Blended Exclusive: Interview with Courageous American Idol Contestant Jonny Brenns
BY WILL HEFFERNAN
Imagine taking a bus from Boston to New York City to audition for one of the biggest TV shows in the nation; an opportunity of a lifetime… all without your parents knowing. That’s exactly what Idol contestant Jonny Brenns did.
Brenns, 18 at the time of his courageous audition, newly 19, managed to take a Greyhound Bus from Boston to NYC to audition for American Idol. At an astounding 6'5", towering over Idol host, Ryan Seacrest, Brenns managed to taste success at his audition by performing an original song, "Blue Jeans." The judges fell in love with this simply beautiful composition (Katy Perry even blushed over his performance). With Hollywood Week starting in a few days, we can expect to see Brenns make a frequent appearance on the weekly episodes.
Jonny Brenns sat down with Blended Magazine writer, Will Heffernan, to talk about his experience on the show so far and how he began playing music.
When did you get into playing music and singing?
I've always loved music, I've been doing it ever since I was little. I didn't really start focusing in on it until I moved to Florida, which was during my sophomore year of high school. I moved down and I went there early with my mom so we moved into the house. I had my guitar with me that I hadn't played in forever and it had a broken string. I didn't know anybody, didn't know what there was to do so. So, the artistic story there is that I just picked it up because I didn't have anything else to do. I taught myself guitar, worked on piano. Probably two years ago I started my Instagram for music. American Idol has definitely been the biggest concrete thing that I’ve ever done with music. I've always loved music, it's just I've never taken it so seriously.
Were you upset when Idol announced it was leaving? What was your reaction when it was announced that it would be returning?
I was pretty upset that it went away. It has such a legacy that, obviously, it's been on for a long time, but I feel like it's one of those shows that's just going to be around because it's so iconic. So, I was upset, but it was really cool to see ABC pick it up, especially, it was great timing, like right when this rebound started, I just got to college. I'm kind of independent, I'm 18, so it was a lot more of my own control to do. It worked out pretty well.
If you weren’t doing Idol now, what would you be doing?
I'd probably be doing minimal music at school and be focusing on business and stuff. I've tried to do music, it's a very quiet scene in Worcester and it's a pain to get to Boston, so honestly I'd probably be doing nothing.
What made you want to audition for Idol? Did you ever think about auditioning for other shows like The Voice?
When I was younger, I considered American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice just for the fun of it, but the paperwork was so long and it freaked me out. I always printed it out and I was like "Ahh screw this." I mean, the way I found out about American Idol was actually through Facebook because the casting producer is from Jacksonville, which is right near where I live in Florida, and a friend of mine tagged me in her post saying: "Hey guys, if you have any friends that are talented tag them." So, for the most part American Idol came to me, not in like a "Oh they came to me" way, I didn’t know it was happening until it happened. It's just been really cool. It's been super unexpected, but also something that I've always wanted to do, so it's not like too out of the blue.
You performed an original song, which is always a courageous thing to do, what made you want to sing that song? How did you know it was ready to perform on national television?
The rendition I performed is not how it sounds normally. Normally, it's on an electric keyboard. I was very sick for my audition and there were parts that I go very high and in falsetto and the chorus is really big. At the same time, when I knew I was sick, I knew that the best shot I had going to get through, being sick, was doing a song, one that I knew, would touch Katy Perry, because it was soulful song, it was also a romantic song. I mean Lionel and Luke get that too, but I needed to find a connection because at that point my voice, I knew, by itself that day wouldn’t have been enough. So, you have to be strategic, like how do I get through, just give myself enough time to get healthy, to give them all my voice and get there because of my voice. I used it because it gave a wider view of my artistry, instead of just singing a cover song. [I knew] it would make me look more artistic, they would know I could write. I love the song.
How did you manage to keep your trip to NYC for the audition, a secret from your parents?
I was surprised they didn't check my cards, they really don't do it that much, but they do location tracking. So I turned mine off and my dad was actually texting me and he called me when I was on the bus and I was like, "Sorry I can’t talk I’m in class." I’m in New York, about to go into the audition and he's like how's your day and I'm like good, I have a test at three, I laid it on thick. It was bad. If I didn't get through they probably wouldn't know about it.
Since the audition, what have you improved on?
The big thing is, overall, doing a lot more variation in my singing, not sitting in this middle area, which I just did anyway because I couldn't sing any other part of my voice, I think. Definitely appearance wise, like audition week, I didn't have a lot, so I didn't put in a lot of effort, I borrowed a shirt from my buddy in New York. The first thing would be overall my voice, the quality of it. The second thing would be my appearance, like I'm serious, but I'm still that chill guy you saw in New York, but at the same time I'm serious and can do this. The third thing would definitely be, I didn't show it too much the first round, but power. They tried to get me to sing that [Michael] Buble song and I listened to it, they showed me saying, "No I can do it" and that was me trying to say without saying I can do it but I can't right now because I'm sick but I'm not going to tell you that excuse but I swear to god I can do it. That's the big thing, not whether or not I have power, but I need to bring it, just overall, my presence on stage, getting their attention, confidently going through the song, and also crossing over from being like adorable to this kid is kicking butt on stage.
Who are some of your own personal idols?
My grandpa, he was a jazz pianist, not professionally, but he was just a natural. He was a businessman and he combined them, which the episode didn’t include because all that footage they had. I was very inexperienced and didn’t really know how to do interviews. I would also say Khalid, honestly, without even knowing it, [he’s] pushing me to take it more seriously because he’s like 19, and he just blew up, he’s like a worldwide sensation now and I’m kind of like why can’t I do that? I’m like let’s catch up here. There’s no reason for me not to do that.
Who are some artists you want to cover on Idol?
One artist is Daniel Caesar, 100%, I’d love to cover Daniel Caesar. Frank Ocean, that would be so cool. Then probably like the 1975, Vance Joy, the Lumineers. Kind of like those similar vibes, less super pop and more R&B, folk. What I really want to do is “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, but just really slow it down.
Lead Image Credit: American Idol