Nanaimo’s Lauren Spencer-Smith, 16, recently earned her first Juno Award nomination and on March 1 she appears on American Idol. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Juno-nominated teen singer from Port Alberni to appear on ‘American Idol’

Lauren Spencer-Smith up for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for ‘Unplugged, Vol. 1’

This weekend, 16-year-old singer and recent Juno Award nominee Lauren Spencer-Smith will appear on American Idol.

Spencer-Smith, who now lives in Nanaimo but is from Port Alberni, auditioned for the televised vocal competition in Oregon in November. She said the atmosphere was “super positive” and she made lasting friendships.

“The best part is not only getting to sing in front of the judges and getting critiques and getting help from them, but just all the people you meet and all the families,” Spencer-Smith said. “You just instantly have a connection with everyone because you all love music.”

On March 1 Spencer-Smith will get to be in her own audience when she tunes in to see her performance on her best friend’s “huge TV.”

“We’ve been watching the first two episodes at her house with a whole group of people. We have a huge watch party,” Spencer-Smith said. “But this one … there’s going to be so many people there.”

Two weeks after her Idol debut, Spencer-Smith will be in Saskatoon for the 2020 Juno Awards. She’s up for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for her debut album, Unplugged, Vol. 1, recorded live at the Port Theatre in July.

Unplugged, Vol. 1 is up against Shine A Light by Bryan Adams, Both Sides by Marc Jordan, Melt by Nuela Charles and Empower by Renée Lamoureux.

Spencer-Smith said she was “in shock” when she heard she got the nomination.

“I just immediately phoned my mom and she wasn’t answering and I was leaving messages like, “I’m nominated for a Juno Award’ and I was freaking out and I was telling all of my friends and no one was answering me,” she said. “Still I don’t believe it. It’s super surreal.”

The Juno Awards will be held on March 15, one year and one day after Spencer-Smith posted a now-viral Facebook video of her rendition of Lady Gaga’s song Always Remember Us This Way, from the film A Star is Born. Coincidentally, that video, which has since amassed more than 31 million views, put Spencer-Smith’s own career in motion.

“Everything just started to immediately happen right after that,” she said. “I got a manager, I went on Steve Harvey, we started releasing songs, started performing. We just had a huge social media following. Everything just basically fell into my lap. I didn’t go out and reach for it.”

She said managing such a busy schedule was stressful at first. She was attending Dover Bay Secondary School during the day and working at a restaurant until 10 p.m. on weeknights.

“At the time when I was having all the things going on like school, my job and music my teachers we like, ‘We were concerned. You seemed very on edge all the time, you seemed really stressed out,’” she said. “But now that music is my job, it’s a lot easier.”

Spencer-Smith said she always envisioned that she would pursue a career in music after she graduates from high school. She said the Juno nomination has added to the excitement she has for her future, but she doesn’t know what she’ll say if she wins.

“I think it has to be an in-the-moment kind of speech,” she said.

American Idol airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC. The Juno Awards will be broadcast on March 15 on CBC.



arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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