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After whirlwind 'American Idol' journey, Jax enjoys victory lap

By Bobby Olivier

July 30, 2015

EAST BRUNSWICK — Two months removed from the blazing spotlight of "American Idol," Jax sits on a tour bus, a few hours before her next performance.

She says her legs are covered in bruises — a product of her energetic, even erratic on-stage style, which she can now unleash free from judgement.

"I don't know how to jump on the stage and not be an idiot," she says, laughing in a recent phone interview. "Pacing myself is not a concept I've mastered yet on tour."

The East Brunswick teen admits that she still has much to learn, about her voice, her musicianship and herself while traveling across the country this summer, as one-fifth of the American Idol Live! tour. The show rolls into Atlantic City and Red Bank for a pair of all-but-sold-out shows this weekend.

But after nearly a year spent on the most exhilarating and harrowing journey of her young life, which ended in part with a third-place "Idol" finish in May, Jax considers her current venture a "victory lap."

"We feel free and less nervous," she says of the "Idol" top 5, also featured on the tour. "We now really get to be in our element on stage."

The humble 19-year-old — and furthest-advancing New Jersey contestant in the show's history — says she has not fully grasped that for the first time, fans are paying money to come and watch her sing. And many wear her on-stage persona's distinguishing feature — the small mark she draws under her cheek before each show.

"It's the weirdest thing, looking down in the front row and seeing people with X's on their faces, and thinking (to myself) they paid for a front-row ticket to see this, so I better put on a show," she says. "There's a certain element of pressure that comes with that, but outside that, I feel like such a winner. I'm flying high."

Also in great spirits are Jax's parents, John and Jill Miskanic, who also received ample airtime during their daughter's "Idol" run. John, a retired firefighter who was injured while responding on Sept. 11, was a particular fan favorite, and now Jax says, he is recognized almost as easily as she.

"If my dad accepted every drink he was offered in the lobbies of all these venues, he would not be able to walk," she says. "He is Mr. Popular. People want his autograph."

Jill has stayed mostly behind the scenes, as Jax's backstage assistant, helping her with quick-changes, hair and makeup. They have appeared at most of the shows so far.

Jax sings three solo songs on the tour: "White Flag" by Dido and a medley of The Who's "My Generation" and Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" -- each of which she sang on "Idol" -- as well as Steven Tyler's folksy new single "Love Is Your Name." She performed alongside the Aerosmith frontman during the "Idol" finale.

Jax is also involved in several group numbers with fellow contestants Tyanna Jones, Rayvon Owen, Clark Beckham and the season's winner Nick Fradiani.

In between shows, the quintet — who were direct competitors two months ago —have become good friends, Jax says, and have made a point to go out to dinner together in different cities. But with that comes their newfound celebrity status.

"I can't go anywhere now," Jax says. "It's crazy, my life is completely different."

"It feels like a different reality, but it's a reality I want to be living for the rest of my life," she adds. "I'm kind of in love with the road. I feel more like I'm at home when I'm moving around."

The tour wraps Aug. 28 in California, then it's essentially back to grind for Jax -- writing, recording and booking shows as she continues to build a career in music.

"All of my hard work has paid off," she says. "My dream is actually coming to life."

The American Idol Live! tour plays Caesar's Circus Maximus theatre in Atlantic City Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets from $80 available here.

The tour also plays Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are virtually sold out, but plenty of seats available, from $86, on StubHub.