Julia Gagnon at home in Cumberland after her whirlwind “American Idol” journey. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

Now that Julia Gagnon is back home after her star turn on “American Idol,” the Cumberland singer wants to thank as many of her fellow Mainers as she can.

And she plans to do it in person.

Gagnon, 22, is planning a Maine tour this summer, visiting and performing at some 15 to 20 sites, including Down East and up north. Full tour details will probably be announced in the next couple of weeks, Gagnon said, but one of her Maine shows is already being advertised: July 13 at the Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls.

Gagnon, who came home to Maine last Wednesday after spending nearly two months filming “American Idol” episodes in Hollywood, said she’s also working on a song about Maine that she plans to record soon with her fiancé and musical collaborator, Nate Haven.

She said she has some “exciting things” planned for the fall that she can’t talk publicly about yet but, for now, wants to focus on Maine and all the people here who watched her and voted for her while competing on “American Idol.”

“I really just wanted to focus on Maine, performing and thanking people,” said Gagnon, who grew up in Cumberland and graduated from North Yarmouth Academy.


Her experience on “American Idol” – where she finished in the top seven contestants out of thousands who auditioned – convinced her to pursue music for now. When she auditioned for the show last fall, she was a senior at the University of Southern Maine with plans to go to law school and someday practice family law. But those plans are on hold for now, she said, though she definitely wants to graduate and still might go to law school.

“I know it’s kind of odd to have law school as your backup plan,” she said.


Gagnon began appearing on the ABC singing competition show in March. She got rave reviews from celebrity judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan on just about everything she sang and captivated viewers around the country. She got enough votes from the nationwide audience week after week to make it to the final seven contestants. She was voted off during the May 5 episode but then stayed in Hollywood and sang during the final episode, May 19, along with other top contestants.

She made connections while on “American Idol” that could help her music career. She said she got to talk off camera to Bryan, a country music star, who she connected with and who she said “understood who I was.” She said Bryan told her that one of the most important things in launching a career in the music business is to have people who you can trust representing you.

Taking that advice to heart, she has hired Brian Root, of Winthrop, as her manager. Root is a producer of the Central Maine Idol competition, which Gagnon won last year. He’s also organized watch parties for her and helped promote her appearances on “American Idol,” which aired weekly on ABC TV stations.


“He’s kept organizing things for me and posting things about me, so one day, I messaged him and asked him to manage me,” Gagnon said.

Julia Gagnon performs on “American Idol.” Disney/Eric McCandless

During her run on “American Idol” she was roommates with Abi Carter, the eventual winner. The two became close friends, and Gagnon said they’ve talked about collaborating musically at some point and comparing notes about their forays into the music business. She said they plan to be in each other’s wedding parties.

It’s been a wild six months for Gagnon. She auditioned for “American Idol” in Nashville last fall. Then at Christmastime, Haven – her partner of more than two years – proposed to her. No firm wedding date has been set, the couple said. In March, she began competing on “American Idol,” in episodes filmed in Hawaii and then live episodes in Hollywood. Her parents, Jim and Meg Gagnon, of Cumberland, flew to LA several times to watch their daughter perform live. They were both there when Gagnon was voted off.

Julia Gagnon signs during her “American Idol” audition. Photo courtesy of American Idol and Fremantle

Gagnon, who was born in Guatemala, said she had been bullied and harassed for her looks while growing up in Maine. Until middle school, she never sang out loud in her school chorus; instead she lip-synced, not wanting to draw attention to herself. She gradually began singing in high school, gaining confidence in her talent.

Still, being on “American Idol” helped her gain even more confidence, Haven said.

“It’s been a really crazy time, but my overall feeling has been just an immense sense of pride in her, knowing how far she’s come, and she’s really come out of her shell so much,” said Haven, 21.


Julia Gagnon and her fiancé, Nate Haven, play together at her home in Cumberland. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

Gagnon and Haven will perform together during the Maine summer tour. Gagnon said she was keenly aware of and appreciated support from people of all ages in all parts of Maine. There were watch parties organized by fans in southern and central Maine, and students at North Yarmouth Academy spent an afternoon holding “Honk if you love Julia” signs along Main Street in Yarmouth. Sen. Angus King called her at one point to wish her luck and tell her she’s made her home state proud.

Second grader William Cashman, center, reacts as a passing vehicle complies with his North Yarmouth Academy classmates’ chants of “Honk if you love Julia” on May 1. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer, file

Gagnon said there were a couple of performances during her run that really stood out to her. One was when she sang “Need a Favor” by rapper and singer Jelly Roll. After singing an Aretha Franklin song early on, she didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a soul singer and said getting praise for the Jelly Roll song gave her confidence that she could succeed doing a range of styles, including those she feels more comfortable with.

“I’m not a soul singer, but I write folk music with a soul voice. Doing that song gave me more freedom to do the type of music I wanted to do,” Gagnon said.

Another performance that stood out to her was when she sang “Something in the Orange” by country singer Zach Bryan and dedicated it to the memory of Haven’s grandmother Sherry Haven, of Sanford, who died in March from pancreatic cancer.

“That song is about losing somebody and knowing they’re not really gone,” Gagnon said.

Julia Gagnon plays the piano at her home in Cumberland. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

When Gagnon first appeared on the show, she talked about how she wanted to go on “American Idol” to share something with her birth mother in Guatemala, who has been sick for some time while battling an infection after a fall. Gagnon only made contact with her birth mother for the first time a few years ago.

Gagnon said Friday she heard from her birth brother in Guatemala after her “American Idol” run. He said her birth mother is in the hospital again, but she doesn’t have many other details.

“He made a point of telling me they had all watched me and were proud of me,” said Gagnon.

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