Alexis Gomez is going places, and one of those places is Nashville. After a successful run on season 14 of American Idol—in which she made it to the solo rounds—the Centerville High School and Wright State University grad has her eye on further honing her craft in the capital of country music. During her American Idol run, she was known as the “Mexican, Hillbilly Hippie,” but this young star has been singing for as long as she can remember, with pre-AI experience opening for acts like Cassadee Pope, Clint Black and Old Dominion. We sat down with her to find out what she’s doing now.

What is your first music memory?

My dad taught me everything I know; he’s a musician and a songwriter. We had a family band, and when I was 8, he invited me to perform with them at a homeless shelter called Target Dayton. I was singing “Love’s the Only House,” by Martina McBride, and I was super nervous. When I got to the bridge, I forgot the lyrics! Dad helped me get back on, but I ran off the stage afterward and was so embarrassed. After the song, a lady came up and said that song was going to change her life.

What was it like auditioning for American Idol?

It was amazing! I watched Carrie Underwood’s season as a kid, and then my parents took me to Wisconsin to audition. I sang for eight seconds before they said, “Thank you, it’s a no today!” But the next year I went to the TV round before being cut. I waited two years while I went to Nashville and worked with coaches, and then [season 14] was beyond my wildest dreams. I made it to the final 16 and had successful people looking at what I was doing. Telling me “no” [in the beginning] made me want to try harder.

How has your life changed?

It’s like an overnight thing. You can’t tell people how you did [on the show], and then you’re on TV. I came home from LA and we went out to dinner and it took about three and a half hours because people kept coming up to meet me. But that’s great because these are my fans.

What are you up to these days? What can we expect next?

I’m just trying to keep the momentum going. I signed with a manager in Nashville, and I’ll be touring around Dayton and this area. I’ve been writing and recording songs and am excited about getting them out there.

What advice do you have for other young musicians who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Take every opportunity you can. Dad pushed me to take every opportunity I could to sing. And don’t be discouraged when people say “no.” Just surround yourself with people who support you and stay grounded!