Jax-ed up


[Editor's note: Climb inside our rainbow time machine, people, cause it's '60s week in the NUVO music section. For much more Dick Dale, The Turtles and more, click here.]

Confession time: I've watched a lot of American Idol. Like, a lot. This is partially because I was in middle school in the early aughts when the show kicked off – I'll love you forever, Kelly Clarkson – and partially because my dad may just be the most accurate predictor of singing competition show winners of all time. I'm telling you, the man can call a winner in their first audition, when they're still all trembly and haven't been attacked by the Backstage Teeth Whitening and Hair Straightening Brigade that snatches them before later performances. It's truly a thing to behold. So me and my dear dad watch American Idol together when I come home to visit (thanks, DVR!) He's almost always right.

Last season, we both had our eye on Jax, the punk New Jersey girl with a Janis Joplin growl and a hand-drawn black cross on her face. (Nope, not a tattoo, Mom.) Judges loved her self-possessed swagger; I loved her allegiance to the Garden State. (What can I say? I'm a big Bruce and Bon Jovi fan.) She cut her teeth in New York playing with a variety of (no-longer-together) garage rock bands, auditioned for the show with The Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand," then kept the '60s flowing with performances of Joplin's "Piece of My Heart," The Who's "My Generation."

Jax – yup, she just goes by one name, in true rock star style – didn't take it all home. No, she was passed by Clark Beckham and Nick Fradiani during the second-to-last show. (Fradiani went on to win it all.) But she's the winner in me and my dad's hearts, because this woman can rip. She's poised for a Jennifer Hudson-type breakthrough (Hudson placed seventh in her season, before going on to win a Grammy for her debut album, and then an Oscar for Dreamgirls.

The American Idol tour blows through Indy this Sunday with the top five from this season in tour (note judge Harry Connick, Jr. will perform at the Palladium just a day or so before – can we expect a special appearance, Harry? A girl can dream.) Haven't thought of American Idol since the days of Kelly and Justin? This might not be a bad time to check in with these young singers. With Idol poised to end after next season, this may be your last chance to witness the results of Fox's Star Making Machine in person. Remember: this is the series that gave us country queen Carrie Underwood, R&B princess Jordin Sparks, glammy Adam Lambert (now touring with Queen in Freddie Mercury's place), Chris Daughtry, of, yes, Daughtry, plus revitalized the career of judges Paula Abdul and featured the ultra shady judging pair Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. While the show doesn't quite wield the cultural force it used to – thank lookalikes like The X Factor, The Sing-Off and America's Got Talent for diluting the singing competition viewing audience – American Idol was one of the most powerful parts of the American music industry for a handful of years.

I gave Jax a ring before the group's stop at Old National Centre. Here's some of her thoughts about her time on American Idol.

On her favorite singer, who just happens to be from the '60s: (Editor's note: Yes, we're really committing to this theme):

"My dad introduced me to Janis Joplin because he saw the similarities [in our voices] when I was really, really young. I took that and ran with it. I was obsessed with Janis more than anybody. I have her on vinyl, all of her records. I'm a huge, huge Janis Joplin fan. I'm a big woman power person. I remember seeing Pat Benatar and BB King; my parents did everything they could to give me that musical culture. I think they did a pretty good job, because I'm kind of in love with it. It's kind of my therapy."

On forming a relationship with

the backing musicians and coaches:

"Obviously [they're] the best in the world. They're all incredible, they're all fantastic. Most importantly, the biggest influences I had behind the scenes that I really, really respected were my two coaches. They requested to keep me throughout the show, through day one in Hollywood Week. They were Michael Orland and Dorian Holley. They're just fantastic. Dorian played with Michael Jackson; Michael Orland is all over Broadway and knows everybody you can imagine. He had Katharine McPhee [former American Idol contestant]. They were just, aside from Scott Borchetta, my main mentors on the show. "

On sneaking off Idol's set:

"I saw Fleetwood [Mac] in the middle of the Idol season. That was like the one thing I actually got to do on my day off. I stepped out of the bubble and basically just casually walked up to the front row with the security guards because they knew who I was. They were like, 'Hey, let's go up to the front row.' And I was like, 'Oh my god, perks. This is insane.' I was crying. I was with my dad; I got to take him along. ... I got freaked out when they started playing 'Rhiannon' because that's I'm been singing to for such a long time. To hear it live was nuts. I was fangirling."

On her favorite past Idol contestants:

"I think my all time favorite on Idol were probably Adam Lambert and Katharine McPhee. Not necessarily winners, but they were always the most memorable to me. I love Katharine. I watched every single episode of Smash after the show. I want to go on tour with Adam Lambert someday. That's my goal. I'm such a huge Adam fan. I aspire to be the female Adam. I love him."


Editor of NUVO Newsweekly since 2016; formerly Music Editor. Lover of justice, cats, local hip-hop, axe-throwing, sailing and pies. Hater of fake news.

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