Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 17, 2013

East Texas woman to vie for spot on nationally televised ‘American Idol’

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Putting her own twist on a 60-second a capella version of the Kristen Kelly hit, “He Loves to Make Me Cry” paid off for Jacksonville native Ashley Lucas, who was named winner of the July 13 East Texas audition for “American Idol.”

“I've always wanted to do the American Idol thing, but just never had the courage, I guess,” the 20-year-old newlywed said, adding that over the years, people have encouraged her musical gift.

Her husband Marshall heard about the audition in Tyler and asked, 'Are you going?' she recalled; when she responded that she didn't know if she would try out, “he said, 'You're going.' And so I went to prove to him that I could do it.”

And subsequently made it as one of the final seven contestants before being declared the contest winner.

About 50 people showed up for the audition, singers who “did pretty good” in their performances before an audition of more than 100 people, she said.

As a result, Ashley qualifies for a national audition that will be held Aug. 7 in Austin. There, she will perform a repertoire of three songs, also done a capella. Winners will then advance to the national televised competition that TV viewers first became familiar with 2002.

Fellow Texan Kelly Clarkson, of Burleson, won the inaugural competition.

Ashley said that over the years, family and friends have commented on – and encouraged – her musical gift.

“They've always told me (about her gift), but I didn't know my own voice, I guess, because I'd listen to everybody else (sing) and I think, 'no …'” she said.

Her earliest memory about her music ability is that of riding in the car with her daddy, Ron Beasley of Jacksonville, when she was a preschooler, belting out lyrics to the music on the radio.

“I remember singing in the car – I guess I was about five – it actually was a Cristina Aguilera song, 'You are Beautiful,' and I would sing my heart out. And my daddy finally turn the music one day, and I said, 'what are you doing?' He started laughing, and I asked, 'Why are making fun of me?' and he goes, 'I'm not. You can *sing.' And I told him, 'No I can't,' because I was a little kid,” she recalled. “But my mom and my dad knew I could sing.”

She's only entered one other singing competition, a Tomato Fest talent contest, when she was 14. “I made it to the second round – that was the only other time I sang in front of people.”

However, over the years, her parents have hosted gatherings at their home, with guests often joining in sing-alongs.

Ron has served as her unofficial music coach during that time, and at the Tyler audition, was in the audience helping his daughter stay focused as she performed a capella for the first time at the Tyler audition.

“He was (in the audience, snapping fingers and building up) a tempo … I focused on that and kept the beat, and I did the whole song,” she said.

Her mother Jill and her in-laws – Bullard residents Iwannal and Kester Jones – were also in the audience, with a handful of family friends; Marshall was unable to attend the audition because of a prior commitment.

However, he was “tickled to death” about Ashley winning the competition, while her family “were all emotional” when her name was announced.

“My mother-in-law and my mom cried, and my dad, I think he kind of teared up,” she smiled. “I really had a good support system.”

Because she chooses to develop her own unique voice, rather than emulate whichever artist happens to be popular at the moment, Ashley admitted that she was initially worried about how well her style would go over with the judges.

But her family “told me 'do your own thing – don't try to sound like other people,'” she said. “So I did my own version, and … I don't know … either they would like me or not. And they loved me.”

As she prepares for the Austin audition, and hopefully, for the nationally televised competition, she plans to let people know “I'm still a small-town girl” who remembers her roots, and who takes pride in her unique sound.

“I'll be sure to make East Texas proud,” she said.

Meanwhile, she encouraged others to chase their dreams, because they might find themselves catching them faster than they realize. “I had always hoped and wished to be on American Idol, and never thought I would,” she said. “If you have a dream, go out there and chase it; if you don't you're never going to catch it. You've got to have faith in yourself.”