Brianna Ruelas talks about her experience on American Idol, what happened afterward and what should we do differently. She also shares how she revitalized her career after becoming a mom and is really coming into her own now that she is in her 40s. Be inspired from this interview that it’s never too late to pursue your music dreams.
Brianna started in musical theater. She graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in Theater Arts, but it was right after that she realized she was burnt out on musical theater.
Since she was in LA that time, she segued into commercial and radio voiceover and thought about acting. But it didn’t take long for her to realize that music was her first love, not musical theater, but vocals and singing. It had been maybe the third season of American Idol and auditions were underway. Brianna decided to audition and that was back in season four.
I’m bitter because American Idol came out when I started having kids so I never had that opportunity.
Brianna knew that music was for her and she could sing but at that time she felt that for record labels, reality singing shows were the only avenue into the music industry. She auditioned several times before she made it on the show. It was kind of a rocky experience for her and this is also what she shares in her book. She talks about mistakes she made so others can learn from them and use them not just on the show but beyond the show.
Joining Reality Shows is an opportunity, a beginning, potentially a spring board for your music career or something that can leverage you to continue moving you forward. People need to look at it as a leverage point, not an endpoint. Even the people that win, some of them, their career doesn’t take off because they’re dependent on the label and they haven’t put in their own time to build their fan base on the side and everything.
Brianna Shares Her Mistakes So Others Can Learn from Them
1. Not having a set of songs prepared
During audition, Brianna sang obscure songs — Christina Aguilera’s Fly and Joan Osborne’s Spider Web. She advises to learn from her mistake with regard to song choice. Thankfully they gave her a shot. She advises that “You want to have those 4 or 5 songs in your back pocket, but they need to align with one another. They need a fit.” What the songs she sang did though was to showcase her range. But she did not have an idea who she was as an artist during that time.
2. Not staying in communication
Brianna made it to the top 100 out of 100,000 who auditioned that season. When she moved apartments from Sherman Oaks to Woodland Hills, she forgot to tell American Idol that she moved. They sent out a package for her to prepare for Hollywood because Randy Jackson told her that she needs to prepare Melissa Etheridge since she had that vibe. So her vocal coach Steven Memel prepared her and worked a ton with her on Melissa Etheridge. She eventually learned that they were preparing the wrong music since American Idol wanted her to learn The Letter from The Box Tops or Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. She learned that her biggest mistakes back then was not staying in communication.
When she had the chance to do her own music in a studio, she realized her lifelong dream of recording her own music. Although she had been songwriting for years, it was her first time doing her own song. She realized, “This is a long game and it’s a journey.” You’re never too old to hold on, to harness that passion and keep the dream alive.
That is a big mantra of mine that you’re never too old to pursue your music dreams. I have students that are in their 70s that are making amazing music. I have people on this show that are in their 50s that are have done amazing things. I hope everyone listens to that, that you’re never too old. Also, some would say it’s the craziest time to start your music career when you become a mom, but I started my career in Earnest when my oldest daughter was two. When I first became a mom, I thought to myself, I tried to convince myself that I don’t do music anymore because that’s too complicated and I don’t have time for that. That lasted for about six weeks because I thought I was going to go nuts.
Brianna had the same thinking that because she was a mom, it would be selfish of her to pursue her passions and dreams of music. After American Idol when she had her first daughter, she thought that her music career was over because American Idol was her last shot. Years later, her husband talked to her and advised her to pursue music again or will she not only get herself crazy but she’s going to make him crazy too. Brianna was depressed that time. She thought she had to be contented because she was married and has a kid, has a house and everything else but she was depressed. It was the lack of connection to music. When you have music in you, it’s in your blood, in your bones. It’s your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
That was when she researched and found an audition opportunity at the House of Blues. She met her producer and band leader. She started plugging into the Dallas Music Community. She gigged around Dallas for several years until she got pregnant with her second daughter. This was while she also had a 9 to 5 job. She continued gigging during weekends while having a full time job and being pregnant. She took a break after having her second child. But when baby number three came, she shifted into vocal coaching and performance coaching, where she worked with a lot of bands. That was when she started her first book, Performing Artist Pathway, which is all about navigating the highs and lows of your music journey. Her book title is very similar to my book name, The Musician’s Profit Path.
Musicians need to know that they need to stop being in survival mode all the time. For the reality television book, I tell people that it is not for everyone but it is an opportunity to get your message, your music and your brand seen and heard by millions of people. If you can get past the fact that it’s an entertainment television show, be yourself, be authentic, go on there and give everything you got, I don’t see how you can lose.
Finding A System That Works for You
With three kids and owning a restaurant, a lot of people ask Brianna how she was able to pursue her career and do her book. Brianna believes that you can find your prime time of the day where you can be most productive, which she finds is just like me, in the early morning at around 4 am. That’s when you can do most of your work. The key is to find your genius hour.
She’s a maximizer and strategist, and when she sits with artists, she sees that a lot of artists have a lot of things and plans on their mind that they are not able to deal with them correctly. The key is to find a system that works for you. For example, on Fridays, it’s my podcasts day. I do interviews for other people and do podcasts. I do not want it to do another day. As a mom, business owner and other things, you have to stick to a schedule and have boundaries to be able to do your goals. Avoiding distractions is the key.
Shifts to Artists During the Pandemic
Brianna feels that for several years, she has been telling people to stop relying on live shows for income. Now, during the pandemic, people now get it and understand how diversifying their income, leveraging their brand and engaging their fans as important. A lot of artists saw that as a nuisance but now they have realized that they can still connect with their fans virtually.
Some people shifted to thinking everything will be online but I feel like performing live is part of our lifeblood. A lot of Brianna’s clients felt depressed due to not being able to perform live. Live shows allows artists to build true connections as well as show their true selves to their fans. It’s concerning if small venues will be coming back in the next years. As she said, Brianna owns a restaurant and she is excited at getting back to booking but it’s not possible at the moment. Being on both sides as a musician and a venue owner, she understands that it takes a lot to provide a performance so artists should be paid accordingly.
What Brianna Is Up To
Brianna’s audio book is in the works. She has a mastermind group on Facebook called Reality TV Music Mastermind specifically for those interested in auditioning for reality singing shows. She’s been doing some week-long challenges diving into all the little things to maximize the preparation. “It’s not about choosing a great song, but it’s about your story. It’s about your personality. It’s about networking while you’re in the environment and meeting people because I want you not only to get on the show, but I want you to get on the show and be able to leverage it.” There are many things that you can do from the show, from the people you meet to the people you connect with.
With the pandemic and social distancing, do reality shows still happen?
Now is a great time to be considering auditioning for something like American Idol, The Voice, or even America’s Got Talent because they are casting. They are still filming. They’re in LA doing The Voice now. I think American Idol finished casting also. There are virtual auditions, which means you’re not having to pay to travel to go to one of these big auditions. You can audition in your living room, so it’s much easier. If you don’t make the next season, you’re in their system. They might think, “I already got someone like you for this one,” but maybe they’ll keep you in mind for a future season.
Brianna talked to a casting scout from The Voice and she got let go from The Voice. They don’t need anyone to scout talent anymore because the talent is coming to them through these virtual auditions. It nixed her position, which is interesting, but at the end of the day, the point is like, they’re not shutting down.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Books: The Musician’s Profit Path
Facebook Group: Reality TV Music Mastermind