With the talent show once again dominating the ratings as the most watched show on summertime television with a nightly audience of 12 million, Julienne Irwin looked back at her breakthrough run in the summer of 2007 and how it shaped the performer that area fans will see this weekend at the Inner Harbor.
Julienne Irwin, the teenage country singer who lit up summertime TV three years ago as a finalist on NBC's "America's Got Talent," is 17 now and a rising senior at Bel Air High School. Saturday night at 8, she'll headline her first concert in Baltimore — performing at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater.
With the talent show once again dominating the ratings as the most-watched show on summertime television with a nightly audience of 12 million, Irwin looked back at her breakthrough run in the summer of 2007 and how it shaped the performer that area fans will see this weekend at the Inner Harbor.
"I guess what I've taken from the show is learning how to perform," Irwin said last week. "Sometimes, I watch my old episodes and I kind of laugh at myself because I think I look stiff and nervous. But I think that was also part of my charm at my time, because I looked so amateur. I still have that air about me. But I'd like to say that I've polished myself up a little bit."
Irwin was truly a breath of fresh air that TV summer. Introduced to America in a taped interview on the talent competition's first show, Irwin was shown quietly saying, "I'm no professional at this ... and I've never had a singing lesson. ... I'm a nobody."
And then, the modestly dressed, diminutive teen brought the judges and the audience to their feet in wild applause for her a cappella rendition of LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live."
After her next appearance, judge Sharon Osbourne sounded the theme that would come to define the young performer all summer long in a larger cultural sense: "You are such a great role model for other girls in the country," said the mom from MTV's reality show "The Osbournes." "You don't flaunt what you've got. You dress appropriately — you're just great."
"I was really fresh from Bel Air, had never really performed anywhere before, and a lot of the other people on the show had more experience than I did," Irwin says. "I know I was 14 at the time, and three years changes a person — you grow up more. But I don't think I've lost that air, because going on the stage every time is still just as exciting as it always has been. I don't think that I'll ever be able to lose that naivete that I had onstage, because I still kind of am."
Irwin has been on a few stages since "America's Got Talent," starting with a Kenny Rogers bus tour during the Christmas season of 2007. This summer, her focus has been on Nashville, where she has been recording.
"Kenny Rogers was my favorite experience so far. I absolutely loved being on tour," she says. "You know, even after the television show, my dad wasn't still completely convinced that this was what I was going to do the rest of my life. He wanted me to make sure that this is really, really, really what I wanted to do. And after I went on tour and he saw how excited I was and how I loved waking up in a new city every day, that's when he really realized, 'I think this is probably going to be it for Julienne.' "