By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
Chicago singer Sharon Irving’s life was changed with one push of a Golden Buzzer during America’s Got Talent (AGT) ‘s tenth anniversary season.
After her powerful and goose-bump inducing interpretation of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” judge Mel B used her Golden Buzzer and gave Sharon the opportunity to perform at Radio City Music Hall.
When she arrived at the iconic New York City theatre, Sharon captured the hearts of the nation by honoring her grandparents (who were Civil Rights Activists, plus her grandfather marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) with an astonishing cover of Selma’s Oscar-winning anthem: “Glory” and an incredible solo of John Lennon’s timeless classic “Imagine.”
Despite being eliminated just one week before the finale, Sharon left a huge legacy on the America’s Got Talent stage and set the standards extremely high for vocalists to compete on the show.
In this edition of The Five Question Challenge, Sharon shared her thoughts on AGT: Season 10 all male finale and teased her upcoming album.
Jacob Elyachar: How did you grow as a performer since your time on “America’s Got Talent”?
Sharon Irving: I grew up around music. My dad was the musical director for Miles Davis, but the show definitely stretched me in new ways and took me outside my comfort zone. I have been performing my whole life, since I was little girl, around age 5 but this was different. Performing on live TV helped me grow in my ability to sing under pressure. I grew in my ability to perform under pressure because everything was so fast paced and you had limited time to prepare. It also helped me grow ‘out’ of some of my insecurities. I was so encouraged by the judges’ feedback and comments. I was nervous because live TV adds to the nerves but seeing them give a standing ovation on each performance and hearing their words, really encouraged me. Hearing them affirm what I feel called to, to change the world with my music, made me feel like I was not crazy! I have always said I wanted to be a “voice for the voiceless”. After my audition, Mel B said it was like the first time I had really found my voice. Her comments blew me away!
JE: Could you please describe to my readers the feelings you felt when Mel B hit her Golden Buzzer at your audition?
SI: It felt surreal and a dream come true. I stood in front of one of my inspirations. I grew up listening to Spice Girls! She was one of the first woman I saw rock her natural hair. I wear my hair natural. It was the highlight of my year. I was in shock because I did not expect that to happen AT ALL. I was so nervous during that performance but I felt it in my soul, so after I got done singing I was not sure what would happen. I am grateful that even in the midst of nerves, she was able to feel my heart and soul as an artist.
JE: Your elimination from “AGT” was one of the most shocking moments from the season. There were also a lot of fans unhappy with the fact that joke acts such as Derek Hughes, Stevie Starr and Uzeyer Novruzov were chosen over powerful female performers such as yourself, Samantha Johnson & Alicia Michilli. Did you think America was wrong to have an all male Top 10 for “AGT’s” tenth anniversary season?
SI: I would be lying if I said I was disappointed that there was an all male Top 10 for the anniversary finale. I definitely noticed the difference watching that night. Let me be clear that all of the contestants on AGT supported each other, male and female alike. There were no egos. The day of my elimination, I hung out with Uzeyer Novruzov and my friends from Freckled Sky. So I am not diminishing any of the male contestants and their talent. I just believe that women add certain energy and the women this year on AGT were PHENOMENAL. I am all about diversity and having everyone at the table. That’s just me. I was a Sociology minor in college!
The part that makes me sad is that America only scratched the surface when it came to us, the singers on the show. We are all songwriters and composers. We are not just singers. For me, I was not able to share my original music or my knack for rhythm. It is really hard when you have 90-seconds and all of a sudden people are judging you based on one song. I wasn’t able to show that I can sing country and folk. I’m not monolithic. In fact, I’ve struggled my whole career with the question of where do I fit. I definitely don’t fit into a gospel singer lane. I write songs about what it means to be human – sometimes I write about love, life or faith. I am a hybrid artist. I hope to create my own lane.
JE: Currently, you are hard at work preparing to release your upcoming record. What can fans expect from the album?
SI: I am so excited for the people to hear this body of work. My debut album has been a LABOR of LOVE, to say the least. My biggest struggle has been funding and I had to press pause on the completion of the album because of the show but the release date is now set for December. It will be a collection of about 12 original songs. The album is called Bennett Ave, which is the street I grew up on. My grandparents moved into our family home in the 1950s. My grandmother passed away last year and now my mom is having to sell the house because she cannot afford to maintain it on her own and is struggling financially to make ends meet, so I wanted to honor that part of my family history. Bennett Ave is where I found my voice as an artist and as my favorite poet, Maya Angelou, once said: “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” Please stay tuned for the debut! Follow me on Twitter (@sharonirving), Instagram (@sharonirvingmusic) and on Facebook for DAILY updates. I love hearing from my supporters and fans!
JE: If you had the chance to meet with aspiring singers who want to enter the music industry, what advice would you share with them?
SI: I am still learning even as we speak! I do not have it all figured out. I wish I had someone giving me advice because I had to learn too many things the hard way. But, I would definitely say it is about finding and using your unique voice. It has taken me a long time to find and use my voice. I had to fight through insecurities. The music industry can be very daunting and there are people who will try to make you into something you are not, which can be tempting for artists who have more of a unique blended style that does not fit squarely into an industry formula. However, do not take the quick route and path of least resistance, as tempting as it might be. Don’t short cut. Listen to your inner compass. All we can do is be us! The world does not need clones or carbon copy artists. The world needs YOU to bring the full weight of who YOU are. No one can tell your story. It blows me away how many letters and e-mails I receive from people who say they were inspired by my story and voice. I am a girl from the South Side of Chicago. What if I was trying to be someone else or did not feel like my story was worth being told? Those people would not have been touched. I would also tell aspiring singers to educate themselves on the music business because it is a business. Sadly, it is not just about the music and inspiring people. The waters can get tainted and murky by other agendas. Learn how to protect your art. Research publishing, copyright, royalties et cetera. Always put things in writing. Again, I have learned the latter the HARD WAY. There is nothing wrong with lucrative partnerships, but make sure you align yourselves with people of integrity and get things in writing. Not all money is good money. It’s easy to lose sight of things and forget why we love making music and art when the business side creeps in. I know that’s true for me. Artists must stick together and support one another! Take the time to connect with your fans and supporters. That’s vital.
Want to learn more about Sharon Irving? Visit her website!