AI7 Interview with Syesha Mercado: Out Goes a Classy Lady
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Today I had the opportunity to participate in a media call with Syesha Mercado. She talked a lot about her future plans and her experience on Idol. I wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors.
I think almost more than anybody this season you sort of really sort of in some ways symbolized what the Idol journey is about. Itís about pushing your limits and improving and upping your game every week, and it seems like you were really doing that through the whole show. How did that sort of work for you? Was it sort of a conscious thing where you were consciously trying to improve upon the past week or was it just sort of the natural result of the experience?
S. Mercado: Well, I consider myself a hard worker, and Iím always rehearsing. Iím always trying to improve. And when I first stepped into the competition, I was really in a little shell and Ė because of the vocal resting and it kind of separated me from everybody else, so I donít feel like I was at my full potential because of the entire negative mind frame that I was in because of, like ďOh, nobody really sees who I am.Ē And I was so focused on that that it was really harming my performance. And once I got my mind right again like it was in the beginning of the competition, my first audition, I became more comfortable with myself and the stage. And the feeling of being overlooked completely subsided, and it was just a matter of being consistent every week and eventually, people would recognize me, and thatís exactly what happened. And I just enjoyed myself more every week, and I separated that line, that fine line, between overworking and doing so much to the point youíre unfocused, not enjoying yourself, and doing enough and trusting yourself and letting go and taking it all in. So my goal every week was to feel satisfied after every show. And I felt more satisfied the more the weeks went on.
Iím not going to ask you for your pick, but Iím going to ask you, what do you think is special about the two guys that are left, about the two Davids? What do they each have individually, you think?
S. Mercado: Well, of course, theyíre unique. But David has that Ė David Archuleta has that beautiful smile, and he has that really, really good connection with kids, the younger audience. And David Cook has that connection with the younger audience. The girls go crazy over him. And the older audience tooÖreally, really charming, like all the older women. I feel like Iím a little sister and a big sister to both the Davids. And once everybody was gone, we really had the chance to really, really have a more intimate relationship and just really Ė just have fun and kind of that brotherly/sisterly love. And people would be like, ďOh, David Cook! Oh, my gosh, I love you so much.Ē And theyíre like ďSyesha, Syesha, could you just tap David on the shoulder and get him for me?Ē Iím like, ďOkay, sure, guys. Okay, hereís David.Ē Iím like, ďOkay, guys.Ē So it was like that kind of relationship. It was fun. So this competition can go any way, so I just wish them both the best of luck. Itís all about what the voters want.
Paula twice on Tuesday said you sang songs that didnít really define who were you were, so I wanted to ask, in your mind, who are you exactly as an artist?
S. Mercado: Iím a mix of a lot of things. I think thatís why people are like, ďOh, sheís BroadwayĒ because they see me doing some Broadway thing. Theyíre like, ďOh, sheís Broadway.Ē Iím just like Ė Iím like a black Christina Aguilera/Alicia Keyes. I definitely can see myself putting together a Christina Aguilera album, the one that she just recently did Ė and an Alicia Keyes album like The Diary of Alicia Keyes. Iím definitely into a lot of the Ė I like pop, and I like R&B, and I like the old school/new school thing. So Iím growing as an artist. Iím evolving. And Iím glad that I did do American Idol because people were able to see that transition that I went through, and Iím still learning more about myself everyday. And I think thatís beauty of doing this competition. You just learn so much. So people will know who I am. Youíll know who I am once I put out that album. Youíll know.
You compared the civil rights movement to your own experience on Idol to that Sam Cooke song. And some people thought that was a rather odd comparison, like uneven comparison. I wondered; could you clarify exactly what you meant by that?
S. Mercado: A comparison. The thing is, before I did that song, before I do any song, I do research on the song, who sang the song, what it means to them. Then I write down what it means to me, and then I go into the whole, ďWhat am I going to wear with it, wuh, wuh, wuh.Ē So I definitely do my research. And Sam Cooke, thereís a lot of meaning behind that song for him, and when it came out, it came out during the civil rights movement, so I was just telling people, this song Ė what this song meant to everybody. The song is like Ė letís see, how can I say this, so I can explain it to you as well? Itís known. Itís like a signature song for the civil rights movement, but for me, it meant something different. I know it meant that to everybody, but for me, it took on a totally different meaning. Thatís why I brought that up because it touched me. When I was listening to it, I was thinking about all those things, the civil rights movement. And then I was thinking about, ďWell, what does this song mean to me?Ē
Well, that Ė it came out during a transitional time in history, and for me, this is a transitional time for me in my life, and it took on a different meaning for me. And Iím the last female standing. Iím still here, and I feel like Iíve changed a lot for the better, and people gotÖ. And I think that has a connection. It came out during a pivotal time in history, and it came out during a pivotal time in my life, so a mix of both of those together. Itís just emotional, and itís just the message, ďA change is going to come.Ē Back then it came, and for me, itís going to come, so Ė
What did you learn from your experience on American Idol?
