Women in Music 2016

'American Idol' Alum Jessica Sanchez Returns With 'Christmas' EP

Mark Nicdao
Jessica Sanchez

American Idol Jessica Sanchez has been an awful good girl and is giving her fans a present for the holidays in the form of a new yuletide EP, Christmas With Jessica

"I have always wanted to do a Christmas album and covers," Sanchez tells Billboard. "It’s just a gift for my fans because I love them.”

Recorded in just two days, the independently-released six song EP includes Sanchez wrapping her soulful vocals around the Eartha Kitt classic, "Santa Baby," a jubilant "Joy to the World" and a soaring version of "Ave Maria." The record, produced by James Daniels and executive produced by LA Mic Studios and Wise Owl Media Group, celebrates the 20-year-old entertainer's love of the season.

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Adding to the holiday merriment is the announcement that the Season 11 runner-up will join other Idols Kris Allen, Pia Toscano, Ruben Studdard, Tamyra Gray, Elliott Yamin, Ayla Brown and Paris Bennett for the Orange County Christmas Extravaganza on Dec. 23. Former judge Randy Jackson is also scheduled to appear at the show -- a benefit for the Jessie Reese Foundation -- which supports children fighting cancer. The show will be broadcast live from the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on KDOC TV and other markets from 8 to 10 p.m.

"Christmas is my favorite holiday because you spend time with family," she said. "I love the decorations, the music, and buying gifts for people. Everything about Christmas is the best.”

"Santa Baby" was the California native's personal pick, and she chose to throw back to Kitt's version when she went into the studio.

"I went with the earlier version, the classic, which is very soft spoken but sexy at the same time," she said. "It was the most fun to record. There is so much room to mess around with the song, but I tried to keep it as classic as possible."

Recording the EP had its challenges, Sanchez said.

"I was actually really sick during that time and I was worried how my voice would sound. I was afraid to put this EP out because my voice was not fully there and I’m such a perfectionist I don’t like putting anything out that is not my best," she said. "But I had to put that aside and remember that this is for my fans and my supporters and it’s a little EP for them. I hope that it was good enough."

In addition to the record, the singer has also launched her first merchandise store on her Website, Jessicasanchez.bigcartel.com. Sanchez oversaw the selection of T-shirts, crop tops, hoodies, and a signature "snapback hat"  is on sale at the Website until Jan. 2.

"We looked through a couple of things and I personally handpicked what I wanted. I have always wanted to do clothing because I’m a typical girl and I love clothes and shoes," she said. "That was a lot of fun and I’m really happy with the way that it came out for my first  pieces of merch. The quality is nice, too."

When the holiday season is over, Sanchez is launching straight into 2016 with plans for the follow-up to her debut album, Me, You and the Music.  The record, she said, will be more R&B "rhythmic pop" or "more soulful Tinashe."

"I’m very excited to be working on the music that I really love," she said.

The entertainer -- who has signed on with new manager Mark Lamica (Prince, Michael Jackson) -- has more plans for 2016, including exploring acting roles, endorsements, and a possible return to Idol.  Sanchez said she is "sad" to see the Fox show ending, but hinted she "might make an appearance" before the final curtain.

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"It was a big part of my life. It felt like I was on that show for years, and being in that Idol bubble it felt like a family with the staff and the judges and the contestants, so it’s sad seeing it end," she said. "But I know they will be going out with a bang. This is their final season and they are going to kill it. I’m excited for that.”

With all that ahead of her, Sanchez has one New Years Resolution she has yet to conquer.

"Every single year I tell myself I am going to drive. It never happens," she said. "I don’t know how to drive. I am already 20. This needs to happen."

Christmas With Jessica is available on CDBaby, iTunes Amazon.com and Google.

Listen to "Santa Baby" below: