Colombian singer/songwriter Julie Zorrilla was among the top 24 contestants on Season 10 of American Idol. For many back in her hometown of Denver, that made the 20-year-old Colombian native a star.
A former student at Denver School of the Arts, Zorrilla will spend some time with her family and at the Festival Colombiano at Colombus Park July 17 before returning to her new home in Los Angeles. She reflects on life after Idol and her Colombian roots.
What are your plans for Colombian Independence Day? Are you often involved in the Colombian community?
I'm definitely going to make it to the festival [in Denver], we always go. The heritage is very alive in our household. Most parties I went to when I was little were Colombian. I also always went to church in Spanish.
I'm actually performing at a benefit for La Clinica Tepeyac, a charity clinic for low income Hispanic families, later on this year. My family went there our whole lives, so the opportunity to give back is huge for me.
I'm not just involved in the Colombian and Hispanic communities - I also used to volunteer, for example, for the young women's choir at my church.
What is your favorite Colombian dish?
My dad makes the most amazing empanadas, it's probably my favorite food ever in the world. The ones here In L.A. are close to my dad's, but not quite.
As a Colombian, do you feel your heritage helps you as a singer/songwriter?
We had gone through a lot of violence [in Colombia] and we didn't give up. If there's one thing I have from there, it's definitely that. We keep going till we get what we want.
I can only hope I can be as successful as Shakira and Juanes (Colombian music icons). They have been an inspiration in my life and they have been a big influence in my music. At some point, I hope I can sing more in Spanish and work with Latin composers because singing in Spanish adds a whole different vibe.
What was it like growing up in Denver?
I absolutely love Colorado. Love, love, love it. Ever since I got there, it had this mesmerizing effect on me and my brother. We had been living in the Andes before and we had never seen anything like it here. We loved playing out in the snow. I miss it a lot.
With the advent of social media and the popularity of American Idol, did anything surprise you about your supporters?
I was just very touched when I started to see that the majority of the support was my Hispanic people. It was really incredible and touching to feel that support. It was one of the most amazing feelings in the world, and made me very emotional.
Just to give a huge thank you to all the people that voted and supported me, it really means a lot. Thank you to my whole state. It's so weird since I lived in California it was all about, "she lives in L.A.," but it's not my hometown.
What was your favorite experience on American Idol?
Apart from singing, obviously, my favorite part was the whole Vegas experience. We got to meet all of the Interscope Records executives, which is a very big company in the business. It was amazing to meet all these people I wanted to meet. It's crazy how fast things happened there.
Would you consider yourself a different artist after American Idol?
I wouldn't say I'm a different artist. I definitely learned a lot, and I am definitely better. Performing under that amount of pressure for that many people, it teaches you a lot about being onstage and how to work under pressure. I learned a level of professionalism and how to work on a show that is at this level.
Were you particularly close with any other contestant during your time at American Idol?
I got along with mostly everyone. Casey Abrams and I have been best friends since we were 14 - I went to prom with him my freshman year. That was cool to see him and reconnect and have someone to talk to through the whole experience. I also got extremely close with my roommate Haley Reinhart. We were inseparable.
Where are you now in your career as a singer/songwriter?
I'm preparing for the next stage of my career. I'm still under contract for American Idol, so by the time I'm ready to sit down and figure out an album, I'll have a lot of material to choose from. I want to take my time with it, to make it the best it can be. I want it to be made with love.
Follow Julie Zorrilla on Facebook, Twitter or her blog at juliezorrilla.tumblr.com.
American Idol is coming to Denver for auditions July 29. Registration is July 27 and 28. Visit americanidol.com/auditions for more details.