S. Mercado: Wow. I learned a lot. Where do I begin? Well, I learned that thereís a fine line between over-rehearsing, like overworking, and then just doing what you need to do and trusting in yourself and just letting go and letting it be the way it is because I worked so hard every week, to the point I wasnít really able to enjoy myself. So Iíve learned how to relax and what to do, whether itís talking to someone really close to me, someone I confide in, or whether itís reading a book thatís really uplifting. So I learned ways to deal with stress. And Iíve learned ways to deal with Ė how to prepare for a performance, to the point where youíre able to enjoy what youíre doing. And youíre working, but youíre not so focused to the point where itís just a stress ball for you. So Iíve learned to relax more.
Whatís the best piece of advice you received, and who was it from?
S. Mercado: Well, as far as American Idol goes, like with the mentors, it would be Andrew Lloyd Weber because that was my shining moment on the stage. He really encouraged me just to perform the song the way that I wanted to perform it instead of following any guidelines because Iím like, ďI can perform it the American Idol way,Ē which is donít do Broadway because then they classify me, but Iím couldnít think like that, so I just did it the way I felt. He just told me, ďBe animated.Ē Once he told me, ďBe animated,Ē it kind of helped me just be myself because I am really crazy. So he helped me just break out of my shell.
I was kind of struck by your dadís comments last night in which he was talking about his struggle to overcome alcohol and drugs and so forth. I was wondering; how did that shape you? Was this going on in the house when you were there, and how did that shape you as a person and your drive and attitude and so on?
S. Mercado: Well, the struggles that we go through, Iíve always seen it as it can either make you or break you. And for me, it made the strong person that I am. It made the sincere, humble person that I am. Having my dad struggle through that, it really, really Ė it really made me sad a lot of my life. It actually made me understand people more and be moreÖ. I told myself that Iím not going to let this determine what my future is going to be. Iím going to do something good. And Iím going to help my dad and encourage him and be there for him. And Iím going to make him proud, so that he wants to make me proud, and thatís exactly what heís doing now. He sees me doing something good, and itís really motivating him to stay sober and stay clean. And itís just a beautiful story to tell. One day Iíll tell it, maybe inÖ.
And what youíve been describing here is youíve got a very extreme work ethic. In other words, youíve almost worked too hard and some points. And it sounds like some of that is from that, you as a kid, when a grownup was having trouble around you, you learned to be very hardworking and to focus on what youíre doing. Is that right?
S. Mercado: Yes, actually, yes. Iíve always been a type of Ė Iíve been a busybody, and in school, I always had to be in some play. I had to do some things because I always inconvenienced my mom all the time, but she was like, ďIím just going to do this for her, and itís going to pay off in the long-run.Ē And it did. It really, really did. I just told myself that Iím not going to be what my dad is showing me right now. Iím going to be something better than that, and Iím going to show him that Ė be proud of me, Dad. And one day, heíll make me proud. And thatís what heís doing. Like I said heís doing that, and I think, yes, it had a lot to do with that. Your past has a lot to do with the type of person you are.
So what are your plans now after Idol, obviously after the tour wraps? What are you hoping to do, and is any wedding planning in your future?
S. Mercado: Well, as I tell people, I want to do everything, and Iím really goal-oriented, so I know that whatever goal I set, it can be accomplished, whether itís within a year span or whatever, ten year. So I want to make an album. I want to star in a film. I want to do Broadway. I want to open up an organic restaurant, and like a lupus foundation, homeless foundation. It just depends on what comes first, but I have goals that I want to do, and I write them down and going to continue to look at them. Basically, whatever opportunity comes first and whatís the best career move for me, thatís pretty much whatís going to happen.
Are you going to start any wedding planning with your fiancť or anything anytime soon, or is that kind of overwhelming?
S. Mercado: Iím the type of person, I live in the now, and whatís going on now, thatís what Iím going to take care of. And heís so supportive, and we both Ė we have a mutual understanding about everything, so when the time is right, weíll do it. But right now, weíre focused on the career, and whatís the next move to make as far as that. And everything else is going to fall into place.
I wanted to know, because youíve made that bottom three or two so often, how did you deal with that, that roller coaster of Ė I donít know if you were packing your bags all those weeks, or how did you deal with that? Because you seemed so strong and smiled the whole time while other people really cried a lot.
