After finishing ninth during the fifth season of "American Idol," pop-gospel artist Mandisa didn't know where her music career would take her.
"I questioned whether or not I was going to be able to do this for a living," she told The Post-Journal from her Nashville, Tenn., home. "That was a hard time for me."
Nearly six years after her elimination, Mandisa still finds herself mixed in with nationally known "American Idol" classmates Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee and Kellie Pickler, who remain in the spotlight.
Three-time Grammy nominee Mandisa will perform at the Reg Lenna on Friday, Feb. 24. After finishing ninth on “American Idol,” the pop-gospel artist didn’t know how far she would make it in the music industry.
She has released three albums, all of which have received Grammy nominations, and will embark on a tour that includes a Friday, Feb. 24, show at the Reg Lenna Civic Center with special guest Britt Nicole.
She attended the Grammys on Sunday, making the trip after her most recent release, "What If We Were Real," was nominated for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.
"It was amazing," Mandisa said of the awards ceremony. "If there was anywhere I wanted to be the night after Whitney Houston's death, it would be there. I just thought it was the perfect place to celebrate her life and to grieve and appreciate the impact she made. I'm so glad that I was able to go."
What: Mandisa w/Britt Nicole
When: Friday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m.
Where: Reg Lenna Civic Center, 116 E. Third St., Jamestown
How much: $18 presale, $21 at the door
For more info: www.fln.org/tickets
Her first two albums, "True Beauty" and "Freedom," were nominated for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album. Despite not bringing home a Grammy yet, Mandisa feels blessed to be a three-time nominee.
"It's a little surreal," she said. "Each time I've been nominated, I've been just as surprised as the first time because I know where I came from. When you finish in ninth place on 'American Idol,' I don't think there's a whole lot of expectations, so the fact that my albums would be thought of in such a way is such an honor."
When recording and performing, Mandisa said she isn't motivated by awards. She prefers to focus on making music that impacts listeners while trying to be herself. She used that formula when crafting "What If We Were Real."
"I've learned that I don't have to wear a mask around everybody in order to be deemed appropriate or for people to like me," she said. "Being honest and being real, sharing our lives with people, is what God calls us to do. When we do that, it means we can pray for each other and we can help encourage each other and know that we're not alone in the struggles that we go through. We can share our triumphs with each other and be able to celebrate one another's victories."
Mandisa described "What If We Were Real" as an edgier album than her first two. Her fans have given the album a positive reception thus far, Mandisa said.
"I always hear people tell me they can find a song for every mood they're in," she said. "In the end, because it is Christian music, it's really celebrating the fact that we have victory in our Father through everything that we go through. It's just as encouraging as my other albums and maybe even more so."
In a sign of the times, Mandisa drew inspiration for her album from her friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. While struggling to lose weight, she vented on Twitter, resulting in feedback from her fans.
"The response I got was, 'Thank you for being so honest and not always saying everything is going so well,'" she said. "When I realized people appreciated me being honest, that's when the wheels started turning in my head about what God would want us to do as far as that's concerned. What I believe he would want us to do is to be real and to be honest. I love my friends on Twitter and Facebook. I feel like they've taught me a lot, and I think they would say vice versa."
Despite her experiences in the studio and on TV shows, such as "American Idol," "Live with Regis and Kelly" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Mandisa has found she feels most comfortable on stage. When she visits the Reg Lenna on Feb. 24, she said the audience should expect a memorable night that will include singing, dancing and laughing.
"I'm always myself, but I feel like I'm the best version of myself whenever I get to perform," she said. "I feel like that's when I truly am who I am."
Sponsored by Family Life of Bath, N.Y., the concert will begin at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $18 in advance and $21 at the door. "Artist Circle" tickets are also available for $22.50. To order tickets, visit fln.org/tickets or call 800-927-9083. Visit fln.org for more information on Family Life and Family Life Network.
Following the conclusion of her current tour, Mandisa plans to record her fourth studio album and to embark on yet another supporting tour. The uncertainty she felt following her elimination from "American Idol" has faded away.
"I think I'm in a different place now," she said. "I know who I am, I know what I'm called to do and I've found a relative amount of success in that area."