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Jax, 'American Idol Live' tour at Chautauqua

By Dave Richards

July 23, 2015 06:54 AM

Fve is the magic number for the annual American Idol Live tour with competitors from the iconic Fox reality singing show. Past years featured the season's top 10 finishers, but the 2015 tour includes just five -- winner Nick Fradiani, plus finalists Clark Beckham, Rayvon Owen, Tyanna Jones and Jax.


As a result, each "Idol" winner gets more time in the spotlight to sing and share stories, as well as perform in group numbers.


Pop-punk singer Jax -- who lists Paramore, the Beatles and Billy Joel among her favorite performers -- may have the most dramatic story to share when American Idol Live pulls into Chautauqua Amphitheatre on Friday. Her father was a firefighter with the Brooklyn Engine 276 company during 9/11 and afterward. Months of inhaling fumes and at ground zero forced him to take early retirement due to a medical disability in 2005.


"It was kind of a blessing in disguise that he had to retire after 9/11," Jax said, by phone. "It was heartbreaking for him, but he became my partner in crime in changing the world. He's like my best friend. He's my toughest critic, but he's also my biggest fan so I feel blessed to have him in my corner. My parents are like the coolest."


Jax's father became her manager and biggest supporter during her exhilarating yet pressure-packed "American Idol" experience. Not surprisingly, she credits their love of music as a big influence.

"I think everyone's parents had some sort of influence on what kind of music they like," Jax said. "I grew up on classic rock and even show tunes at dinner. They'd always open me up to all kinds of music and culture. "I was always learning. I grew up on theater and Janis Joplin and the Stones and everything. I love all music," she added. "I think it's probably been that way since I was like in my mom's tummy. I'd just be pumping out random tunes. Eventually, I developed my own style but they're totally the reason I was so interested in music."


Jax says her first concert, at age 3 or 4, was by either Hilary Duff or Britney Spears -- she couldn't remember. This past year, she's been on a concert roll, catching Art Garfunkel, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Natalie Merchant and Alanis Morissette. At the Joel concert, she sat next to David Cassidy.


Now it's her turn to be on stage entertaining others. On Friday, with "Idol" performers backed by a live band, look for Jax to belt out songs by such artists as the Who, Paramore and Bon Jovi, plus her own first single "Forcefield." In group numbers, she'll also sing hits by Fun, Kelly Clarkson and Lenny Kravitz. The concert mixes current Top 40 hits (like Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again") with pop, rock, soul and country classics.


Jax said her fellow finalists have become close friends. They shared the experience instead of feeling like combatants, so not winning was not a crushing disappointment. Where else could she have shared a mike with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler?


"It is what it is," Jax said. "I felt like a winner the day I got the golden ticket. So, at some point, I stopped treating it like a game show and appreciated every moment."