If maryjo looks familiar to you, it’s because you recognise her from season 19 of American Idol where she got three yeses from the judges after her emotional performance of You Broke Me First by Tate McRae. Mary Jo Young sailed through to the next round and reached the top 24 in the competition. In this Emerging Headliner interview powered by JBL, she explains how she’s been carving out her post-Idol identity, which also includes a slight rebrand of her artist name, which is now simply: maryjo.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” she admits, bursting into laughter when asked why she dropped her surname. Relatable and honest and with an endearing tendency to blurt out what’s on her mind, the singer-songwriter hailing from Cleveland jokes that she needs media training.
“I'm also wondering why I made maryjo lowercase? It's like when you get a tattoo and you like it, but you don't know if you're gonna regret it later. But now it's like, ‘Well, whatever. Let's just see how it goes.’ Obviously, I felt strongly about it in the moment, so there must be something positive behind it,” she smiles.
In her Idol audition video, maryjo admits she has never sung in front of her mother, prompting the judges to coax her into the audition room to hear her daughter’s gift. Despite boasting a seriously impressive TikTok following at the time, maryjo never performed in front of people.
“That was genuine,” she says of the unscripted moment where her mother watches her sing. “When I was little, I always imagined that I would be doing this, I just didn't know how. I would ask for a guitar and a piano for my birthday and I would hide in my room and sing. So I bet she's heard me do little things and just pretended like she hasn't. But I'd never sang for her, so that was my first time actually standing in front of her and singing.
"With TikTok, I could post videos and hide it from people that I knew, so that I could find out from strangers if I was good – and that boosted my confidence. Once I met my managers, it was like taking a baby bird and throwing it out of its nest.”