American Idol Season 18 officially kicked things off last week on ABC, and on Sunday night, the show’s three all-star judges – Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryant, will audition a whole new slew of talent.
Introduced by veteran host Ryan Seacrest one of the episode’s standout contestants is Julia Gargano. The 21-year-old from Staten Island New York isn’t just a singer, she’s also a songwriter, guitar and piano player, who first started performing at age six.
Julia, who’s currently in her last semester The College of Saint Rose, located in Albany, New York, traveled to Washington D.C. to audition for Idol. Based on previews, she impresses all three judges, receives a huge hug from Katy Perry, and is expected to be one of the top contestants to watch this season.
Here’s what you need to know about Julia Gargano:
1. Julie Graduated From New York’s Famous LaGuardia Performing Arts High School
Julia studied music at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Performing Arts, what’s famously known as the “Fame” school in Manhattan, and located around the counter from the Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. Celebrity graduates of LaGuardia High include Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Ansel Elgort, Timothée Chalamet, and more.
Prior to Idol, Julia already released a series of original singles that are available to stream and download including “Written in My Name,” “Tell Me Why,” and most recently, “The Sun.”
2. Julia Credits Attending College For Helping Her Develop As An Artist
While many famous musicians and performers skip continued education in order to get a jumpstart in pursuing their career, Julia studied music industry composition at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, and largely credits the Artist Development class she took for helping her develop her sound and look.
“It forced me to get my stuff together and really know how to present myself,” Julia said. “It is something I don’t think I would have done if I wasn’t pushed out of my comfort zone to be an artist rather than be a songwriter. You can do both, be an artist and a songwriter, and you will probably do better if you are both in the industry.”
“When I came to Saint Rose, [my sound] was more pop-based,” Julia explained. “So, I got to take this funky-experimental writing style I got from there and go back to my roots. What makes my music ‘me’ is raw lyrics. I concentrate heavily on the words that I write, especially nowadays.”
3. Julia Initially Thought Auditioning For ‘Idol’ Was A Bad Idea
In an interview with SILive.com, Gargano admitted that she only attended a “Producer’s Call” after the talent development agency at which she was interning told her to give it a shot.
“I would’ve never dreamed of doing something like this and to finally just say ‘what do you have to lose’ opened new doors for me,” said Gargano. “This whole process gave me [the] confidence to just go for it no matter what happens. The best part of the process was pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.”
“Since I so closely identify with being a singer/songwriter and music geek, I felt like American Idol was not a good fit,” she said. But after watching singers go on the show and succeed in performing original new music, she had a change of heart. “I saw Alejandro Aranda last season and he is a brilliant songwriter/musician and that really made me say to myself, ‘Eh Julia, just go for it.’”
4. Julia’s Family & Most Of Her Hometown Bars Will Be Hosting ‘Idol’ Watch Parties
Parents Frank Gargano and Jeanne McManus are incredibly proud of their talented daughter and will be hosting American Idol watch parties at their home in Westerleigh. Her father also sings and plays guitar for fun, and it was her mother who allowed her to start taking drum lessons at age six.
“It was very awkward and not the right fit for me,” Julia said of drum class. “So that is when I started playing piano and writing songs.”
Also cheering Julia on at home is her little sister Lizzie and brother Frankie. In fact, the entire hometown neighborhood is pulling for Julia. Her American Idol flyer is posted up at Beyar’s Market and numerous local restaurants are offering drink specials for their own Idol watch parties including The Kettle Black, Canlon’s Restaurant, Jody’s Club Forest and Lee’s Tavern.
5. Julia’s Favorite Artists Are Brandi Carlisle & Taylor Swift
Julia said, “My favorite artist is Brandi Carlile. She takes something ordinary and makes it sound magical and relatable. That is what I try to do in my music — I want people to feel a little spark.”
As for the artist who continually inspires her, Julia said that Taylor Swift “is a genius” and was the reason she first picked up a guitar.
“Her first three or four albums are unreal. I still go back and listen to it if I am having a bad day. If I am consumed in craziness or depression, I think back to an album like Fearless or Speak Now and think this is why I am doing what I do. I can picture myself singing these songs. I credit so much of writing and my passion to T-Swift.”