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She was a finalist on America's Got Talent, and she is first in many books around the music industry. At only 14, Julienne Irwin, won plenty of fans, yet narrowly lost the 2008 national talent contest to Terry Fator, a ventriloquist who performs regularly at the Mirage in Vegas. Now 18, Julienne is poised and ready to finish high school and embark on her music career. "Until the show I had never really sung in front of an audience before," admits the teen. Since then, she has performed in front of thousands, touring with Kenny Rogers and singing the national anthem to a crowd of over 150,000 at a NASCAR race.
In a time when teenage girls top the charts in country music, Irwin is determined to set herself apart from other young performers of her generation. She demonstrates a work ethic and business savvy far beyond her years. "My goal is to make great decisions on material and make really good music. And, I want to be here for the long haul." Now in her junior year in high school in her hometown in Maryland, Irwin is a long way from the glitz of Nashville. She fills her time doing things you might expect from a girl her age. "I was a cheerleader before all of this began and I am a huge sports fan. I probably inherited that from my dad. I always loved to sing and I used to pretend that my stuffed animals were my audience. I was too young (at 14) to audition for American Idol so I went on the internet and found America's Got Talent instead. I asked my dad if he'd let me try out."
And with that, Phil Irwin unknowingly set his daughter's career in motion. He unenthusiastically agreed to take her to the audition in Boston with one big caveat. If he let her skip school to go to the try-outs, she had to treat it as an educational trip to the town chock full of American history. "We walked the Freedom Trail and visited the Old North Church," she recalls. "And he made me read Johnny Tremain during the long wait to audition." To the elder Irwin's surprise and delight, his daughter progressed from one level to another and they ended up making a temporary move to LA to shoot the show. Julienne recalls, "It was during summer and I remember being so homesick. All my friends were doing fun summer things and I was out in LA. But I was on a TV show so I guess it all turned out okay!"
Even after offers started to pour in trying to capitalize on her "girl next door" look, Phil and Marcia, Julienne's mother, ensured that she remained grounded by insisting that she finish school. Her management stresses that she is free and clear from any contracts or obligations to the show or network. "They really wanted to sign her right away and commit for a long time," confides her dad, "but the timing wasn't right then. Now she's older and knows that this is what she wants." Julienne's future is as bright as her imagination. "I don't know that I would be happy doing the Miley Cyrus thing -- acting and then singing. I think that's great for her...it is just not me. I am a singer." she says matter-of-factly.
At this point she is moving forward by making periodic trips to Nashville to meet with producers and hone her songwriting skills. "I am the first to admit that songwriting does not come naturally to me, but I love that collaborative process and I know I am getting better. I am looking forward to learning and taking advantage of the great songwriting pool that Nashville offers."