ABC gave us a chance to speak with Jurnee, the 18-year-old military spouse who's making a name for herself on the latest season of "American Idol."
Her wife Ashley is a soldier who's about to deploy to Afghanistan. We talked about what it's like to compete on the show, why she auditioned and how she's preparing for life with a spouse serving in a war zone.
Related: Jurnee Advances to 'Idol' Top 10
ABC is airing the show on Sundays and Mondays at 8pm (7pm central). If Jurnee continues to live up to the potential she's shown so far, she could stick around until the end this season. We'll be posting updates every week for as long as she's on the show.
How long have you been watching "American Idol"?
My mom actually was the one that always was obsessed with it. I never wanted to watch because it felt like a chore. I wanted to hang out with friends and do whatever and she was like, "No, come watch Idol." I never really ended up liking it until I was on the show. It’s the funniest thing. My first time really watching it was when I was on it.
How long have you been performing as a singer? Is that a new thing for you or is it something that goes back to your childhood?
I started singing when I was two and I started performing when I was in fifth grade. I had my first musical and then from then on I just never stopped. So it’s been a long, long time coming.
If you weren't a big fan of Idol growing up, what inspired you to audition this year?
The last season my mom made me watch with her, I found this singer on there named Jessica Sanchez. I was obsessed with her. I don’t know why I was obsessed with her and wasn't obsessed with any of the other Idols from before. At the end of the finale, which she didn’t win, I was sad. When I heard they were doing auditions in Denver, I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I have to go." I literally need to audition. And it was really Jessica that inspired me to audition in the first place.
I was trying to do the math on this. You're in the top 14 and that’s a pretty elite group. That’s about 200 singers, maybe, in the history of Idol. Has that dawned on you yet, how hard it is to get to where you are?
I've never thought about it that way. That’s crazy. I mean it’s definitely dawned on me how insane it is when 200,000 people have auditioned and 14 of us are left. We get so caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of all the stuff we have to get done and how busy we are. Sometimes we forget how crazy it is what we’re doing. When I sit back and just think about it, it’s completely insane. I can't even believe I'm here right now.
In past seasons, contestants really didn’t communicate with the outside world while it was going on. Viewers don’t really have much of an idea of what it's like during the competition. It’s Tuesday morning, you're still on the show. What happens between Tuesday and Sunday for a competitor on American Idol?
There are so, so many rehearsals, so many interviews, dressing room fittings, so many things. We’re usually here at 7:00 in the morning and we leave at 7:00 at night. By that time we’re all tired and don’t go anywhere, so in a sense we are away from the outside world. We don’t really like go hang out with people except for each other. But nowadays with social media, you can still connect and get a vibe and see what's going on in the world and not feel like you're completely sheltered. But we have very long days. I can definitely say that.
You're talking to Military.com and we’re all very interested in the fact that you're a new military spouse. Tell us about your wife and where she's serving and what's going on with her military career and how that’s affecting your relationship.
My wife, Ashley, is amazing. She's in the Army and she's stationed at Fort Carson. She's motivated, she keeps me motivated, and she's set to deploy soon. That’ll be the first deployments either of us has been through, so it’s gonna be a huge adjustment. We’re both nervous and excited for deployment, but it’s always hard. We spend a lot of time away from each other. It’s not just her being in the Army. It’s me traveling for music. But it’s all usually worth it when we come back and get to be with each other. It’s even that much more special.
What's her job in the Army?
She's in communications. She's looking to be a sergeant soon. Hopefully when she deploys, they're going to promote her. She's doing real good things.
How long has Ashley been serving in the military?
She's been in a little over two years now. She's got four years left to go. So she's new to it, a little bit. She's gotten the hang of it, she's really good at it, she learns so fast, but it’ll be her first deployment, her first time using what she’s learned. It’s going to be a really big deal.
How did you two meet? Was she serving when you met or does your relationship go back further than that?
We actually met because she got stationed in Colorado. She went on this site to find friends, just things going on around town. She ended up finding my manager at the time. My manager decided to have a housewarming party and we both went and met each other there and talked the whole night. Then she took me to breakfast and work the next day and we just never stopped talking since.
Does Ashley know where her deployment will be when she leaves?
She does. We know that it is Afghanistan. Anything else, we don’t know for sure. I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say or not either. It’s very confusing. I'm still getting the hang of everything.
So you'll be apart during her deployment.
Yeah, I’ll be here hopefully still doing music for the next nine months while she's gone. It’ll be hard.
Is there a chance that she’ll still be in the States in two months, just in case you're competing in the finals?
Well, she leaves sooner than that. I know the last time I’ll get to see her is next week when she's going to come and visit me. Pretty soon after that she’ll be on her way out. So it’ll be more like a ten-month deployment for us.
Obviously you're not alone with that experience. That’s a real challenge for everyone who has to go through it. Have you researched or reached out to any of the Army spouse support groups?
I haven't yet since I've been away. I have done research on deployment and changes people can go through after deployment or the best way to cope and make the time go by fast. As soon as I get home, back to Colorado, I plan on getting together with some of the other Army wives, going to FRG Meetings and support groups and just kind of getting through it the best way I can. I definitely want other wives to be supported too, so the more I can do to help them will probably help me as well.
I have a feeling you're about to have a great chance to do that.
I hope so. Thank you.
A month ago, you were just a person who could go to the mall or go to the movie theater just like everyone else. Things have change. There's nothing that’ll make you famous like being on television.
It’s pretty crazy. Going places is definitely different, but it’s worth it. It’s definitely an adjustment, though, for everyone in my life.
On the show, there's a lot of working with world-class musicians in the band and the experience of working with mentors. How's that experience been for you?
It’s amazing just being around people who have dedicated their lives to music and perfected it. They teach me so much about music theory and music vocabulary. They teach me how to work harder and really show me what it actually took for them to get in the position they are.
I learn new things every day about technique and confidence. If it weren't for these people, the performances I do wouldn’t have had as many high notes or as many runs, because I didn’t think I could do them before I came here.
Everyone here really pushes you and wants you to be the best you can be because they have been working their whole lives to be the best they can be. So it’s extremely, extremely cool and I'm so grateful. I've gotten better every single day vocally just by being around these people. They inspire me.
Is there any artist whose career you admire and whose path you'd like to follow, if you can?
Kehlani is a huge inspiration for me right now. I mean she's breaking boundaries and walls in the LGBT community. She broke boundaries when she became famous with all the tattoos she has. Her music and performance style is similar to what I want to do. Everything about her inspires me a lot. Ariana Grande as well. Her vocal register is insane. It's crazy that those notes could even come out of a human being. She's just the epitome of a diva, like a Mariah Carey-esque kind of singer. If I could just be a hybrid of those two in my career, then I'd be set for life.