By Michele Bernard, TSB Lifestyle Editor
As I ring the doorbell and wait for my former intern, Luke Cavanagh, to answer the door, I realize it’s with mixed emotions I anticipate the interview at hand. I am to speak with him, and his kid sister, American Idol Season 11 finalist Hollie Cavanagh, to learn more about the next big steps they are taking on the road to achieving their dreams.
On the one hand, I am so excited to see these wonderful kids fly the coop. I am excited for the new adventures that await them in their soon-to-be new home in Los Angeles. On the other hand, I’m sad to see them go. I’ve grown fond of these two over the past couple of years, and I will miss them.
With the help of Shankley, the furry four-legged Cavanagh that boasts a social media fan base that rivals Hollie’s, Luke walks me through the beautiful home he and his sister share with their folks and brother Aaron. We enter an upstairs study, that has literally been transformed into the command center for Operation Let’s Move Hollie And Luke.
In the middle of the room sits McKinney’s diminutive diva with the larger-than-life voice, Hollie Cavanagh. Neatly lined up beside here like a platoon of fabulous size-five soldiers sits her extensive collection of blinged out, glittered, and candy colored show-ready high-heeled shoes. Not to be outdone, equally shiny flats, boots and a clothes rack filled with a sparkling array of finery flank the tiny songbird on either side. Hollie’s task: sort, organize and pack. Moving day is within the week.
Picking up a scrapbook the exact color of the bright pink cast on her arm, courtesy of a recent indoor soccer injury, Hollie takes a break to sit down with her brother and me to talk about her journey thus far.
“The two people who gave me this scrapbook actually met on Twitter during the show,” says Cavanagh of the fans who followed her via social media during her American Idol run. “Their names are Brittany and Brian. They became the Hollie-pop Couple. They started talking back and forth on Twitter and discovered they really liked each other. They started visiting one another in their respective states. When we went on tour, I got them tickets to the show and IDs to get back stage. They ended up going to like three of our shows.”
Flipping open the ornately decorated book filled with photos and well wishes from fans, Hollie continues, “Brittany spent hours making this. On this page, if you read the message, it’s a letter made up of lines taken from every song I sang on the show. Then, on this page, she filled it with things that people said on Twitter and stuff.”
Brittany and Bryan are but two of the thousands of fans who are members of Hollie’s fan base collectively known as “Hollie-pops.”
“All the scrapbooks I’ve received from fans are filled with pictures and memories that I won’t ever forget,” Hollie says. “It’s like they took little bits of the show and put them on the pages.”
Hollie’s American Idol experience has taken her through the past two years of her young life. The 2011 McKinney Boyd High School grad first became known to the rest of the world during Idol’s 10th season, when she just missed the cut to move into the finals of the internationally acclaimed singing competition.
Though she didn’t advance, Hollie did receive popular support and encouragement from popular performer and former member of the judging panel, Jennifer Lopez.
Taking J-Lo’s words to heart, Hollie gave the singing competition another go in Season 11. Her tenacity paid off, when she went on to sing her way to the fourth place position.
At the conclusion of the 2012 competition, which saw Phillip Phillips coming out on top, Hollie, along with other top-10 finalists, embarked on a summer tour, playing packed venues throughout the United States, and beyond. Audiences in Canada and the Phillipines were treated to an amazing show as well. To read TSB’s review of the Dallas leg of the tour, click here.
“The first time I tried out for American Idol seems like forever ago,” says Hollie. “Even last year seems forever ago. I missed all of Shankley’s puppy stages. When I get the chance to catch the show this year, everything flows back into my mind. It was really fun. And being on tour was amazing.”
Post-tour, the cast mates communicate and stay apprised of one another’s adventures as their busy schedules allow.
“I stay in touch with Josh [Ledet] obviously,” says Hollie of the best friend she made along the way. “We text each other all the time, and Josh is going to stay with us when he is in L.A. recording. The rest of us keep in touch when something happens. We all group text a lot.”
