My interview with Alyssa Raghu, a Lake Nona local chasing her music dreams on American Idol this season, occurred over a FaceTime call across the country. Raghu was in the car on her way home from a radio interview and I am in another state.
After trying my best to chase down this rising star, we were finally able to find a time in Raghu’s schedule that worked well enough with mine to talk about all her American Idol dreams, her single “Leave” that was released in 2017, her love of 80’s and 90’s pop music, and everything that she hopes will come from Idol and beyond.
With the community rallying around Raghu, from hosting a variety of watch parties for the young singer, including one on Sunday, April 15th at 7:00 at the Lake Nona Town Center, Raghu has been ever supported by her friends, family, and community as she begins her journey towards doing the thing she loves most: making music.
Raghu has a versatile and powerhouse voice, a killer personality, and just enough ambition and nerve to pull each of these aspects together enough to chase after her dreams of breaking into the music industry. As of right now, she’s made the Top 24 of American Idol, hung out with one of her music inspirations and Idol judge, Katy Perry, and had a rocking belated Sweet Sixteen party at Jacq & Jack.
And yes, you read that right. This young woman is just 16 years old, a high school sophomore, and she’s already quickly on her way to stardom.
Raghu was born in Tucson, Arizona but arrived in Lake Nona when she was only six months old. She is of both Indian and Mexican descent, which is something she hopes will help her to reach as many audiences and people as possible throughout the American Idol competition. With her ever-supportive Dad by her side, Raghu admits that she’s spent the majority of her life being shy, but always having a passion for music and singing, which she credits her family with, as well as some of her favorite music artists.
“I love Blondie, she’s so good, I would love to make music like her. I love Aaliyah from the 90’s and early 2000’s, she’s great”, said Raghu. “I also love the Jacksons, Michael, and Janet.”
Not only is Raghu an incredibly talented singer, with her YouTube channel (@AlyssaRaghu) filled with her covering music from The Police, Nick Jonas, and Ed Sheeran, but she also writes her own music. She’s released a single on Spotify and iTunes, called “Leave” and Raghu credits the song with being part of her experimenting with a style and testing the waters with the music industry and how she would be seen because of it.
“I really am trying to create a different sound everytime that I release something,” said Raghu. “My next single or my next album, I don’t think it’s going to sound like that at all. Maybe more 80’s or 90’s pop, but with some acoustic guitar in there, and meaningful lyrics, because I think meaningful lyrics are worth it. I don’t really like the stuff that’s just nonsense.”
Raghu describes her experience on Idol as a total whirlwind, though for 16, she’s handled the experience with poise and maturity, even if at times there is a lot of hard work and quick-turnaround between learning songs, filming, and of course, publicity.
“The business is tough,” said Raghu on the difficulties that can come from being on Idol. “If they want to change stuff, you have to just be okay with it. You always need to be prepared, regardless of what they throw.”
While The American Idol experience has provided Raghu with a variety of experiences and moments that are helping to forward her career in the music industry, she credits being able to meet Katy Perry and talk with her as one of her favorite aspects of it all. Perry has been one of Raghu’s favorite singers since middle school where she remembers earning all A’s every year, and that her dad had offered to let her get one thing that she wanted for earning perfect grades. She chose Katy Perry’s new album.
“To think that I was there, and that I’m here now, and [Katy Perry] is like- ‘oh you should probably do a cool high note there in your next song-”, Raghu laughs, “It’s such a spiral of what life can really throw at you and I’m just so grateful. That’s the most surreal thing.”
Though we won’t know if Raghu will make it on to the next round until Sunday’s episode airs, what we do know is that she is undoubtedly one of Lake Nona’s most talented and notable figures as of right now. As she continues to pursue her own dream on Idol and finding a way to break into the industry, she notes that whether she wins or loses the competition, the Idol experience has been life-changing for her and brought so many new opportunities for her at such a young age.
“This is my life, this is my dream, and I’m not just gonna sit and wait until someone does notice. I’m going to be knocking on record label doors and doing my best to put my albums out there, my songs out there, and to be known” said Raghu.
Update: As of April 16th, 2018, Alyssa Raghu was eliminated from Idol and was not selected for the Top 14. There is a possibility for her to get a wildcard spot later on in the show.