S. Mercado: I Ė every week is new. And I never packed my bag. They told us, ďYou got to pack your bags.Ē Iím like, ďIím not packing my bags because I donít want to go home yet. Iím not ready.Ē So I think if you want something, itís going to happen for you. If you want to be top three, youíre going to get top three. If you want to win, youíre going to win. Whoever is the most passionate, theyíre going to win. Whichever Davidís the most passionate, theyíre going to win. So every week, like I said, I set a goal, and I just wasnít ready to go home. I didnít pack my bags because I wasnít ready.
And the way I dealt with that was I just talked to my family a lot, and they really helped me stay strong, and they told me so many things that helped me when I was on that stage. I tried my best to pray before every performance and get that positive energy flowing and hold everybodyís hand and be like, ďBurst of energy and positivity.Ē I just tried to clear my mind. You become stronger and stronger. And just being there, I just think I got a lot stronger every week.
I also wanted to ask you about the last performance, the last week, especially when Ė ďFeverĒ because Paula thought, I think they Ė or they Ė at least two of them thought, ďWell, thatís not really a good choice.Ē Any thoughts about what, about that song selection? Do you think things could have turned out differently if you had maybe chosen more of a showstopper kind of thing? Ö.
S. Mercado: At this point, Iíve shown so many different sides of me, and I think what I have Ė like everybody has something different. David Cook has this. David Archuleta has this. And with me, I think Iím good at performing, so I sing. And I like to perform. I really like to Ė I like Ė if I had more time, Iíd do everything. Iíd like to put background dances and do so much more stuff, but thereís a time frame, and thereís limitations. You canít do everything. So I made up in my mind that I wanted to do a song that was performance-driven, so thatís why I did that.
I had other choices in mind, but I couldnít do them, so Ė maybe if I had a chance to do them, I wouldnít have got that comment, but you go with the flow. If you canít do something, you do something else. You just work with that. So I did that song, and I have no regrets. It works out the way it was supposed to work out.
I just wanted to know, what was it Ė what did David Ė what did the Davids say to you on stage after the results were announced?
S. Mercado: I donít rememberÖthey did. At this point, we were just Ė we were like probably top four, weíre all like, ďMan, weíll see you on tour.Ē Itís kind of like, go home and be with your family, or go home and do what you got to do before tour. So itís like they were just encouraging. Theyíre like ďOh, man, Syesha, youíre so good. Man, I just love you, Syesha.Ē It was just kind of like that. Itís not the end of the road. Iím going to see them again, so they just were Ė they were happy for me and just letting me know that they care, giving me hugs.
I also wanted to ask you about acting. Do you intend to pursue that at all now?
S. Mercado: Of course. Iíve said it time and time again, and Iíll continue to say it. Iím goal-oriented, and I want to do everything. Thatís make an album, star in a film and do Broadway, and I definitely see myself doing film. And I canít wait to do a film one day. It just depends on what comes first. And I just have to make the Ė a wise decision when it comes to what career path I want to do, where I want to go first with my career, so Iíll haveÖ.
Whoís someone that youíd love to act opposite?
S. Mercado: Man, thereís so many people. I donít know. Off the top of my head, I couldnít tell you.
Could you talk for just a minute what it was like maybe to get this close and then not quite get to the finals?
S. Mercado: To me, I made it. On Americanidol.com, I put Ė they were like Ė they asked the question, ďWhat happens if you donít make it on American Idol?Ē And to me, well then you donít make it. I think anybody who is on the show makes it. You do Ė success is different for every person. And for me, this was very successful making it to top three. I made it, to me, in my eyes. I made it. I set a goal, and I got there, and Iím very, very, very happy. Iím at peace. So I feel like Iíve made it, and only great things can come from here on out.
And maybe, just from your perspective right now, how does it feel like this might have changed your life and the lives of the other people who maybe made it to the final three?
S. Mercado: Well, I donít even think we know whatís in store for us. Weíve had a taste of it when we went to Las Vegas, hundreds of people pulling on us and saying, ďOh, my gosh, I love you,Ē our fans. So I know itís Ė weíve been in a bubble. I know itís changed a lot. I know thereís going to be good and bad with that, but you have your family whoís there for you. And sometimes they understand, sometimes, they donít. But Ė and then you have friends. So, yes, thatís pretty much, yes.
Weíve heard a little bit about some of the harder times when you had when you were younger, and it sounds like everythingís been getting a lot better. Your dadís been getting better and all that kind of stuff. Do you feel like being on Idol and doing so well on Idol is in some ways a kind of end of that chapter in your life? Can you look back on the hard times now?
S. Mercado: Oh, yes, it definitely is. I think every family has a struggle. And the reason I even brought up my struggle in the beginning, at my first audition, is because my past doesnít determine who I am. And I donít feel ashamed of telling encouraging uplifting stories to people because theyíre going to Ė everybodyís going to find out eventually my story. And some people are going to get the story wrong, and it already has been gotten wrong a lot. People are like, ďOh, youíre homeless.Ē Iím like, ďWhat? What are you talking about?Ē Ask me what my story is. One day, Iíll be able to maybe star in my movie, or something, telling my story, write a book about it, but I definitely think Ė well, I know that chapter is over with. And Iím doing something to make my dad proud, and heís actually making me proud at the same time, so itís like Ė goes hand-in-hand.
