IT’S NOT EVERY DAY you have an impromptu duet with Kelly Clarkson, singing one of her original songs in perfect harmony, completely on the spot. Soon Kelly is yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” Two chairs down, Adam Levine is smashing his buzzer in protest and yelling, “Nooooo Kelly!”

That’s exactly what happened when 18-year-old Alexa Cappelli made her blind audition debut during NBC’s The Voice. Out of the two judges, Alexa chose Kelly.

Alexa Cappelli sings “I’ve Got the Music in Me”

“Every preteen loves Kelly Clarkson growing up,” Cappelli said. “I love that she doesn’t stick with one genre. She’s done basically everything, and she could teach me a lot through the experience of being a contestant. Adam is very persuasive, but I had to go with my gut.”

Alexa went on to conquer the Battle Rounds and Knockout Rounds, earning a place in the top 24 overall, and top six on the historic, first-ever Team Kelly. Alexa said the process was an incredible experience, and she was struck by how personal her relationship was with the judges.

“I loved the insight of being able to see that these people we look up to in the media and in music — they’re normal people,” Cappelli said. “And they want to hear about us! Kelly was a great example of being such a great, genuine person. She really poured into us and wanted to hear from us and what we loved about music.”

FRIENDSHIPS & FAITH

In addition to vocal sessions and rehearsals, Alexa got to know Kelly and her team through fun activities like bowling and going to Universal Studios theme park. She also built strong friendships that extend outside the show, particularly with her teammate Brynn Cartelli, and Jackie Foster and Britton Buchanan of Team Alicia. (Brynn and Britton are in The Voice finale, airing May 22.)

“Being able to work alongside Brynn and see her motivation at such a young age… she’s got such a drive that is really inspiring.” Alexa added that she, Brynn and Jackie hope to meet up this summer for a girls trip in Boston.

Jackie was Alexa’s roommate, and the two bonded over their love of music and their shared faith in Christ. One of Alexa’s favorite verses throughout her time on the show was Jeremiah 29:11.

“I had a little rock in the bathroom of our hotel with Jeremiah 29:11 on it,” Alexa said. “I left it there when I went home, so now it’s Jackie’s! She wanted me to take it, but I told her it was hers.”

A few days later, Jackie called Alexa and told her she had been reading over the verse, and she knew she’d be at peace with whatever would happen.

“I love that verse, because it’s all right there,” Alexa said. “If I can see anything into what God has planned for me, [I know] it’s a hope and a future.”

Alexa said that staying grounded throughout the ups and downs of the competition was harder than she realized. “The toughest part was the internal struggle, remembering that this was not about me in any way. This was about me sharing my voice, the gift I’ve been given to share. It’s easy to get caught up in the cameras and music, but you have to keep going. I had to remember I wasn’t there for me.”

She found strength through prayer and reading the Bible. “I had to remember that this is just a step in the big journey that God has planned out, uniquely for me, and for music.”

“That moment that I got sent home, I thought, ‘Okay. I really wanted that [win].’ But I also just had to stop and trust that He has something so much bigger… I don’t know what that is, and it will be a crazy journey finding that through Him.”

WHAT’S NEXT

In a few short weeks, Alexa will graduate from Orange County School of the Arts, where she attended despite the 1.5 hour one-way commute. This fall she will study music business at Cal Poly Ponoma, a short thirty minutes from her home.

Alexa is excited to spend more time with her family and friends during this new season. She will also continue to be involved in Steven’s Hope for Children, a non-profit organization run by her parents that helps families of seriously injured children. Additionally, she plans to spend the summer writing and producing new music.

“I think the time to look out for new music would be the fall of this year,” Alexa said. “I’d love to get an EP out, and that’s my vision. So look out for that soon!”

To keep up with Alexa on Instagram and Twitter at @alexacappelli and through her website at alexcappelli.com.

It’s no secret that I love reading and writing about people’s stories. I’ve recently gone through three top-notch autobiographies from some of my favorite people in the entertainment industry. If you like them on-screen or on the radio, don’t hesitate to pick up or download a copy of their book. Enjoy!

