'American Idol' Season 13: Jessica Meuse Explains Her Songwriting Strategy
She auditioned with two original songs, 'both about the same idiot.'
The Hollywood Reporter sat down with American Idol's season 13 finalists to give an in-depth look at the top 10, including their earliest memories of music, when they knew music would be their career choice and what led to their decision to audition for the singing competition.
Meet the rest of the top 10 singers here.
Round Rock, Texas
Born: Oct. 19, 1990
“I’ve moved everywhere so I’ve had many, many hometowns,” says Jessica Meuse, the finalist with a wide streak of magenta hair. “My adopted hometown is Slapout, Alabama. It’s 40 minutes north of Montgomery if you drive the speed limit.”
Meuse says she was very young when she first discovered music. “I was on a rocking horse in our house in Texas. I started singing ‘Home on the Range’ really loudly and I had fun doing it. My parents already knew I was weird so they expected whatever from me.”
At 10 years of age, while living in Rhode Island, Meuse learned how to play her first instrument – the violin. “My younger brother went to the music store and got a violin. Because he had one, I wanted one, too. You know how little kids are. My mom figured she better get me one so I wouldn’t steal his.”
At that tender age, Meuse played in a couple of local orchestras. “Then when I did move to Alabama, I started playing in another orchestra and worked my way up from the back to the first chair of my section. It took years and I focused a lot on my sheet music and actually being technical about it for a long time. Then I picked up a guitar when I was in high school in Slapout. I taught myself to play and I started writing. All the ideas would cram together and there were eight songs in one. But it finally clicked when I was 18. Somebody hurt my feelings and I wrote a song about it. That’s how I learned to channel songwriting and it just evolved from there. It’s all true and based on real things that have happened to me.”
Meuse says she doesn’t have one particular method of songwriting. “Sometimes I'll be at the gym working out and I'll have one cool word and then it gives me an idea and then I get a hook. Or I'll just write down a bunch of cool words. Or I'll write down a chorus. Or I'll write down a hook, and later I'll go to my room where I write most of the time and I'll just write it.”
Meuse played in a band for a while but it fell apart. “There wasn't an equal commitment among all the members,” she explains. “They weren't as serious. I'm also a student in school and my grades started going down because I started having more musical opportunities. I sang for the city – I love to do fundraisers. I work with the Humane Society.”
Meuse explained to THR why she auditioned for Idol. “I'm a very spontaneous person. It was just some random thing, I was already in Atlanta. I played the Warped Tour the day before and a lot of people were saying, ‘You need to do this! You've got a really good chance.’ I guess they were right.”
Meuse auditioned with an original song, "Blue-Eyed Lie," and later, during the solo round of Hollywood week performed another original, “Done.” “They’re both about the same idiot,” she proclaims. “He was good for something.” Meuse says she needed to sing her own songs because, “as an artist and for my career after American Idol, I want people to know me for me. Every song was once an original song. One day someone is going to cover my song.”
Meuse talked to THR about her musical influences. “I listen to a lot of hard rock and I was raised on ’90s country, like George Strait and Sara Evans and I likeDierks Bentley. I love Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch and this cool new band named Starset. If you have captivating lyrics that I can understand and relate to, and you're honest with them, and you convince me, then I love it.”
Meuse says she doesn’t necessarily plan to merge country and hard rock. “But I wouldn't mind bringing back a little bit of Southern rock, like Creedence Clearwater Revival or the Allman Brothers. And I love Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
Meuse is not the first Idol finalist to sport magenta hair – think Vanessa Olivarez, Amy Adams, Allison Iraheta and Lacey Brown. Meuse first went magenta just before her Idol audition in the summer of 2013. “I change my hair all the time,” she confessed. Does that mean she plans to make a change during her Idol run? “I don't want to give away any surprises, she smiled. “But I'm contemplating some things.”