Yet in late 2011 the current Lakeview resident somehow found herself weighing the pros and cons of each program after being selected to appear on both. Following some careful deliberation--and a thorough perusal of both contracts--Montanez opted to compete on "American Idol," making it all the way to "Hollywood Week" before being shown the door.
In a recent phone interview, the 21-year-old singer, who's in the midst of working on a follow-up EP and sketching out plans for a cross-country tour, discussed her experiences on "Idol," her optimistic nature and why she doesn't fret if a black cat wanders into her path.
I thought Oprah was the only Chicagoan who could get away with going solely by her first name, yet here you are.
[Laughs] Yeah, you know, for a time I thought I should maybe use a stage name or a band name, but I started playing out so young and had already built up a following. I felt like I might have been taking steps backwards if I came up with a different name.
Does the decision to drop the Montanez mark the start of this new musical direction?
This is more of a pop record, and dropping the last name made it more clear it was something new. When people look up Kelsey Montanez they can find the old stuff. But now that it's just Kelsey it's about this new direction and this new sound.
Your new EP is called "A Delightful Sadness." Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?
I consider myself to be an optimist to the extreme, in most cases. The title came from something I was writing in my journal. I was going through this whole uninspired phase before this project started. I was feeling numb. I wasn't writing anything. I wasn't creating. My personal life was in shambles. Coming out of that numbness even sadness felt like an improvement. It was like, "OK, I'm feeling something. I have something to write about now."
You sing about that period on "10,000 Bombs," which also includes a line about being "out of luck." Are you a superstitious person?
I don't freak out if I see a black cat crossing the road or I break a mirror, but I do believe in signs and I do believe things happen for a reason. I try to be in tune to the world and universe ... and if things aren't going well I usually take it as a sign something needs to change.
When you started promoting your new EP you actually performed at a number of "L" stops. Had you ever busked before?
I did it once when I was younger. I was 15, and my friends and I wanted to see this concert, I forget which band...
Do you really forget? Or are you just too embarrassed to say who it was?
I don't know if I should tell you. It's embarrassing. Remember I was 15, OK? It was Mindless Self Indulgence. We wanted to see that show so I went on the street and played guitar for like two hours. I made 80 bucks and was able to get all my friends in.
You got a nice guest verse from Chance the Rapper on "Out of Sight." Is the title a reference to the Jennifer Lopez movie?
I didn't even know that was a movie. I feel like I live under a rock culturally.
She actually was a judge on your season of "American Idol," right?