Candice Russell made it past the first round on popular reality competition
by: Jaime Valdez Candice Russell is one of 300 hopefuls on “American Idol,” which airs Wednesdays and Thursdays on FOX.

Out of more than 55,000 hopefuls to audition for Season 11 of the popular singing competition 'American Idol,' Tualatin's Candice Russell, 19, was one of 300 to walk away with a ticket to Hollywood.

'When my friends found out, my Facebook blew up,' Russell said. 'Everyone was really excited for me. It's something you kind of have to keep under wraps until it airs, so everyone was really surprised.'

When the show premiered in mid-January on FOX, Russell was briefly featured on camera as one of the 4,000 who participated in the Portland auditions in July.

Though her audition didn't air, Russell won the celebrity judges over by singing 'The Trouble With Love Is,' a song by the first American Idol, Kelly Clarkson.

With the preliminary auditions out of the way, 'Hollywood Week' begins airing this week. In this round, the celebrity judges will pare down 300 contestants to what will ultimately become the top 24 contestants, who will then perform in front of a live, national audience. Community members will have to tune in to see if Russell's performances air, and if she makes the cut.

'It's been a good experience - definitely a learning experience,' Russell said. 'Parts of it were fun; parts of it were stressful, but I'm really glad I'm doing it.'

Incredible pitch

'It's always been a dream and passion of mine to be in the music industry,' Russell said. 'I just love to perform, and I love to be onstage. I've always loved it. I kind of feel like it was what I was made to do.'

Russell, a 2010 graduate of Horizon Christian High School, has been singing for as long as she can remember, performing choir solos at church or school.

'When I was a little girl, I wouldn't even feel nervous,' Russell said of performing in front of crowds. 'In fact, now I feel more nervous.'

Her parents, Stan and Karen Russell, can attest to that.

'There were two things that became apparent to us (when Candice was a child): One, she's got a great voice and incredible pitch and two, that she was not afraid to get onstage,' Stan said. 'If there was any anxiety, it would disappear when she got on stage. It was weird.'

Everyone in the family has been a longtime fan of the show.

'To me, American Idol is a show the whole family can watch. We've been watching it since season one,' Stan said. 'Candice is pretty humble; she never thought she could be one of those people, but she just keeps getting better and better and better. I don't think she's hit her ceiling yet.'

Songwriter too

Russell has been writing songs since she was 13 or 14, though Stan said she was closer to 5 or 6 when she first started writing down song ideas with her brother Aaron.

'My dad taught me four chords, and that's when I started writing,' she said. '(My first song) was a Christian song, like a worship song.'

Aaron produces each of his sister's songs right in their own home, in a downstairs studio.

'It's great, because when they get inspiration, they can go right downstairs and crank it out,' Stan said.

Stan said that for a time, he was pushing Candice toward writing strictly for the Christian music scene.

'She has a heart to be a good role model for girls - young girls,' Stan Russell said. 'But she feels like she can still honor God (by writing for a broader audience), and I think she can too.'

After high school, Russell debated about whether to attend college, knowing she wanted to pursue music. She ultimately decided to focus on her music for a time, while working part time at Horizon Christian Learning Center.

Russell has been offered a record deal from a company outside of the 'American Idol' franchise, but is waiting on her decision regarding what to do with the offer until after she's through with the reality show.

'I'm basically going to do anything I can (to continue singing), no matter how 'American Idol' turns out,' Russell said. 'I'm going to keep doing it.'

'American Idol' airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

To see a video of Candice Russell singing an original song, visit our Facebook page

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