KATY, Texas -- Could the next "American Idol" be from Katy, Texas? Andrea Valles sure hopes so!
"Moving here is what made me pursue my music career even further than I already have," said Valles, who has been singing since she was 9 years old.
The 23-year-old bilingual singer-songwriter is among the contestants competing this season.
She explains that although she grew up in America, her mother made sure she spoke Spanish in the house and stayed close to that heritage.
"It's more comfortable to sing in English because that's my first language, but when I sing in Spanish, there's something about it too. It comes from deep in my soul where I'm from so it feels more at home when I sing in Spanish too," she said.
Performing in front of the judges was somewhat of a full-circle moment for Valles.
"I drew a picture of myself on an 'American Idol' stage when I was 9 years old and that's when I told my mom that I wanted to be singer. So the fact that it's happening now is super huge, especially for my family," Valles said. "They know that it's my dream."
Valles, who was donning pink tresses at her audition, but is now rocking shorter, soft brown waves, shared the story about the drawing with the judges, and described the experience in front of them as "the most amazing feeling."
"Seeing these artists who have been doing this their whole lives is super admirable, and being able to perform in front of them is a dream come true," Valles said.
So what are the judges like?
"Lionel (Richie) is just so beautiful. He has the most beautiful smile. Katy (Perry) is just funny, so herself, and Luke (Bryan) is silly.... their combination together makes it so nice to be a part of it," Valles described.
Valles was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States when she was 2 years old.
She was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, before moving to Katy with her family when she was 17.
Because Valles arrived to the city in her senior year, she attended Cypress Lakes High School for one year before going to Lone Star Community College.
She eventually transitioned to pursuing music full time.
Valles is no stranger to performing in front of people. Over the last four years, she's been a wedding singer with the Drywater Band in Houston.
She adds she's always had the support of her family.
"My mom was a single mom for the majority of my upbringing. I have so much respect for my mom. She's always supported me," Valles told ABC13. "I remember telling her I wanted to be a famous singer since I was 9 years old, and ever since then, everything she's done to help me has been toward that so I owe it all to her and my family."
Valles says her love of singing is what helps her to push through the difficult times like hearing rejection or feeling that she's not enough.
"It brings you down, but what keeps you there is the love you have for doing it," she said. "That's what pushed me the whole time."
If Valles looks familiar, that's because you may have spotted her on YouTube.
She has several covers of popular songs from artists ranging from Justin Bieber and Harry Styles to John Legend and Lizzo, who hails from Alief.
One of Valles' most popular ukulele covers is when she sings Sia's "Cheap Thrills." That video alone has garnered nearly 33,000 views.
Valles said she learned to play because her sister bought her a ukulele for her birthday one year. She then taught herself how to play the instrument, and is also self taught when it comes to the guitar and a little bit of piano. In high school, she did percussion. Next up on her list: the bass.
"I got on YouTube and I started looking up videos of ukulele tutorials and I just started learning myself and I really enjoyed it," said Valles, who now creates tutorials as well.
Currently, her favorite cover is "Circles" by Post Malone. "But they change! They always change!" she laughs.
Valles has also been producing her own music for quite some time, including an EP released in December.
While Valles has auditioned for other music shows before, this is her first time going for "American Idol." And like many things, that process was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as Valles had to audition over Zoom while in quarantine.
She explains the pandemic made her reflect as well.
"I feel like there were a lot more positives than negatives because you were just able to be with yourself. I feel that has allowed us to grow as individuals and be a lot more united with family and friends and check up on people," Valles said. "Just be more present in the moment."
Despite the challenges, Valles describes herself as open-minded and optimistic.
"I really just want the world to know me for who I am, just a girl with the family, bilingual. Just always pushing out here for a greater future and a greater life," she said. "That's just the way I live life. Doing what I love, no matter what, unapologetically,"
Valles isn't the only one representing our area well in her quest for stardom this season.
Last weekend, 27-year-old singer Re'h spoke to ABC13 about performing in front of the "American Idol" judges.
Re'h was born and raised in Missouri City. You can watch her story below.
The Houston area is also known for producing talent. In 2019, singers Uche, of Sugar Land, and Laci Kay Booth, of Livingston, made lasting impressions on the competition.
"American Idol" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC13.