Your experience on The One, the other singing contest you were on. Do you think that was an advantage for you going into Idol?
S. Mercado: I think all of us had advantages, a lot of us had a lot of experience beforehand. I donít think it hurt me. I think it really let me know whatís in store because it kind was the same format, but more reality. So people really actually got a chance to see my personality because with American Idol, itís not as much reality behind scenes, but itís more the hour show, what you see on stage. And a lot of my songs werenít really showing who I really was, but I definitely think it prepared me a lot for this show.
I wanted to find out what you thought when you were given the producersí choice song for Tuesday night because I and a lot of our readers were really, really kind of puzzled by that choice and just wondering what you thought.
S. Mercado: I told myself Ė I was like, ďThatís strange.Ē Ö. But I think my nieces and nephew liked it because I know they like that movie Happy Feet. And I actually did Ė I heard it before on Happy Feet because they watch it over and over and over again. But itís not like I could change it, so I had to try to make the best of it. Iím very optimistic and positive, and whenever something kind of comes in my way thatís going to be like - ďOh, my gosh, itís horrible. Itís not going to workĒ Ė I block it all out. And Iím like, ďWhat can I do to turn this into something positive? What can I do to make the best out of it?Ē And I tried to do my very best, so Ė
It didnít seem like much of a singerís song, though, right?
S. Mercado: No, it really wasnít. And Iím the type of person, if Iím doing a song like that, I like to go all out, and I wasnít able to have backup dancers. And most of the song, there is Ė most of the song was backup singing. Itís like over Ė that whole studio techno kind of stuff. So it was weird because most of the song, I wasnít even supposed to sing.
When Ė at what point, if any, did you get the feeling that the finale was going to be the Davids?
S. Mercado: Probably the night before. After Iíd got done performing, I was like, ďItís over.Ē Itís not over, but itís like Ė I got too many bad comments from the judges to keep me there. At this point in the game, you couldnít have that many bad comments to be there, so I accepted what was, and I moved on. And I made peace with it. And I couldnít be happier right now. I donít feel defeated. I donít feel like Iíve failed. I feel like thereís only greatness that can come from here on out. And I felt like I grew a lot, and I showed America a lot of different sides of me and what Iím capable of. And Iím capable of a lot more. And I can do a lot more, and Iím just ready to show everybody what Iíve got, just ready.
When do you think you might get back to Sarasota? Is there anything you want to do when you get back?
S. Mercado: Oh, man, I want to go to Siesta Key. I want to go to theÖbeach, and I definitely want to go visit my schools and visit family and friends and people who really, really helped me start my career, just encouraged me to sing and just be nice to people. I just want to have fun, just hang out with Ė
Do you think youíll get back here before the tour, or are you Ė you got to perform next week, right?
S. Mercado: To be honest with you, things get crazy from here on out. The schedule is hectic, and we start rehearsals today. And tickets go on sale online May 17th. And weíre going to be focused on that, so Iím not sure when Iím going to get back there.
Did your family have anything to say to you last night to boost you up after what happened?
S. Mercado: Oh, for the first time, my family was actually happy on a result, the results show. It was crazy. Iím like, ďTheyíre happy. This is crazy.Ē So everything worked out perfect. I didnít have to get them to smile. They were making sure I was smiling and stuff, so it was a good Ė
What Broadway musical would you like to do?
S. Mercado: One Summerís Island, The Color Purple. I heardÖis a good one. Well, whatever, Chicago. Thereís Ė I love musical theater, and I love regular music too, making album like an artist, so Iím not just Broadway. I love so many things, but given the opportunity to do a Broadway musical, thatís my dream, though, One Summerís Island. Iíve played it twice, middle school, high school. Now, my next goal is to do it on Broadway. And if they have to make my skin dark, Iím all for it.
So one thing thatís come up a bit - I know that youíre the last Ė you mentioned that youíre the last standing female, which is huge Ė one thing thatís come up over the weeks of some of the departing female contestants is that maybe there was Ė maybe not a bias but a real preference among female fans for male singers. Iím just wondering what you think about that, or if you have any thoughts on overall what the voting trend was this year.
S. Mercado: Iíve never focused on what everybody wants because what everybody wants is going to be obvious in the end, so whatís the point of pointing it out or assuming because it is what it is. And whoever wins, thatís whoís supposed to win. So I just never focused on that. I just was proud of myself for making it this far and being the last girl standing and just honored to have a great opportunity like this.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this media call.
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