Catching up with Siobhan Magnus
Cape Cod Life / August 2015 / Art & Entertainment, People & Businesses
Writer: Ann Luongo / Photographer: Kamal Asar and Kelly Cronin Bicknell
Cape Cod singer has been busy since her successful run on American Idol
When Siobhan Magnus sang her way into millions of Americans’ homes and hearts during Season 9 of American Idol in 2010, the nation and the world sat up and paid attention. A 2008 graduate of Barnstable High School, Magnus wowed viewers—and the show’s judges—with her big voice, unique look, and decidedly humble personality. Singing powerful renditions of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” and various other tunes, the Cape Cod resident made it all the way to the final six contestants on the show before being eliminated, a vote that may have played a role in causing Idol’s ratings to plummet that season.
Like many contestants who are not ultimately crowned “the American Idol,” Magnus has continued on in the music industry, and is making a name for herself by performing solo shows and singing with groups like Hanson and Boston. The Yarmouthport resident released her first album in 2012 and is currently working on her second. She has also added another item to her growing resume: small business owner.
In a recent interview with Cape Cod LIFE, Magnus discussed some of the unique experiences she’s had since her time on American Idol came to an end five years ago. She also talked about how she came to love music in the first place, what she’s learned, and what she’s planning next.
At 25, Magnus is a little wiser and more seasoned since her stint on Idol. After she was eliminated from the show, Magnus made a number of media appearances including stops on The Ellen Degeneres Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Wendy Williams Show. “All of the interviews were fun,” she recalls, “but I was so tired when I was doing them. I would do interviews in the mornings and afternoons—some in Los Angeles and then some in New York.”
Following the show’s conclusion that year—Lee DeWyze was named American Idol—Magnus and several other Idol finalists performed as a group in concerts across the country that summer. The schedule was busy to say the least. “Touring was ridiculous,” Magnus says. “Before that tour, I had only performed locally with a band in high school, musical theater, and drama club. My biggest live audience was 1,400 people. While touring with Idol, we were performing for 8,000 to 14,000 people a night, and doing four to five shows a week for months.” The tour began with two weeks of rehearsals in California, followed by a road trip of 44 show dates in July and August. The tour made stops in venues in more than 20 states. “We even did a show in Canada,” she says
The work was exhausting, says Magnus, but also enjoyable. “We [the 2010 finalists, and some parents and guardians] were crowded into these buses and bussed across the country. It was hard, but I liked it. It’s not for everybody, but really fun. Getting to see almost the entire country was amazing, and it definitely made me appreciate home much more.”
When the tour was completed, Magnus returned home, continuing to sing at several local venues, including the Cape Cod Melody Tent and the Yarmouth Cultural Center. Opportunities continued to arise for her that year, and Magnus had the chance to perform with her favorite childhood band, the three-brother trio, Hanson. “One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was meeting Hanson and getting to perform with them,” she says. “I’m a huge fan. I was so emotional! It was a surprise show. They picked a song for me, called ‘Weird’,” she says with a laugh. “Before I met them, I had seen them in concert in Boston and I always said that if I got to meet them one day, it was going to be special. And it was. They were really kind.”
Magnus recorded her debut album, Moonbaby, with Nashville-based Pacific International Music in 2012. The title comes from a poem the singer wrote during the Idol tour. “I had been writing some poetry and reading some poems from my favorite author, Francesca Lia Block,” she recalls. “It was my first time back on the East Coast in a long time. There was a great smell, a great feeling . . . and my poem was about that feeling. [Moonbaby] was the word I thought of to explain how I felt.” The album features 10 original songs penned by Magnus and others, and one cover.
For a brief period in 2013, Magnus headlined a band, Doubtful Guest, which featured several members of bands popular in the 1990s including Tony Fredianelli of Third Eye Blind and Peter Klett of Candlebox. The band performed two shows before breaking up due to logistical issues. Magnus says she hopes the group will reunite in the future.
Last year—2014—was particularly busy for Magnus. For starters, Jung Ho Pak, conductor of The Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, called on her to perform with the orchestra as a guest vocalist at the Cape Cod Canal’s centennial celebration at Buzzards Bay Park in July. During the event, Magnus performed Patti Page’s song, “Old Cape Cod” as well as an emotional rendition of the Irish classic, “Danny Boy,” which she sang in tribute to her father, Alan N. Magnus, who died in 2013. Magnus says her father’s passing has impacted her more than anything she has ever been through.
Magnus sang with the symphony again at its Holiday Celebration at the Barnstable High Performing Arts Center in December. “I loved singing with the symphony,” she says. “I felt like a Disney princess! I got to dress really nice. My grandparents loved it.”