The Magnolia Story (Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino)

Aren’t they the cutest? This book rewinds to the beginning of Chip and JoJo’s love story, which is just as sappy-sweet and comical as you would imagine. Both innovators at heart, Chip and Joanna take readers through the ups and downs of how they launched their one-of-a-kind careers, all while beautifully giving credit to God and His sovereign plan for their lives.

One of my favorite parts? The story of how Chip surprised JoJo by spending their extra money on a decrepit houseboat. This disastrous move on Chip’s part is what actually landed them a reality TV pilot.

Talking As Fast As I Can (Lauren Graham)

It sounds impossible, but I propose that you’ll walk away from this book loving Lauren Graham herself even more than the beloved Lorelai Gilmore or Sarah Braverman. Lauren is smart, witty, classy, down-to-earth, clean, funny, and oh so entertaining. You feel like she’s your best friend. (We ARE best friends, right, LG?) You’ll relish Lauren’s hilarious tales about skipping kindergarten, living on a houseboat, working in The Theatah (no thea-teeeer), being single (and why that’s okay), and of course, making Gilmore Girls and Parenthood.

One of my favorite parts? Advice from Old Lady Jackson. Lauren writes,

“Old Lady Jackson is a character I made up when I started catching myself giving advice–initially to Mae and Miles on the Parenthood set–that sounded like it came from your grayhaired grandma who spends her days in a rocking chair knitting your scratchy socks you pretend to love at Christmas. By creating this character, who was obviously very, very, very far away from myself, I hoped to confuse Mae and Miles, among others, into thinking that while I might sometimes seem to offer suggestions that could be considered a tad ‘old-timey,’ they weren’t actually coming from me…”

I think I have a little bit of “Old Lady Jackson” in myself, so this chapter was particularly comical to me. (Again, because Lauren and I are besties. Right?)

When God Doesn’t Fix It (Laura Story with Jennifer Schuchmann)

In contrast to the other two books I mentioned earlier, this autobiography carries a serious tone and many difficult truths. You might recognize the artist Laura Story from her radio hits like “Blessings” and “What a Savior,” but you probably don’t know about her personal hardships.

Laura began an unexpected journey only one year into her marriage, when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. What initially seemed to be a “next surgery will fix it” situation turned into a realization that Laura’s husband would likely have serious memory issues for the rest of his life.

One of my favorite parts? Laura concludes each chapter with a myth and a truth. My favorite is, “MYTH: God can only use my story when there is a happy ending. TRUTH: God can use my story when I trust him in the journey.”

Laura tackles the topic of our “happily ever after” mindset, sharing how she learned to praise God in the midst of grievous trials.

•••

There you have it, friends! As always, I love to hear your thoughts on these books and on YOUR favorite biographies. Happy reading!

It’s no secret that Christmas is my favorite time of the year! Unfortunately, we only have 20 more days where it’s socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music. I’ve put together a playlist entitled “Mix & Match Christmas” with some of my favorite, lesser-known Christmas songs. While these songs may not be top 20 on the radio, they are fantastic and well-deserving of a download! Enjoy!

October 28 is a WONDERFUL day, because I have an excuse to tell the whole world about my incredible Momma! (I’ll spare you the “there are no words to describe how wonderful she is” spiell, but just know that it’s true.) I’ve decided to share some of the lessons she’s taught me throughout my life. So get out your journal and start taking notes! She’s the real deal!

[DISCLAIMER: Mom is my #1 editor and proofreader, and she doesn’t know I’m writing this. Hopefully you won’t find any typos!]

Mom taught me…

  1. How to talk to God like He’s real.

Yes, I know, He is real. But sometimes we don’t pray like it. Whenever Mom prays, she talks to God like He’s sitting at the kitchen table next to us. Whether she’s asking for a specific need, thanking Him for a blessing or lifting up a difficult situation, Mom knows that the Lord is there and that He is in control. I’m thankful for her open example of how to draw near to God our Father.

