Amelia Joyce is one of the contestants appearing on American Idol Sunday, March 1 on ABC. We don’t yet know what she’s going to sing, but she’s a talented folk musician who could go far on the singing competition show. With that in mind, as she prepares for her journey this season, here’s what you need to know about this Michigan native who has been performing professionally in Phoenix for several years.
1. Amelia’s ‘Dysfunctional Family’ Life Caused Her to Strike Out On Her Own
Joyce was born September 24, 1996, making her 23 years old. Her parents are Tom and Diane Kestner, and she has five older siblings: Jason, Kendra, Daniel, Grace, and Ezekial (Zeke). Joyce’s last name is also Kestner; her middle name of Joyce comes from her paternal grandmother who passed away in December 2018.
According to Amelia’s website, she is a “third-generation musician and performer.” Joyce began performing at the age of three in southern Michigan, where she was raised. She started classical piano lessons when she was seven and eventually she took up the guitar as well. Then in 2016 at the age of 19, she moved to Phoenix, Arizona.
In a 2018 interview with Voyage Phoenix, Joyce says that she left home because of a “dysfunctional family environment” and wanted to “move out west to find a new life and a new sense of home.”
However, Amelia is tight with at least some of her siblings. She and her two sisters are all over each other’s Facebook pages and her brother Zeke recently wrote on Facebook, “My sister is gonna kill it on American Idol! Basically imagine if Susan Boyle also played guitar, piano, wrote her own songs, and sounded completely different.”
In Phoenix, Amelia has made a living performing for resorts and private clubs like the Arizona Biltmore, the Desert Mountain Club, the Royal Palms, the Silverleaf Club and more. She has also performed at local concert venues the Crescent Ballroom, the Van Buren and the Celebrity Theater.
2. She Won Alice Cooper’s Music Competition
In 2017, Joyce took first prize in the soloist division of Alice Cooper’s annual Proof is in the Pudding musical competition, the prize of which is $1500 and opening for Cooper at his annual Christmas Pudding concert fundraiser.
At the Christmas concert, Joyce sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which Arizona Republic reporter Ed Masley described as “a beautiful solo acoustic rendition … bringing the crowd as near to silence as she could have hoped to do with a soulful and subdued performance of the yuletide standard, which she followed with a heartfelt song about her brother.”
But that’s not all Joyce took home from Proof is in the Pudding. She also met her boyfriend, Austin Moore, in the competition. He performed during the second night of the semifinals (Friday, October 27, 2017) but did not advance to the finals on November 10. However, Moore and Joyce are still going strong over two years later, so it sounds like they were both winners that year.
In February 2019, Joyce wished Cooper a happy birthday and thanked him, writing, “Because of you I’ve got the best boyfriend, great friends and a wonderful musical journey.”
3. Austin Is a Self-Taught Musician
Moore told Voyage Phoenix that he was born and raised in the area. His dad worked for Cooper’s non-profit organization, Solid Rock, which is how Moore became exposed to concerts and big-name musicians all throughout his childhood.
He had wanted to enter the Proof is in the Pudding contest since he was a young child, so in preparation, he taught himself drums, guitar, and piano and also how to write music.
“Eventually, I saved up enough money to buy gear to produce my music. I have been slowly building my home studio and developing my craft ever since,” said Moore, adding that “persistence and resilience are necessary to have success as an artist in the modern industry” because it “can be extremely discouraging at times.”
4. Amelia & Austin Write Songs and Perform Together
Joyce and Moore started performing together shortly after they met. They stylize their duo name as AustnAmeliA, and they play a variety of music together, describing themselves as an “alternative pop duo.”
“We create original music from folk to pop. Between the two of us, we can play piano, guitar, bass, drums, banjo, harmonica, trumpet, and more,” Joyce told Voyage Phoenix. “Austin also records, produces, and engineers which allows us to make our music from the ground up entirely ourselves. We feel this is necessary so that we can be completely sustainable without having to spend resources on tracking our material or sacrifice creative control.”
Joyce also said that music is a therapy for both of them, providing them a means “to be honest, storytell, express ideas we couldn’t otherwise, and sometimes even escape from the world.”
Last November, Joyce released an EP called “Songs From My Bedroom,” which features four songs she wrote over the years called “Wallflower,” “Dauntless Bird,” “Pieces” and “Crazy Ride.” You can check it out here.
5. Amelia Credits American Idol Season Standout Wade Cota With Encouraging Her to Audition
In a recent Facebook post, Joyce thanks Wade Cota, who made it to the Top 5 of last year’s 17th season for encouraging her to audition for American Idol. He was also part of her budding relationship with Moore two years ago.
And her advice for would-be musicians is to “follow your passion, pursue your gifts and work toward the visions that were planted in your heart.”
“You can start from anywhere! There is no perfect journey. Much of it is hard work and mundanity that doesn’t feel worth much. But the journey and the every day adds up into the transformation that one day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come.
“Keep loved ones close, wear humility like it’s your favorite sweater, and remember that courage is the buoyancy that will keep your head above water as you swim in the waters of fear, discouragement and maybe-i-should-give-up.”
American Idol airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.