'American Idol' Alum Jessica Sanchez to Perform With Andrea Bocelli This Week: 'I Still Feel Like It's Not Real'

Steven Starr
Jessica Sanchez

American Idol season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez learned awhile back that she was one of a select group of singers handpicked by Andrea Bocelli for two concerts, but now that those dates are almost here, the 20-year-old singer tells Billboard, "I still feel like it’s not real."

Sanchez will join the Italian tenor on Thursday at the Target Center in Minneapolis and Friday along with classical soprano Renee Fleming for a sold-out show at the Allstate Arena outside Chicago. She's slated to perform four songs, three of which will be sung in Italian and Spanish.

"I am learning all of these songs and it’s going to be beautiful," she says. "I love singing in Spanish and Italian, so I am really excited for everybody to hear this. It's an honor."

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Sanchez is one of six singers -- including Tori Kelly, Demi Lovato, Nicole Scherzinger and fellow American Idol alum, season 6 winner Jordin Sparks -- who were selected to accompany Bocelli. The concerts -- which will include selections from Bocelli's latest album, Cinema, as well as select arias, love songs and crossover hits -- will be conducted by Eugene Kohn. Soprano Maria Aleida will also perform.

Bocelli reached out to Sanchez shortly after the American Idol series finale, where she moved America to tears with her show-stopping performance of "The Prayer," the tenor's duet with Celine Dion. Sanchez said joining her fellow Idols onstage for that moment was surreal. "It was overwhelming for me, because it was the last show and all of us were there," she says. "There were people I had never met before, but I felt like I knew them because we all shared that connection. I thought I was going to cry during my performance, but I held it."

When she reported to Idol rehearsals, Sanchez says she had no idea what she was going to sing, let alone that she would be assigned a song as big as "The Prayer." "I didn’t even know when I was singing, or if I was doing multiple songs or group numbers, or if I was even going to get a solo part," she says. "But I was OK with anything. I was happy to be there with everybody."

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When she learned what she was going to be doing, she realized: "This is a moment. I have to kill it."

That she did, eliciting cheers from the audience at the Dolby Theatre, as well as viewers at home. "I got so many calls from my family telling me they were in their living room screaming and yelling," she says. 

Now that the the American Idol series finale is behind her, Sanchez, who is managed by Mark Lamica, will soon announce a new label home for her second studio album, as well her opening-act performance for a major upcoming fall tour.

In the meantime, the Chula Vista, California, native is giving fans a glimpse into her new musical direction with the release of the sultry single "Call Me." Written by Lanita Smith of Muff Entertainment, the song is a preview of what's to come on her next record, Sanchez says.

"It’s hard coming off of Idol," she says. "The album that I did right after Idol, my first album, was more of a pop album, so I was going from ballads on the show to pop and now R&B. This is more what I want to do. I feel like my voice is a little more rich and not too pop."

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When she heard, "Call Me," she fell in love with the beat immediately. "I loved how pretty and sensual it was," she says. "'Call Me' is going more toward the direction music-wise and genre-wise of where I want to go."

That said, Sanchez is still just as excited to deliver the big ballads, just like she did on the Idol stage, much to the delight of fans coming to the Bocelli show hoping to hear her "saang."

"This is a whole new opportunity for me," she says. "A lot of the songs are really big songs and they are ballads, so I am excited to sing it for the fans from Idol that want to hear me sing those kinds of songs in a different language. It is going to be really dope."

"Call Me" is now available on iTunesSpotifyAmazon and CDBaby.