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SHE Columbia opens Friday with a performance by ‘American Idol’ contestant

02/07/2013 12:00 AM

02/07/2013 12:10 AM

She’s got a wicked sense of humor.

“Elise isn’t here,” she said when she answered a reporter’s call. “She left.”

But it was Elise Testone, a top 10 finalist on the 11th season of “American Idol,” on the other end of the line. Another season of the reality TV show has begun, so what is Testone, who placed sixth, doing a year since her run on the show began?

Making music, planning shows.

“That’s kind of been my focus at the moment,” said Testone, who is putting together a Valentine’s Day concert at Charleston Music Hall. “Between that, recording music and getting my album ready.”

Testone, who lives in the Charleston area, will perform Friday night at SHE Columbia’s opening party. “American Idol” judges — and fans — fell for Testone’s renditions of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Billy Joel’s “Vienna.” Many local music fans will recall Testone as the full-throated female vocalist who performed with Justin Smith & the Folk Hop Band, one of the local music scene’s best draws a few years ago.

Oddly, her work with the Folk Hop Band is absent from her Wikipedia page.

“I don’t know who makes those pages,” she said. “I’ve seen it once.”

Unlike her fans, Testone, 29, doesn’t keep track of her self online by typing her name into Google.

“I made it a point not to look. It kind of gets in your head,” she said. “That’s just the nature of the beast. People are going to love you, people are not going to love you.”

It seems that after the brush with “Idol” fame that life would get more chaotic for Testone. And it has, but in a particular way it has helped Testone narrow her focus. Before “Idol,” the versatile singer was playing in a plethora of bands and groups.

“In the past, I’ve been in so many different projects,” she said. “Before ‘Idol,’ I was gigging seven to 10 shows during the week and teaching during the day, so I pretty much never slept.”

Testone will perform at SHE Columbia with parts of the band that has accompanied her of late. She’ll have a cellist, bassist, drummer and a backup singer. Testone will play guitar.

“So it will be a smaller version of what I’m doing,” she said.

When the full band is together, nine or as many as 10 people are on stage. Testone’s sound incorporates elements of jazz, folk and rock.

“They definitely vary,” she said of her songs, “but they’re all kind of tied to the blues. They’re all kind of that blues-soul vibe. You have the hint of rock in there. I’d love to produce more of the rock sound before I finish the album.”

Among the songs Testone performed on the “American Idols LIVE” tour were “Whole Lotta Love” and Adele’s “Rumour Has It.” She also sang a duet on Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” with Phillip Phillips, the season’s winner.

After auditioning in July 2011, Testone was one of about 300 people to get a golden ticket to the Hollywood round. Being on the show was a sacrifice, because it kept her from performing, which is to say earning money.

“As the year was coming to an end, I wasn’t really able to perform,” she said of 2011. “I kind of had to hide. It’s a huge sacrifice for people who don’t make it.

“ ‘Idol’ got me exposure, but I just feel like on the show I never had the opportunity to show my full potential.”

She’s taking advantage of the opportunity now.

About this blog


A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to Follow The Buzz @buzzatthestate. Follow Cassie @cassielcope. Follow Jamie @jamiemself. Follow Andy @andyshain.

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