Interview with ‘American Idol’ contestant Micaela McCall: I’m grateful for the exposure



Reimagining a classic Stevie Wonder song has changed Micaela McCall’s life.

The 28-year-old Centerville High School graduate is still basking in the glow of having punched her ticket to Hollywood on the Season 22 premiere of “American Idol,” which aired Feb. 18. At her “Idol” audition in Santa Barbara, Calif., where she teaches voice and piano, McCall wowed judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan with a slower, laidback version of the traditionally upbeat “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).” It was a bold move that showcased her instincts as an artist unafraid to take risks.

“The lyrics are very sentimental and I thought there was room to change the rearrangement,” McCall explains.

The singer/songwriter got the idea for the new arrangement shortly after high school while studying jazz piano at the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music.

“I think I was getting back together with my boyfriend at the time,” McCall admits. “But it has stuck with me ever since then and I never even thought it was a risky choice for ‘Idol.’ I couldn’t have imagined it until everyone said it was so I’m glad I wasn’t aware of that.”

Unlike some budding artists who have always viewed “Idol” as a huge stepping stone, McCall says she never aspired to be on the show. However, trusting her instincts and being open to advice has already proven to be productive.

“I never would have imagined I would be on ‘Idol.’ I didn’t see it in the cards at all, but I’m so excited that it is. (‘Idol’) has taught me that I’m on the right path and that I should continue to pursue (music) and that I have a gift. When I saw Lionel Richie nodding his head to me singing, especially a Stevie Wonder song, it’s all the confirmation I need.”

Credit: Disney

Credit: Disney

McCall is also proud of the response that followed her viral rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Misérables” which she performed in a parking garage. She continues to value the beauty and depth within the song, especially how it mirrors her path right now.

“The image of me singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ in that parking garage couldn’t describe better where I am in my life,” McCall says. “You just see a girl wishing that life could be so much more and yet she’s just singing in a parking garage and then the whole world hears it. That moment was so full of meaning. I think everyone felt it that watched it, and I think that’s what propelled me to ‘American Idol.’”

She also takes pride in the art of busking, which she regards as a positive motivator as a performer.

“For me, busking was an opportunity to gain more confidence and start sharing my voice with the world even though it’s not as official as a paid gig,” McCall explains. “I did a lot of (busking) as a kid but it’s not something I’ve done as easily or as confidently as an adult.”



Growing up in Centerville, McCall, daughter of longtime Dayton Daily News reporter Ken McCall, says she was “obsessed” with such music legends as the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and Bill Withers. She also participated in numerous music activities including Centerville High School’s contemporary a cappella troupe Forte formerly directed by Ben Spalding, Epiphany Players Drama Ministry formerly directed by the late Kay Frances Wean, and Kettering Children’s Choir co-founded by Artistic Director Emeritus Natalie DeHorn.

“I want to thank every music teacher I had in the Centerville school system,” McCall says. “I had the most phenomenal musical training growing up. I started played cello in third grade and joined choir in middle school. Ben Spalding gave me opportunities to sing and perform that are going to prepare me for Hollywood Week. That’s how big of a deal those performances were.”

As her “Idol” journey progresses to the all-important Hollywood Week, which is likely to air in late March, McCall is grateful for the support and validation she has received. She envisions herself as “a folk artist with a touch of soul,” and recently released a song titled “Milk and Honey” on Spotify. In addition to writing and releasing more new songs as soon as possible, she is open to performing in Dayton in the future and encourages her fans to hold fast to their dreams.

“The (‘Idol’ experience) has given me wings to fly,” McCall says. “It has also showed me all the hard work has paid off and everything happens in the right time. If there’s something that you love, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come into fruition immediately. Don’t give up on your dreams — you have them for a reason.”



How to watch

“American Idol” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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