Retracing the journey
“Karaoke Battle USA” champion Cassandra Mae Jopp, whose signature song is “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, took that advice to heart while on her musical journey.
And these past few months have been proof of why Jopp should believe in herself and her musical ability. On Friday, Jopp, 26, was crowned the “Karaoke Battle USA” champion on ABC during the finale show and then she went on to win the Karaoke World Championships Sept. 8-10 at Killarney, Ireland, where Jopp went up against 24 female singers from around the world.
The Brainerd lakes area has been watching Jopp as she climbs up the ladder of success as she has ties to the area. Jopp, the daughter of David and Aleisa Jopp of Frazee, who currently lives in Fargo, N.D., lived in Merrifield for a few years. Jopp attended third through eighth grade in the Crosby-Ironton School District and then spent a half semester at Brainerd High School her junior year.
“I met a lot of close friends while in Brainerd,” said Jopp. “We have a lot of really good friends who come to visit us on Lake Lougee (near Merrifield.)”
Jopp said she was fortunate to be in the BHS a cappella choir, under the direction of Michael Smith, for a semester. Jopp said her choir director at the high school she graduated from in Litchfield told her that she had been part of an elite choir, with an elite director, in Brainerd.
Jopp, originally from Hutchinson, said she moved around quite a bit as a child and has many “homes away from homes,” but said Brainerd is one of her favorite homes, since she enjoys the outdoors.
Jopp took time out of her schedule Monday to do a telephone interview with the Dispatch on her recent accomplishments. The following is a Q&A with Jopp:
Tell me when your passion for singing began? “I come from a very musical family, so I grew up with it. It became my passion because it’s familiar, music is what connects me with my family. I also have a lot of friends who are very musical.
“I have such a passion for singing. It’s a way for me to express myself in any way I want too. I personally feel things when I’m singing, I’m an emotional person and I show a lot of feelings when I am singing.”
When did you know you could sing? “I was gone from school for a few days because I was sick when I was 5 or 6 and when I came back I was told to sing a solo, with little prep time. A couple years after that was when my parents discovered that I could sing.”u have a musical family? “My dad was in rock bands, including the Retractions from Brainerd and he was the personality on the ‘Mac and Dave in the Morning Show’ at the Power Loon. He sings and plays bass and rhythm guitar; my mom sings and plays piano; my older brother is an amazing guitarist; and my other brother is an amazing drummer. I have a half sister who is 10 and you will find her singing her heart out into her pink Barbie microphone.”
Your first competition? “My first competition was when I was 11 at the Crow Wing County Fair in Brainerd. I was really green then and I was so scared that they had to start over. I got through the song and everyone was clapping, but I went crying off the stage. I remember seeing all the other performers and how excited they were and how they had the whole stage presence down. So I started watching famous singers and developed my own style and worked on it. I wanted to keep my passion going and I wanted to show people who I am.”
Before “Karaoke Battle USA,” what type of singing competitions did you do? “I competed in a lot of county fair talent competitions. I won an amateur talent contest in 2001 at Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel, was a state champion of the Colgate Country Showdown in 2001-02 and at age 16 I went to the state fair and won first place in a teen talent contest.
“My first really big competition was when I competed in the Wefest Karaoke Roundup in 2009 and I took first place out of 9,000 people. For winning the competition, I was the opening act for Tim McGraw, taking the stage before 50,000 people in Detroit Lakes.”
Other TV shows you’ve auditioned for? “I’ve auditioned for ‘American Idol’ and for a talent challenge put on by ‘Oprah.’ They (’Oprah’) came to Fargo to listen to me sing and I was so excited. I went through a lot of interviews and they wanted me to do one more audition, but then I got a phone call because they had technical difficulties and I was left in the dark ... I later learned that I got bumped out because I was in a small acoustic band and I got paid for it. I was so frustrated and sad because I was so close to making the show. But what I’ve learned is that when one door closes, another one opens.
“I auditioned three times for ‘American Idol,’ and the last time (early 2010) I made it past the first two auditions and was excited. They told me that I was not unique enough. It was frustrating, but I felt good that I made it further that time. The timing wasn’t right for me.”
Tell me how you went about auditioning for “Karaoke Battle USA?” “One of the producers sought me out from ABC who saw my YouTube video from when I opened for Tim McGraw. They called me for months but I ignored it because I didn’t recognize the number. Well here they called my boyfriend Mike and he told me to call them. It was so crazy if Mike wouldn’t have answered his phone, none of this would have happened. Since it was late I had to do an online audition.”
When did you find out that you won? “A month and a half ago. It was killing me that I couldn’t tell anyone. Some close friends and family knew because they were there, but I’m such a social, Facebook junkie and I twitter. I love to tell people what I’m doing and I couldn’t tell them that I won. It was tough.”
What was the competition like? “It was crazy and amazing at the same time. Everyone at ABC were wonderful, so nice and accommodating. The competitors felt like celebrities. We’d go to different places and be interviewed and people would ask me if I was a celebrity or a model, it was totally fun ... But there also was a lot of pressure filled with a lot of emotions. It was a big deal and the person who’d win would get a contract deal with Hollywood Records and would go on to compete in the world champions.”
What was the Karaoke World Championships in Ireland like? “I had so much fun ... During performances the people standing on the front of the stage would be rooting for you who are from all different countries holding flags. I met so many friends from other countries. My goal was to make the Top 10. I made the Top 10, then the Top 5 and when they named the runner-up, third and fourth and fifth place winners and I was left on stage I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ The women I competed against had huge powerhouse voices and were so beautiful. I just started crying. It was a huge honor to take home the gold and I was the first woman to win the competition from the USA.”
What did you sing in Ireland? “I sang ‘Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey, ‘Broken Wing’ by Martina McBride, ‘At Last’ by Etta James and ‘Kick Start My Heart’ by Motley Crue.”
What did you win? “I won the world title and I get to go back to Ireland next year to give my title away and to possibly be a judge. I also won some karaoke device ... and a big cash prize.”
How crazy has your life been since June when you started with “Karaoke Battle USA?” “It’s been overwhelming, but in a good way. All the traveling I’ve done and it’s nice when customers come into the store (she works at a boutique in Fargo) and say they saw me on TV, it’s so much fun.”
When you walk into a karaoke bar, what song would you sing? “Don’t Stop Believing,” by Journey.
Other favorite songs? “I really love country because I have a country voice. I also like to sing pop stuff or anything with soul in it.”
What artists do you look up to? “Growing up I love Martina McBride, Christina Aguilera and Carrie Underwood. I was compared to her at ‘Karaoke Battle USA,’ they said I put too much Underwood in my song ... I admire Carrie Underwood because she started out as a small town girl and went for her dreams, all while keeping her family and friends and I am like that too, I love my family and friends and will not forget where I came from.”
What are your plans now? “I’m planning on staying in Fargo and to take it day to day as I’m waiting for Hollywood Records to call me to start on my record.”
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.