Shannon Magrane is on the ride of a lifetime – and hopes it continues in high gear tonight.

The 16-year-old singing sensation from Tampa bowled over American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler in the Savannah audition round that aired in January and has been going strong ever since.

If you watched American Idol last week, you saw Shannon sing her way into the show’s elite Top 24 by belting out a powerful version of Kelly Clark’s The Trouble With Love. And tonight, she performs live on Idol for the first time along with the other 11 female contestants in advance of Thursday’s nail-biting round when the field is narrowed down to the coveted Top 12.

Shannon her fellow females were in the crowd Tuesday night in LA watching the males compete in the opening live round and spoke by phone with after the session.

“It was literally so overwhelming and amazing, even to be in the audience,” she said after watching the guys’ sing, including one other Tampa Bay area local, 19-year-old Jeremy Rosado of Valrico (who sang Sarah Bareles’ Gravity).

Here’s more of what Shannon had to say about her once-in-a-lifetime experience so far before taking the stage this evening – and hoping to wow America into voting her through and keeping the ride of a lifetime rolling.

Q. What has your schedule been like out there?

A. “Actually, it’s so much different behind the scenes than what you see on TV. We’re getting back at a reasonable time, but having to go to sleep and wake up, really, really early the next day and be back on stage and performing and practicing and going through run-throughs. And then the makeup and hair people take you back and touch you up, and you go straight into your wardrobe and put your dress or your pants or new outfit on. We definitely have a lot on our plates but we’re been through the previous rounds so we’re ready for it

Q. What’s it been like working with the music directors to prepare you songs?

A. “They are so great. They are literally the best of the best, so they know exactly what they’re doing. When you ask them, ‘Oh, can you try this differently?’ they go, ‘Oh, okay’ and they play it and it sounds perfect. And the band sounds amazing. It’s just a group of world-class people.”

Q. Walk us through what you were feeling after you sang in Vegas trying to make the Top 24 – and Jennifer Lopez immediately said you’d given her goose bumps?

A. “To be completely and totally honest with you, I don’t remember one thing from that, because I was so in the moment of what I was singing, and trying to give the judges the message of what my song is about. At the end of it, when Jennifer said she had goose bumps, that made me so excited. And I was just so grateful that they liked my song and I was like, Oh my God, it was such a relief to finally be finished with it instead of be sitting in that room for hours and hours and hours, waiting to go and sing.”

Q. What was going through your mind when you made that long walk along the runway to hear the verdict from Randy, Jennifer and Steven?

A. “Gosh. There’s of course lots of suspense, especially waiting back in that room for several hours. And finally, they’re like, ‘You’re going, let’s go.’ It happens really fast and they take you and go, ‘Okay, you’re going to walk.’ And I walked, and I was just thinking back on all of my performances. I was feeling really good about it. But I was really nervous. When I sat down in the chair, they were kind of drawing it out, saying, ‘Yeah, we really like you, but…but…” and they kept going on and on. So I was sitting there, leaning over and thinking, ‘Okay, they’re going to let you know, they’re going to let you know.’ And when they told me, I just got so excited, I just stood up and started moving around and wiggling my body, because that took a long time! It was just really amazing.”

Q. What’s been the hardest thing about the experience so far?

A. “Definitely the group day in Hollywood Week. It’s only because you’re working with other people and you have to work on blending with their voices and trying to make yourself stand out. So it’s very difficult and the stress that we’re put under and waiting and rehearsing up until 4 a.m., and then suddenly your group’s on. You don’t know what they’re going to throw at you. They always do a curveball.  You never know.

Q. On top of that, everyone seemed to be getting sick. You must have felt relieved to avoid that.

A.  “Thank the Lord! My mom (Renee) was a nutritionist so she gave me the right food. She gave oranges and kept giving me Vitamin C and kept pumping me with water, and watching the time so I could get a couple of hours of sleep. I’m so glad and grateful that I had her with me. I don’t know what I would do without her. She helps me with my outfits and how I should do my hair and with my makeup. She’s the best.

Q. How concerned were you in the Group Round after you forgot some of the lyrics?

A. “That whole moment was definitely nerve-wracking, because I knew that song and I was like, ‘Okay, this is a good song because I don’t really have to practice it so much for the words – more the melody and making it my own.’ And when I sang it, I don’t know what happened! It was crazy. It was paralysis by analysis – I saw the judges. I don’t know how to describe it. They were intimidating – just seeing them there, and it was only my second day performing in front of them in Hollywood. It was really hard, but I think I covered it by doing my own little run.”

Q. What’s been the most fun thing for you so far?

A. “There’s a lot of camaraderie. There are actually five minors on the show this year, so we’re together in a school room doing schoolwork with Wendy our teacher. And all five of us always like to mess around and we can never stay on point, because we’re always laughing or harmonizing together – or tweeting and Facebooking.

Q. How was it tonight watching the guys?

A. “I’m pumped now, because right when the boys’ show was finished, all the girls were like, ‘Okay, let’s go, it’s our time! We don’t want to wait another full day.” Because we have to wake up really early tomorrow and go through our run-throughs and go through a dress rehearsal. So we don’t want to wait all that time. We just want go on stage and do it.’

Q. That “awkward moment” clip from the audition round has been a running bit – when it appeared that your Dad (Joe Magrane) was angry at Steven (for saying the weather in “Beantown” was “hot, humid and happening like your daughter.”) What was your reaction to all that?

A. “I was watching and that’s a frequently asked question: Was the Steven Tyler moment really as awkward on TV as it was in person? Actually, I remember him saying that but it was edited on TV to make that awkward silence. I was really surprised when I saw it on TV – I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, get it off, get it off.’ And they had it there for like five seconds of silence, and I thought, ‘This is so weird.’ My dad was like, ‘I don’t remember making that face.’ But you know what – we’ll go with it. It’s a Steven Tyler thing.”

Q. What’s it like standing there week after week and singing for Randy, Jennifer and Steven?

A. “It’s so amazing seeing these three iconic people in front of us and we have to perform for them. They’ve been through all of this and they’ve been told no; they’ve been told yes. It’s such a privilege for me to be able to perform in front of them – and for me to have feedback from them. They’ve given me the best feedback so I can get better and better at what I’m doing.

Q. And how do you control the butterflies? Is that something you’ve learned from performing so much growing up?

A. “Yes, definitely. This is my favorite quote from my dad. ‘I know you’re nervous and you have butterflies, but it’s a matter of making the butterflies fly in formation.’ To me, it means that when you’re singing, you shouldn’t be nervous. You should make your notes come out and feel the song so your singing and your message comes across – to not only yourself but to everybody else.”


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