After being eliminated from the top 40 contestants in “American Idol’s” 10th season last year, Hollie Cavanagh knew she needed to step it up this year.
The 19-year-old Texan, originally from Liverpool, England, certainly had the vocal chops to be on the show at that point — her volume and range did bring her to the top 40 out of a record 327 contestants that year. But her confidence and stage presence both needed work.
“I think I just kind of realized that I needed to be more confident and not so worried about everything that was going on around me — just focus on myself and performing,” Cavanagh said. “I just kind of worked on getting onstage more, getting more confident onstage.”
Her woodshedding paid off in this year’s “American Idol,” when she made it to the top four before being eliminated. That of course makes her part of the lineup for the American Idol Live! Tour, along with the rest of this year’s top 10 contestants, which kicked off in Detroit in early July and heads to the Times Union Center tonight.
American Idol Live! Tour
Where: Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany
When: 7 tonight
How Much: $66-$30.50
More Info: 487-2000, www.timesunioncenter-albany.com
Range of styles
This year’s crop of Idols covers a wide gamut of styles, from seventh-place finisher Colton Dixon’s Christian rock leanings, to Cavanagh’s pop sensibilities and powerhouse range, often remarked upon on the show by judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. Heading up the batch is winner Phillip Phillips, followed in order by Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, Elise Testone, Dixon, DeAndre Brackensick, Heejun Han and Erika Van Pelt.
“Our show is very — it has a lot of different styles,” Cavanagh said. “We’re all such different singers. Elise brings rock-ish kinds of things, and then you have Erika singing Pink; I go from Adele to Demi Lovato, Jessica is singing Beyonce, Skylar is complete country. It’s all a mixture of good things, so you’re not just sitting there hearing the same things over and over.”
Even though Cavanagh beefed up her stage presence before this year’s season, she admitted to some stage fright initially on the tour. But overall the tour, which wraps in early September, has helped her grow even more comfortable performing for large audiences.
“I remember the first show, I was so nervous — ‘Oh my God, look how many people are out there,’ ” she said. “But then I walk out, and the whole room is just filled with love and support; nobody says anything negative towards you or anything. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was gonna be.”
Cavanagh, who moved to McKinney, Texas, with her family in 2002, is something of a late bloomer in the singing world, only beginning at age 15. She’s also self-taught, for the most part, although she did get a vocal coach after her unsuccessful “Idol” bid last year.
Her performance selections on the show often reflected her affinity for diva singers (Mariah Carey is her favorite, as was well-documented on the show interviews).
Some of her most popular performances from this past season included Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection,” Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which is one of her two solo performances on the tour.
“For the song choices on tour, they wanted upbeat songs — it’s a concert, they want you up and going,” Cavanagh said. “I sing ‘Rolling in the Deep’ — I like it now because I’m singing it now, but it wasn’t my first choice for the tour. I’ve sung it so many times; I’ve sung it a lot. I picked the Demi Lovato song [‘Give Your Heart a Break’], and that was a last-minute thing — I didn’t like it at all singing it in rehearsal, but I really enjoyed the song, and I’m really getting into performing it more.”
As the show wore on, Cavanagh often ended up in the bottom three in the weekly vote, with the judges often criticizing her for “over-thinking” certain songs. She was finally eliminated after performing Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on the Top 4 episode.
Despite the criticism from the judges, Cavanagh was able to take it as a positive thing.
“A lot of people have asked about me taking it hard, but I don’t think I ever took it that way,” Cavanagh said. “I took it as good criticism. If you look at the stuff that’s negative all the time, you’re not going to be in the right mind-set for the next performance. You feel sorry for yourself in that second, but then you put your head up and focus on what’s going to make the performance next time better than before.”
With the TV show behind her, and the tour winding down, Cavanagh is hoping to continue pursuing music full time.
The sound she’s hoping to emulate on an album is probably more along the lines of Adele than Lovato.
“It will probably be pop, but I’d like my ballads in there too,” she said. “Unfortunately, ballads aren’t big things that sell anymore — when you make a CD you want songs on the radio that people will listen to. But I’ll have my ballads on the CD. I’d love to be an artist like Adele, because she is amazing.”
Both Phillips and runner-up Sanchez have landed record deals already, but Cavanagh has not as yet. “I’m just kind of hoping for the best, just kind of finishing up the tour, and hopefully something will come my way,” she said.