These are equal parts nervous and surreal times for Nanaimo teen Lauren Spencer-Smith.

The 16-year-old songbird is the first Canadian to make it into American Idol’s top-20.

But she’s part of show history in more ways than one. 

Because of the pandemic, for the first time ever singers performed remotely for a spot in the top 10 (Spencer-Smith sang Jessie J’s Momma Knows Best).

While this leg of the journey isn’t how she envisioned it, Spencer-Smith said it’s been an unforgettable experience.

Now her fate is in America’s hands, with the top-10 being unveiled this Sunday.

Vista Radio spoke to Spencer-Smith about her time on the show, thus far.

First off, how has the experience been?

“The experience has been absolutely amazing. I’ve made so many friendships and met so many amazing people and had so much fun. There is never a dull moment when we’re on set. I would recommend the experience to anybody if they asked.”

The show’s format has obviously changed with COVID-19. Is it disappointing not being around the other contestants?

“I think we all miss each other, obviously, but there are ways to stay connected and we’ve all found those ways. Now we get to be around all our family members and be at home and be safe. I think it’s really important that everyone is staying safe, so I don’t think anyone is disappointed at all. I think we’re all super happy that we’re all safe at our homes and with our families.”

What was it like performing at home last week? How much different was it from singing in front of a live audience?

“So we have three takes and our second one was our vocal tape, so if you mess up, or you fall over… anything, that was your take. And then we had different camera angles that were set up for some other shots.”

Are you allowed to pick your own songs?

“Yeah, we pick our own songs. We do have to make sure that songs are cleared by the (original) artist because you need rights and approvals for everything. But if for some reason something odd like that happens, you can pick a new song.”

How close have you become with the other contestants?

“I am, like, literally best friends with at least five of them. I think I will be friends with people for life. I have friends (where I can) go to New Jersey, and Florida, and Philly. And not only just am I close with them, I had to bring my parents because I’m a minor, obviously. So even my parents are close with their families. I have one girl who I FaceTime (with), and when I am on FaceTime with her, my mom’s on FaceTime with her mom at the same time!”

So it’s a competition but it’s basically just trying to be the best singer you can be?

“It really is, just love from everybody. It’s almost like we’re just competing with ourselves. If one of the contestants was like, ‘Oh, well you help me arrange my song?’ All of us are like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll help you!’ When you think of a competition, you wouldn’t (think of helping) the other person pick their song and come up with an arrangement, (but) everyone is just loving and wanting to help each other.”

How nervous are you this week? Are you having sleepless nights?

“It’s very scary. I think we’re almost used to the suspense because we’ve been doing it the whole show. So we just hope for the best but no matter what happens I think we’re all grateful and happy.”

When did you decide to audition?

“Initially I never actually knew I could audition for American Idol, because it was only for Americans. So I didn’t grow up thinking, ‘I’m going to audition for American Idol,’ because I wasn’t allowed to. It was always, ‘Oh my god, I want to go on this show.’ But I didn’t know I could (audition for) American Idol until last year. Around October, somebody reached out and said, ‘we’re allowing Canadians’ and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, no way!’”

How long have you been watching the show?

“Probably since I was, like, eight or nine it was when I started to watch everything on YouTube. But I’ve been really studying and watching the show a lot for the past four years.”

Is this how you envision yourself spending the rest of your life, as a singer and a performer?

“That’s 100 percent what I want to do with my life.”