Many customers at Japango on Pearl Street know Jennifer Hall as a personable sushi waitress. Hall, on the other hand, is hoping the country will come to know her as something else: a talented singer. Though she didn't make it past this season's Hollywood round, Hall has taken one step closer to achieving her dream on American Idol.
Hall auditioned for the singing competition in Oklahoma City back in July and moved on to Hollywood in December. However, Hall had to keep the news under wraps until episodes began airing last month. Hall says she had a great time having her parents along for her audition in front of judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson.
"I go in through the door, and my parents wait for me with Ryan Seacrest," Hall says, in disbelief that her parents were alone with the TV personality. "They're all anxious, they don't know what the judges are going to say and they're waiting to see if I come out with a golden ticket. I did and they freaked."
The soulful, R&B singer modeled her sound after musical divas like Erykah Badu, Beyonce, Whitney Houston and American Idol's own Mariah Carey. Hall says meeting Carey and Minaj on the show was an unforgettable experience.
"Mariah Carey was a big influence so it was pretty amazing to meet her. I've been listening to her since I was seven," Hall says. "She was so nice and thought I had a lot of heart, and Nicki Minaj loved my voice. It was great to have their support."
Hall has dreamed of becoming an artist since listening to her father sing as a young girl. Now, as a full-fledged singer herself, Hall has provided lusty vocals for local band Lo'Down on the Mothership for two years, playing venues like Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom and the Fox Theatre. Even at work, Japango Owner Jon Banis says Hall exudes the confidence and energy of a performer.
"She's incredibly boisterous, sociable," Banis says, "one of the very lively personalities that you meet."
Though Hall didn't end up with any screen time in the Oklahoma Audition episode, Japango celebrated her success on its Facebook page after it aired last week. She's worked at the Japanese cuisine restaurant for over three years, and Banis says that the staff is invested in seeing her succeed.
"She talks about [becoming a singer] every day with everyone," Banis says. "She's a rock star employee, and that's what she's trying to do with her music."
With encouragement from her bandmates and Devan Blake Jones, a friend and fellow American Idol hopeful, Hall decided to audition for American Idol. Jones had made it into the top 60 men in the competition last season and encouraged Hall to join him this season. But the process isn't as simple as it looks on TV, and Hall had to travel to Oklahoma City three times before Idol finally flew her to Los Angeles. However, she was eventually cut in Hollywood after making it to the top 150 women. Hall says she made sure the letdown didn't get the best of her.
"All the thoughts going through my mind when I got cut were, 'If I cry they're going to show me on TV, they're going to get a camera in my face,'" Hall says. "I didn't want to show myself crying so I just kept it positive. I was really appreciative that I made it there. I was a little disappointed for the day because I know a lot of friends and family were rooting for me, but American Idol isn't everything and it's cool to get the publicity."
Hall is still confident in her ambitions, if not more so after returning home from the competition. She came back with good critiques and affirmation that her singing voice is something special. Beyond reuniting with Lo'Down next month for a special fundraiser show, Hall will start focusing on her own music and solo projects. And, in spite of the whirlwind that was American Idol Season 12, Hall tentatively says she may audition for NBC's The Voice if it comes through Denver.
"[Those TV shows] are intense, you don't get any sleep once you're there, so I don't know if I'm ready to do it," Hall says. "But I'm sure when the opportunity arises, I'll want to do it again."