  1. How to load a dishwasher.

Silverware pointed down, cups and bowls on the top, each row filled, dishes facing inward. If it’s in the sink, you can find a way to cram it into the dishwasher! (Poor Dad and Andrew try their best, but somehow the message just didn’t completely sink in…)

  1. How to make life a musical.

Sometimes singing is more fun than talking. Sometimes good news calls for dancing. Sometimes we take catchy commercial jingles and make them a regular part of our vocabulary. It’s just better that way!!

  1. How to put others first.

You don’t have to watch through hours of our old family home videos to realize that I was… what’s that phrase? All about me. While I was a child, Mom taught me to put others before myself. As an adult, I see how Mom lives this out in her everyday life. She is servant-hearted, compassionate, empathetic and caring. She talks the talk AND walks the walk. What a role model for me!

  1. How to “let it go.”

Guess what? I’m not perfect. Guess what? Mom’s not perfect either. But guess what? THAT’S OKAY! As a Type-A, goal-setting, gotta-get-it-right kind of girl, I need to be reminded that it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to have bad days and good days, to succeed and to fail. Listen to good ole’ Idina Menzel. (And of course sing along!)

  1. How to treasure God’s Word.

God’s Word is truth. No matter what happens, the Bible is our foundation. It never changes, and it never fails. I am so grateful for all the wonderful things Mom has taught me. However, her best “lesson” has always been teaching me to rely on God’s Word and to seek Christ in all that I do.

Happy birthday, Mom! We’re celebrating you today!

I didn’t want a heart, a brain, courage or a trip back to Kansas. I did ask for an interview, and the Wizard obliged! Stuart Zagnit gave a fabulous portrayal of the lovable yet conceited Wizard, another character who dances on the line between good and evil. Aside from Wicked, you may recognize Stuart from various TV series including The Good Wife, Elementary, Blue Bloods, 30 Rock, Law & Order and more.

Also, this blog features a guest interviewer, my wonderful brother and right-hand-man, Andrew Sinclair! He surprised me by jumping in the interview with his own questions, which I’ve indicated with “AS.” So thanks, Andrew! Now I’m off to sing more show tunes… enjoy!

The Wizard of Oz [Stuart Zagnit]

RS: What is your favorite moment of the show?

SZ: For me, I love my doing my number [“Wonderful”]. It’s my own number that I don’t have to share with anybody, and he kind of tells his story at the same time.

RS: What is your favorite part about your character?

SZ: What makes him interesting is that he didn’t set out to be an evil character. He was well-intentioned. But he fell into something that kind of corrupted him without realizing it… the fact that there was this little bit of innocence behind him that grew into something larger. I like exploring where that takes him. Also, I like the way he draws people to him. I like to explore the charm that gets him the things that he needs.

RS: I would be curious about this for any cast member: Do you basically know all of the lines in the entire play?

SZ: Absolutely not. I think by osmosis, when you hear the show when you’re not on [stage], I probably know a lot more lines than I think I do. But if you asked me to step into another role, I don’t think I’d do very well.

RS: Do you have any plans for the Fourth of July?

SZ: Well, we’re flying to Houston, and hopefully we’ll find a nice place to have a view of fireworks. We travel tomorrow, but the evening will be free.

AS: How long did it take you to learn your lines?

SZ: [Madam] Morrible, Fiyero and I all joined at the same time, and we had about three weeks of rehearsal before our first show. Right before I did Wicked, I did The Producers. I played Max Bialystok, and I was on all night long. He has songs, book scenes… and it’s relentless. I learned it in about 12 days. You have to do it. It’s amazing what you’re able to do.


As Wicked flew out of Birmingham on Sunday night, I got a chance to sit a spell with the actors who bring the life (and a little magic) to two of the most infamous characters in Oz–Mary Kate Morrissey (Elphaba) and Stuart Zagnit (The Wizard).

Mary Kate met and exceeded my expectations in her role as Elphaba. Thinking back to the scene of “Defying Gravity” nearly gives me chills! Aside from her spectacular vocal performance, Mary Kate clearly communicated the character of Elphaba through her every expression, movement and interaction with another character. This was my third time to see Wicked, and I felt that Mary Kate truly tapped into Elphaba’s character by bringing a young and fresh perspective to the beloved star of the show. Here is my Celeb Sit Down interview with Mary Kate!

