Julia Gargano’s phone has been blowing up since last weekend’s broadcast of her American Idol audition, and that hug from Katy Perry.
In the days that followed, the news she had been holding in since last October was finally let known to friends and fellow students at The College of Saint Rose, that she is going to perform on national television from week to week. Or, for as long as she earns enough votes from the voting public.
“I can’t help but chuckle. It’s just so surreal the difference these three days have made in my life,” Gargano said in a phone interview last Wednesday. “It’s definitely so whacky going from your family and friends as your fanbase to these random people messaging me.”
One such random message came from a fan asking her to come to Brazil.
She’s kept the results of the audition a secret to those around her, with the exception of family members who accompanied her to Washington, D.C. The obligation to keep news under wraps was immediately put to the test back in Albany. There, she performed at the same one-day festival as Madison VanDenburg.
“I almost wanted to run up to her, talk to her about it,” Gargano said. “But, I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it.”
The 21-year-old Staten Island native is currently in the last semester at The College of Saint Rose, where she is studying music industry and composition. The school’s music program has long been recognized among the best in the country. Her studies there follow time spent at Fiorello H. Laguardia High School, the New York City arts school made famous by the Broadway musical and subsequent movie, “Fame.”
Gargano earned her ticket to Hollywood on the strength of her singing and songwriting with the performance of an original song, “Growing Pains.” The choice to sing her own work instead of a cover was a decision she made after a long day of battling through nerves.
“I walk into the room and of course I see these three judges; three megastars, three insanely talented songwriters,” Gargano said. This year’s panel of judges includes Perry, country artist Luke Bryan and multi-Grammy Award-winning R&B artist Lionel Richie. Just walking into the room with them, she described as “intimidating.”
Nevertheless, she said she was able to compose herself before sitting at the piano to play.
“You just have to believe in yourself,” Gargano said. “I played it, and I’m just so happy I went with my gut with that original because It was a big risk but I wouldn’t have represented myself well for a first impression if I did a cover.”
Gargano wrote “Growing Pains” while struggling through a bad relationship. Her lyrics cover the extent of romantic bonds and friendships. Throughout her journey as a songwriter, Gargano has admired Taylor Swift’s honesty. The Grammy Award-winning artist has long been intimate with her audience, sharing the pains of failed relationships in her life. Harry Styles, John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal are all rumored to be muses of some of Swift’s most popular songs. Gargano said she was working through self doubt and found writing the song was a way of pulling herself through. Despite an extensive catalogue of songs, she said this one “stuck” with her.
Swift will continue to be a cardinal point on Gargano’s compass. But, Swift never appeared on American Idol.
As friends and classmates gathered across the street at the Madison Theatre to watch the broadcast, Gargano was able to relax and enjoy her new-found fame, and from a unique perspective.
“I wanted to scream it from the rooftops, but [the wait] made that feeling last a little longer,” Gargano said. “I was able to relive it again with everyone. It was almost like they were waiting outside of the audition room and everyone cheered.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.
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