LOS ANGELES - Petite powerhouse Jessica Sanchez enjoyed singing ballads on last season's "American Idol," where she placed second.
But the 17-year-old says ballads aren't her only interest: Sanchez is hoping to capture a new -- and younger -- audience with her debut album, "Me, You & the Music," released this week.
"People don't know me as the Jessica that I want to show. They know me as balladeer Jessica, which is shy, sweet, just like standing-there Jessica," she said. "And now I have to really make a mark and show people that I have fun and I'm 17 and I'm ready to be out there and just, you know, be young."
Sanchez lost to bluesy guitar player Phillip Phillips on the 11th season of the Fox singing competition, but many doors have since opened for the California native.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, the singer discussed life after "Idol," her debut album, performing with Ne-Yo and landing a guest role on "Glee."
AP: Talk about mixing the sound that helped you excel on "Idol" with a more playful one on your album.
Sanchez: Music, it just runs in my blood and I love music. So I'm trying to bring the tone of my voice and trying to mix it with the genre, the generation of music now. So that you get the feel of the real voice, the real grittiness that you got back in the day, and bring it to the pop-club mix.
AP: What was it like when you returned to the "Idol" stage recently to perform with Ne-Yo?
Sanchez: Seeing the stage, it was like my second home, and it's like I've been away from home for so long. That's where I experienced everything -- the stress, the love, the tears, everything with the other nine people that I spent the year with. And it all came back to me and it hit me and I was like, `I don't want to be here right now!' I was like tearing up and everything, but it was so much fun, and it was a big difference going onstage and performing with Ne-Yo.
AP: What were your first thoughts when you were offered a role on "Glee"?
Sanchez: Oh, I freaked out. Ryan Murphy called me in for a meeting ... and he asked me, `Have you ever acted before?' And I said, `No. I've never acted before. I'm not going to lie to you, I've never acted.' I walked out and then a couple days later I get a call from my manager and she said that `he wants you to be in the show,' and I'm like, `What? I've never acted before. That's crazy!' But ever since then, and that was like right after (`Idol'), I've been taking acting classes and I've been really, really working on it. So hopefully it all pays off.
AP: You're of Mexican and Filipino descent. What's your fan following like in those countries?
Sanchez: Being on the show I had so much support from the Filipino crowd and the Latin crowd. Going to the Philippines was insane. I am like J.Lo over there! Like, I got off the plane and (security) were like, `No, you have to come over here.' And I had to stay in a room because people were trying to take pictures, there was paparazzi. I was like, `What the heck? This is weird.'
AP: As a young person in the entertainment industry, do you worry about falling into the wrong crowd or getting involved with drugs or partying?
Sanchez: I've had bad influences. I've had friends that backstabbed me. I've had no friends at all at certain times. I mean, I've been offered substances of drugs and I just told myself it's not worth it because in the future I have so many bright things ahead of me. ... I've always said `no' and I've always stuck my mind to family, school, music and just what I love and what's positive.