MARY KATE MORRISSEY (Elphaba)

RS: What is your favorite moment in the show?

MKM: The Ozdust Ballroom when Glinda and Elphaba become friends.

RS: Why?

MKM: Because I think that’s when the show starts. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a show if they didn’t come together.

RS: What’s your favorite part about your character?

MKM: That she’s the underdog and she triumphs. She stands for a lot of people who aren’t necessarily in privilege. She can stand for whoever the audience needs her to be.

RS: If you could be any character for a night, who would it be? I know this is a hard one for you!

MKM: I know (she laughs). I would want to be Elphaba every night!

RS: That’s a great answer!

MKM: I think for one night I’d want to be Glinda. Just for fun.

RS: Is it hard to fly in the harness and sing? (during “Defying Gravity”)

MKM: No. I’m standing on something, so it’s not a harness. I’m standing.

•••

MARY KATE MORRISSEY is currently the Standby for Elphaba in the Munchkinland Tour of Wicked the musical. She graduated from Syracuse University in 2011 with a degree in musical theatre. Her past theatre experience includes Hair! (national tour), Tamar of the River (off-broadway) and Lizzie: The Musical (regional). Keep up with Mary Kate on Twitter at @maryspacekate.

 

The interview with Stuart Zagnit (The Wizard) is coming soon! Follow @1RachelSinclair for updates.


Songs of Truth – a power playlist with songs grounded in God’s Word

I’ve put together a playlist of 10 power songs that have helped me remember just how amazing my God truly is. Whether you’re overwhelmed with a problem, seeking endurance or simply celebrating God’s goodness, it is so important to stand on the promises of God found in His Word. I hope that these songs will inspire you to investigate God’s truths and proclaim them through song.

“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” –Psalm 34:1-2

Click HERE to download the playlist on Spotify.

SONGS OF TRUTH:

“King Of The World” (Natalie Grant)

“Your Words” (Third Day feat. Harvest)

“Joy Of The Lord” (Rend Collective)

“Broken Together” (Casting Crowns)

“Here’s My Heart” (I Am They)

“How Can It Be” (Lauren Daigle)

“Thy Will” (Hillary Scott & The Scott Family)

“You Amaze Us” (Selah)

“As Sure as the Sun” (Ellie Holcomb)

“Where I Belong” (Building 429)


Want to read more? Visit rachelsinclair.net/checkitout.

She has off-the-charts vocals. She can belt the high notes and rap to Lecrae. She’s been traveling through Europe touring with TobyMac. Oh, and she’s also 19 years old.
Meet Hollyn, the young artist who is already making her mark on the Christian music industry. In 2015 she released her self-titled EP, which shows off her incredible vocals in an upbeat, modern style of music.

RS: What is it like touring with TobyMac? What have you learned from him?

H: Touring with Toby has been incredible to say the least. He’s so much fun to be around. Diverse City has become my family, and I am so grateful to travel and be a part of this journey with them by my side. I’ve learned so much from their years of experience, and they are helping me become the artist and leader I need to be.

RS: You are 19 years old. What are the benefits and challenges of pursuing a singer-songwriter career at such a young age?

H: The benefits of being so young and being an artist is the opportunity to see the world and singing for a living. I mean, how many people get to do what they love for a living? I’m truly blessed and the Lord is faithful. It’s also challenging because I barely have time to see my family or friends from home, but I keep in touch and FaceTime has become the best way to do that for now. Everything has pros and cons, and I’m trying the best I can to balance it out.

RS: How did your experience on American Idol (Season 12) shape your music career?

H: My experience on American Idol showed me that I wasn’t ready at the time to dedicate my life to something I didn’t believe in. I didn’t know who I was as an artist, so I went home and made an effort to figure that out. That’s when I met Toby, and accepted the fact that God was calling me to do this.

RS: Did you ever consider producing secular music?

