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'American Idol' runner up talks life on tour and returning home to Michigan

Jena Irene
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Farmington Hills native and ‘American Idol’ runner up, Jena Irene returned to the Michigan stage this weekend at this year’s Arts, Beats & Eats.

Although the singer just completed a 40 city tour with her ‘Idol’ peers, the return to Michigan was especially exciting. This year, Irene headlined the Saturday music line-up at the popular Royal Oak music and art event.

Irene performed at last year’s Arts, Beats & Eats as a virtually unknown local artist. This time around, the singer took the main stage.

‘Touring life is definitely not glamorous,’ Irene told the Free Press. ‘But I think it was the best part of the whole (Idol) process…. There was no stress of anyone getting eliminated,’ she continued.

But the singer says she plans on moving away from ‘American Idol,’ – at least a little bit.

‘I want to break myself away from the show. I love the show, but this is a new chapter of my career and I’m ready to transition into another thing,’ she shared.

Although she misses family and friends in Michigan, Irene plans to make her life in California.

‘… I like the ambiance. I just really liked the vibe there,’ she says.

For now, the singer says she’s putting college on hold and looking for the right person to manage her career.

‘What’s crucial is to get a manager and start writing new music. You can always go to college. I feel that because the hype is really real now, I have to take advantage of it.’

Arts, Beats & Eats runs through Monday in downtown Royal Oak. For more information, go to or call 248-541-7550.

Read journalist Brian McCollum's entire story on Jena Irene in the Friday August 29 edition of the Detroit Free Press on page 1C.

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