Thank goodness Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph lost her bid to become an “American Idol.”
In 2015, Joseph wowed the judges in her hometown of New Orleans with her take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” But a few weeks later, she failed to advance (J. Lo actually cried when she discovered Joseph had been eliminated). For most singers, everything is downhill after “Idol.”
“People get discouraged after appearing on a show like that and it can put them in a place where they don’t want to sing anymore,” Joseph said. “Lucky me, I had been at it a while before ‘Idol’ so the show was a notch on my belt but it was just a small, small part of what I have done in my career.”
Had she won, record executives may have tried to strip away what makes Jelly singular — her gospel roots, her Nola aesthetic, her ability to pivot from one style to the next without losing her personality. She may have become another Candice Glover or Nick Fradiani (Who? Two of the many winners to barely eke out 15 minutes of fame). Instead, she spent the last few years singing with a wide range of groups including best new artist Grammy nominee Tank and the Bangers, all-female brass band Original Pinettes and Crescent City legends Galactic, who she headlines the Paradise with on Thursday.
“I just went to the Grammys with Tank and the Bangers and it was such an awesome experience and now I’m about to go on tour with Galactic, which is even more awesome,” she said. “I’m just riding this wave, and I want to ride it as long as I can. I am really at a loss for words because things have come so fast for me recently.”
As soon as Joseph began working a day job, she started looking to make music full time. She did that in her early 20s, singing at a French Quarter club five nights a week, often for five hours a night.
“When I had to start working a 9-to-5, I thought this isn’t for me,” she said. “Shout out to everyone working a 9-to-5 but I had to step out on faith and believe in music. … Then those (gigs on Bourbon Street) were kind of like a new 9-to-5 and those were so rough for me. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything because it built me as an artist, it built me as an entertainer. You are never sitting down, never off your feet, always shouting, always singing.”
“Another shout out to all the people still doing it because I couldn’t do it now,” she added with a laugh. “No way.”
Belting out the city’s standards and modern pop night after night gave Joseph a toughness and versatility that make her an ideal fit for Galactic. Once thought of as purely Meters imitators (no shade, that alone is hard to do), Galactic has become as elastic as its hometown. The band’s originals blend New Orleans funk with acid jazz, modern hip-hop and ’60s soul. Live, the guys bounce from David Bowie to Dr. John; on record they have collaborated with Big Freedia, Mavis Staples, Ryan Montbleau, Boots Riley, Macy Gray, Mystikal and so many more.
“I was nervous coming in, knowing I have pretty big shoes to fill thinking of the people they have worked with,” Joseph said. “It’s surreal I was even chosen but I’m so grateful. Also, the vibe between us just fits. Being from New Orleans, we have this vibe that other people don’t. There’s a love for music and an effort to bring our party to the stage.”
And Joseph, Galactic and music fans have “Idol’s” indifference to thank for this funky, freaky party vibe.
Galactic featuring Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, with Southern Avenue and Chali 2na, at the Paradise, Thursday. Tickets: $27.50 in advance/$30 day of show; crossroadspresents.com.