H: To me, great music is being transparent and honest. Whether that’s about my relationship with Jesus, how my heart has been broken by a boy, friendship, or a track that I love because it just makes me feel good. If you craft songs intentionally and speak from the heart, people will listen.

RS: How is your music distinctive within the Christian genre?

H: I have an incredible team that allows me to write music I’m passionate about. My goal is to create a sound and brand that is fresh and unique. Something that people my age are drawn to and that speaks to a generation called to be different.

RS: When did you first become interested in rap?

H: I’ve always listened to rap music, but I recently stated attempting to rap about 3 years ago. I wouldn’t call myself a “rapper” but I love having fun with it.

RS: How has your family supported you throughout this journey?

H: My family has supported me through every aspect of life. Music or no music. They love me for who I am in Christ and as their daughter/sister. They’ve traveled, invested their time, and loved me unconditionally. I am eternally grateful for them.

RS: What are your plans for the future?

The future excites me. Five years ago I was sitting in school day dreaming about singing on stage for a living, and now I get to travel the world with TobyMac. I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years bring.

To learn more about Hollyn and her music, visit iamhollyn.com and follow her on Twitter at @iamhollyn.

•••

 

 

 

Scotty McCreery became America’s heartthrob five years ago when he won American Idol at age 17. Since then, he’s become a country music sensation with hit songs including “See You Tonight,” “Feelin’ It,” “I Love You This Big.” Before he performs at Iron City in Birmingham, Ala. Sunday night, Scotty sat down to help us get to know him better.

RS: How do you balance college life and touring? What are you studying at NC State University?

SM: I enjoyed the college life for nearly three years, but I put it on hiatus to focus more on my career. It was important for me to try and do both college and music, and it was equally important to me that I had those college experiences with my friends. I’ll never be age 19-21 again and I didn’t want to look back and regret anything. I lived in a dumpy college house near campus with some of my best friends and I had a blast. We made so many memories. I love NC State and will always be a member of the Wolfpack. While I was in college, I studied Communications.

RS: What has been one of the most memorable moments during a performance on tour?

SM: There is nothing like looking out at the fans and hearing them sing back to you on a song that you wrote.  I wrote my song “See You Tonight,” which was my first Top 10 hit and later went Platinum and was one of the Top 50 country songs of 2015.  Hearing the fans sing that song back to me never gets old.   The enthusiasm and the passion that my fans give me every night in concert is amazing. I am so thankful for them. 

RS: What is your go-to meal when you’re traveling on the road?

SM: I always keep Cheese-Its and cereal on the bus.  Those are must haves for me.  

RS: Do you have a favorite song from one of your albums that is not one of the top hits?

SM: I love the song “Carolina Moon” on my second studio album, See You Tonight.  I am proud of being from North Carolina and this song always takes me back there when I’m away from home. Plus, Alison Krauss sang harmony on it. You can’t get better than that. 

RS: What has been the hardest part about writing a book?

SM: I’m a songwriter but I’m used to telling a story in a three minute song.  Having nearly 300 pages to fill in a book is a little challenging, but once I determined what experiences I wanted to share it all began coming together. I wanted the book to be as if the reader and I were in the same room together and I was sharing some stories and I think we accomplished that. I’ve written about some good times and bad times and tried to give a full picture of who I am in the book. 

RS: Your book discusses your personal growth within the last five years. How have you also grown in your relationship with God?

SM: My relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. I make all of my decisions based on my faith.  When I was in Los Angeles doing “Idol,” I kept my Bible on the nightstand and read from it often. It gave me inspiration and the strength to keep going each day.  My go-to Bible verse is Philipians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

RS: What are you most looking forward to about touring with Rascal Flatts on their RIOT TOUR 2015 this summer?

SM: I toured with Rascal Flatts last year, and it was a great experience. Those guys are pros and to have the chance to watch them perform every night and learn from what they do was invaluable. I’m not sure who is out with them this year, but I know it will be a great experience for them.

 

Visit ironcitybham.com to purchase ticket’s to see Scotty on Sunday, Apr. 17 at 8 p.m.