Once back in McKinney, Hollie didn’t stay put for long. Soon, her schedule had her traveling with family back to Liverpool, England, the place the Cavanagh family called home before they found McKinney.
“England was so much fun,” says Hollie, “I had a really good time. When we got there, I did interviews, and sang for the school I attended when I was young, which was really fun. I didn’t expect to get recognized by anyone other than my family. And I wasn’t that much. But one night when out with my friend, about an hour into a conversation with a guy she was talking to, he turned to me and said, ‘Hey! Are you the little scouse girl who was on American Idol?’ It was so funny and unexpected.”
Scouse is the distinct accent or dialect associated with Cavanagh’s hometown of Liverpool.
Even though most of Hollie’s American Idol memories include the word fun, it wasn’t always easy.
“There were times when it got frustrating, but now that I’m moving to Los Angeles, I am just like so thankful for the experiences, all of them, because if I hadn’t been on the show, I wouldn’t be able to move to Los Angeles. And, I wouldn’t be able to have the manager that I have now, or the people I get to write music with. It’s just been such a good thing.”
Nathan Porter serves as Hollie’s manager, and her songwriting collaborators are Cameron Jaymes and Jeffery Joslin.
“I met Nathan when I was on the show,” says Cavanagh. “After the show [wrapped] I contacted him. He is very passionate about what he does. Plus, I feel like I know him and can trust him.”
Through Porter, Cavanagh was introduced to singer/songwriter Cameron Jaymes, who along with pop artist/producer/songwriter, Jeffrey Joslin are currently collaborating with Cavanagh crafting songs for her debut offering.
“They are both really cool, very pop driven and wonderful to work with,” she says.
Hollie admits that while singing is definitely in her wheelhouse, writing songs hasn’t come as easily for her.
“My first song writing session I was scared,” she says. “I would try to write, but then I would get so frustrated. I’m still new to writing. I never realized it would be so hard at first. I really want to be a singer and a songwriter though. I don’t want all my albums to be just like full of songs that are given to me. I mean, I don’t expect to write a number one hit by tomorrow, but I’m still getting used to it, still learning.”
At this writing, Cavanagh, Jaymes and Joslin have penned three songs.
“I just got one of them back,” says Cavanagh. “I’m just hoping that when I get to L.A., I will be able to continue writing in the studio and start recording, getting the songs right so we can release them.”
Making the trip with Hollie will be her big brother Luke. While Hollie spends her time singing and honing her songwriting skills, Luke plans to pursue a career in public relations.
“I found us an apartment,” says Luke, “It was difficult to find. Thankfully, Cameron and Nathan were helping us. We will be right by The Grove in the area called the Miracle Mile. It’s where American Idol is shot, so it is in an area that we now know very well.”
While the to-do list associated with moving cross country has prohibited Luke and Hollie from catching many episodes of Idol lately, once settled in L.A., they both look forward to perhaps catching a lunch with this season’s cast members and taking in a live show.
“To say I am a huge Mariah Carey fan is an understatement,” says Hollie. “She is my American Idol! It is my dream to get to meet her one day.”
Over the course of our conversation, the scrapbooks, clothes and rows of fabulous shoes wait patiently to be packed. Even four-legged Shankley seems to know that within days, he along with his people will be on the road heading west.
The working title of Hollie’s first song is “Outer Limits,” a tune about how, with encouragement from the one you love, you find you’re able to push boundaries and move beyond your comfort zone.
“It’s hard leaving McKinney, because my family is here,” says Hollie. “I will miss them a lot. But it’s something I have to do for myself. Singing is what I want to do and Los Angeles is the best place for me to be. I want to get out there and start making music and start releasing it. I hope good things happen…not just for me, but for all the people who are supporting me. And, if I make a good enough album and get to go on tour, obviously, coming home will be absolutely the best.”