The year 2014 also brought what Siobhan describes as the invitation of a lifetime: she was asked to perform with Boston, on the famous group’s “Heaven on Earth Tour.” What began as an interim guest singer’s role for six shows expanded into an incredible 50-date touring schedule. “Performing with Boston was so fun,” Magnus says. “It was so different from touring with Idol. I didn’t have to do any press, didn’t have to do interviews, and ate whatever I wanted! My uncle—bassist Tracy Ferrie—is in the band, so he watched out for me.” She added that Tom Scholz, Boston’s songwriter, organist, guitarist and the band’s last remaining original member, mentored her and offered a lot of good advice.
Magnus traveled with the group to shows across the United States and even to Japan, where they played before large, enthusiastic crowds in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. “It was so great to be in Japan,” she says. “The fans there were cool. The hard-core fans came to all the shows.” Magnus says she was particularly impressed when the audiences sang “ . . . in the streets of Hyannis . . .”, lyrics from the group’s 1976 tune “Rock and Roll Band.”
Being raised on Cape Cod—just a few miles from those very streets—provided Magnus with an appreciation of many diverse musical genres, including rock, pop, blues, and soul, all of which are represented in her music today. “I grew up in Marstons Mills, one of six kids,” Magnus says. “My grandparents always made sure we were submersed in the arts. With them, I always listened to classical music. They enjoy that I work with swing bands.” Though she never took private voice lessons, Magnus says she had a wonderful chorus teacher for three years at Barnstable High in Sean Landers.
The singer also credits her father, who worked as a musician, with her training. “I’ve been singing since I was little,” Magnus says. “My dad taught me how to breathe and how to keep my posture. My parents were very supportive. I began drama club when I was 8, had my first solo when I was 9, and continued with it through high school.” In all, she performed in more than 50 drama club productions with Barnstable High including “Wonderland—The Musical,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Though she took part in the club’s summer theater, most of the shows she performed in were during the school year. “In winter on Cape Cod,” she says, “all we really had was drama club.” She adds that her leading role as Mabel in “Pirates of Penzance” still remains the biggest challenge she has faced as a singer.
“I love theater and I love acting” Magnus says. “I have no idea if I’m any good at it, but I love it.” In recent years, she has been approached about a few acting roles, but she has yet to find anything that has interested her. Note to directors out there: if you’re shooting a horror film, Magnus is interested.
Magnus says her mother, Colleen, has always been an encouraging force for her and her siblings. “My mom is a free, creative spirit,” she says. “She is a bookworm. She has encouraged reading throughout our lives.”
In addition to music, Magnus has branched out in another direction in recent years, and today she is the owner of a small retail business that sells jewelry, vintage clothing, records, and more at the Antiques Center of Cape Cod in Dennis. The space is fittingly named Moonbaby Boutique. “It’s just a little thrift booth with a selection of hand-picked clothing, for now,” she says. The Antiques Center handles product sales for vendors, like Magnus, and splits the profits. “My plan is to make accessories and jewelry, as well as customized clothing,” Magnus says. “I would love to own my own store on the Cape one day.”
While she ventures intro entrepreneurship, Magnus’ music career continues to reflect a diverse musical style. She is working on new projects and honing her skill at songwriting. “I usually write lyrics alone or when I’m in a writing session,” she says. “I’m writing with my older brother, Joseph, as well, which we have never tried. So, I’m hoping that the next year sees another original album from me!”
“I have a handful of new songs that I’m hoping to record better versions of, and release them within the next year, including one I co-wrote called ‘Widow’s Walk’ that I performed with the Cape Symphony last fall for Barnstable’s 375th anniversary, and we are currently working on a recorded version for release. It’s a Cape Cod ghost story song,” she says. “I am also doing some recording-session work where I’m a hired gun, singing backup vocals and duets for other performer’s records.”
She also continues to perform in shows across the Cape. On Sunday, August 23, Magnus will sing numbers from the Great American Songbook in a special Ella & Frank show at the Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster. Additional shows include dates at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod on Saturdays, August 29 and October 31.
What does Magnus think of her success—and her prospects? “I’m proud and excited,” she says, “and I’m glad, so far, to make a career out of what I do. It’s very important for me to strive to do what makes me happy.”
To learn more about Magnus, follow her on Twitter at @SiobhanMagnusAI. In addition, her website, smagnus.com, features upcoming performance dates, news, and a free mobile app.
Ann Luongo is a freelance writer from Plymouth whose work has appeared in several print and online publications.