Stephanie Sokol for The Pit
It may have been her first time competing, but Michigan musician Malaya Watson, who will advance to the next round of American Idol Season XIII after her performance of “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin on Wednesday night’s episode, said her audition went well.
“At the time it was nerve-wrecking, but it was pretty cool,” Watson said. “I’m very happy with how it went.”
A resident of Southfield, Watson, 16, started singing at age three. In middle school she got more serious with music, and in high school, she realized it was her passion.
“Music really helped me through hard times,” Watson said. “It gives me hope and gets me going—music just helps me through life.”
Watson plays piano, tuba, sousaphone, drums and guitar, and sang in her school’s opera choir, in addition to performing as a vocalist with the Mosaic Youth Theater in Detroit.
To get her solo singing some exposure, Watson began uploading her own songs and covers to her Youtubechannel. Using social media to share her music gained her worldwide exposure, she said.
While she sings a variety of music genres, including pop and classical songs, many works she covered are by one of her favorite artists, Aretha Franklin. Growing up near Detroit and spending time downtown in Hart Plaza, Watson has a love for many music styles made famous in the city, including Motown.
“The music I make—the soul, Motown, funk and stuff—that’s the music I like, and (living near Detroit) really impacted my music style and my musicality,” Watson said.
Songwriting is a process for Watson, who writes songs about whatever is on her mind. She draws inspiration from her own life when making music.
“Usually when I write my own songs, its more of an experience,” Watson said. “You know how some people just write songs to write a song? I usually write songs about of how I feel, or what happened.”
American Idol is a chance to for Watson to give people enjoyment through her singing. Music inspires her, and she said she wants her audience to feel the same way.
Through Idol, Watson said her goal is to use music to succeed, so she can give back to others.
“When I was younger, people would tell me, ‘well you can’t do that.’ Basically, I just want to show people that you can do whatever you want if you set your mind to it,” Watson said.