Latin Music Week

'American Idol' Alum Avalon Young Makes a 'Shift'

Mark Pangilian
Avalon

When American Idol Season 15 alum Avalon Young released her debut album, Shift, late last Tuesday, she went to sleep not knowing what to expect or how it would be received.

To sweeten the deal, Young recorded a Periscope teasing fans that if they got the album into the top 10, she would start recording a daily video blog for each day it remained on the iTunes charts — if it even reached those heights.

“I didn't even picture getting on the charts at all,” she tells Billboard. “The next morning, I wake up, and I'm at No. 2 on the R&B Chart on iTunes.”

 

 

True to her word, Young kicked into gear, and has since uploaded four updates on YouTube, live from her new apartment in Los Angeles.

Young, 22, has been busy since the American Idol series finale in April, and feels a need to keep in constant communication with the fan base she cultivated during her run on the show, which saw the R&B singer reach the top 10.

American Idol was one of the most amazing blessings to ever come into my life, and I do think it is important to keep doing what you are doing after the show,” she says. “You have this following now, and all of these people around the world have recognized you as an R&B singer, so what are you going to do now with that? Periscopes are important, so is tweeting, Instagram and playing shows.”

During her time on Idol, the San Diego native made her mark with creative interpretations of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and Chris Brown’s “Yo (Excuse Me, Miss),” showcasing her love of R&B and a desire to stand out from the pack simply by being herself.

Ultimately, she says, the contestants on Idol got to make their own decisions — from song choice to wardrobe — and she doesn’t regret a thing.

“I'm not America's sweetheart, and I'm a just a little different, so when I went home in top 8, I wasn't really surprised,” she says. “At the end of the day, you have to realize 80,000 people auditioned and only one of them got to win. All the way up to top 8, I had been just so surprised I even made it. I thought I wasn't going to get through Hollywood Week, and now here I am with my first album on the charts at No. 2. That has been crazy.”

Young is still in charge of all of her decisions, remaining an independent artist and having a hand in co-writing every track on the album, which features production and credits by Midi Jones, Jbird, Jayme David Silverstein, Jonah Christian and frequent collaborator J. Dodd. To give fans a sense of that, Young released a behind-the-scenes video exploring the creative input into Shift.

One decision, for example, is the inclusion of two versions of the song “Closure.”

“It's something that we released over a year ago on my SoundCloud. People kept telling me to put it on iTunes. I realized immediately that it was a fan favorite. When we did it together, we loved it. We were really passionate about it. Because I started out acoustically a long time ago, I feel like I have to honor that, so every album I try to have something acoustic, and I try to incorporate my guitar,” she says. “'Closure’ is a song I feel like a lot of people relate to with the lyrics. The song has a lot of digital noises and is heavily produced, so I thought it would be cool to take a song like that and strip it down to guitar and have people have a feel for the lyrics.”

"I feel it shows a little bit of variety," she continues. "A lot of people these days, their voices are masked by all of that production so it is tough to tell if someone can really sing well. For me, it is important because I feel there are a lot of people in the industry that have the spotlight that are incredible singers, and I want people to know that I'm a singer. I am a performer and an entertainer, but I am a singer at the end of the day. Singing and music is my passion, performing and entertaining is, but singing is what it really comes down to, and I want people to know that I can do that."

The album also features an appearance by R&B artists Maurice Moore and Xavier Omar, who lends his vocals to the heartbreaking post-breakup song “Dealin.”

“There is a collective of DJS/Producers in Los Angeles Soulection. I was a fan of them, and Xavier Omar was a featured artist, and I became a big fan,” she says.

Through fate, Young connected with Omar through fellow Idol contestant Manny Torres.

“Manny and Xavier have the same manager and know the same people,” she says. “When I was on the show, I reached out to him on Twitter. I tweeted some lyrics, and he followed me. We got to talking, and I texted him and said, ‘Hey, if I have a track on the album that fits your style, do you want to collaborate?' He said, 'Of course.' That is how that happened, which is amazing for me because I idolized him.”

Now that Shift is out, Young is going to perform a few one-off shows in select cities and meet-and-greet performances.

“Because I was on American Idol, everyone has seen me on TV but I haven't actually gotten to see everyone around the world yet,” she said. “So what we do is we go out to these warehouses, sell tickets, limit it to 100 tickets and make 100 pieces of merch, and we do meet-and-greets and photos, and play a few songs with a Q&A.”

Also in the works: a music video, and shows in Chicago and Ohio.

“A lot of what I have now is because of American Idol, and I don't deny that.” she says, adding that meeting all of the Idol alumni at the finale made her realize that she is part of history.

“Jordin Sparks was awesome. Mikalah Gordon was awesome. Constantine Maroulis was cool, and Ace Young — we kept making jokes that we were related and a lot of the fans believed us. That was funny,” she laughs. “It was just really amazing to be in their presence and know that we had all been through the same kind of things.”

Shift is now available on iTunes.

Avalon Young will appear at Dance Spa in Chicago on Sept. 30. Tickets can be ordered through Eventbrite.com.

Watch Shift behind the scenes: