the artist. When you walk on that stage, you are the one that has ultimately made the decision. Unfortunately, the only decision I couldn’t make was being able to sing and play [the guitar] at the same time. I was the only girl in the top 24 who played an instrument. I don’t really feel like I got the opportunity to shine at what I actually do best.
How do you think “American Idol” is going to help your career?
I think this was the start of my career. I’ve gotten the chance to show people what I can do. You can’t put a price on what “Idol” has done for me. This has opened so many doors. Now, all I have to do is keep working and take advantage of the opportunities that are coming my way. I can feel it. It’s only the beginning.