Keelin McGinn of Medford performs on "American Idol."

Keelin McGinn of Medford performs on "American Idol." Credit: ABC / Eric McCandless

A local singer vies for a Golden Ticket when she performs on ABC's "American Idol" Sunday night, hoping to reach that music competition's Hollywood round the long way around: from Long Island to Ireland, back to Long Island, and then to New Orleans.

Keelin McGinn, 25, who performs under the mononym Keelin, was born in West Islip and raised in Oakdale through age 7, one of two children of Ireland-born Benny and Brenda McGinn. When the family relocated to her parents' native country, Keelin and her older brother Brein grew up in Dungarvan, County Waterford, where their father is now retired and their mother is an information worker at a youth center.

After graduating from the Cork School of Music with a degree in voice and gigging regionally at everything from festivals to pubs to weddings, Keelin McGinn says, the singer spontaneously bought a ticket to the United States "and just told my family I've got to go chase my dream." Family friends still lived on Long Island, so after arriving in May 2021, "I stayed with them for a month or two, and then I got my job, got a car and found an apartment. They helped me to get on my feet and then I went off of my own."

Now living in Medford and working at the Hauppauge Irish bar and restaurant Grafton Street Pub, she auditioned for "American Idol" last year during the singing competition's Idol Across America outreach.

"It began with a Zoom audition," she recalls, "where it was decided whether you would advance to go audition for the celebrity judges." She made the cut and was flown to New Orleans, one of three cities along with Nashville and Las Vegas where music stars Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie chose which singers would proceed to the live rounds in Los Angeles.

In New Orleans, Keelin performed her own composition, the wryly cheeky "Don't Call Me," in which the confident narrator lays down the law: "Don't call me up unless you wanna get down / Don't call me up unless you wanna let go / Hi, you've reached Keelin's hotline / If you're looking for love, press One / For friendship, press Two / For fun, press Three / And if you're not emotionally available enough to know what you want, hang up."

The upbeat, slickly produced song — one of four the fine-voiced Keelin has released so far, along with "Drinks," "Run" and the lyrically explicit "All Over Me" — comes with a professionally shot music video directed by herself, Macrae Marran and Micheala Johnson. She releases her next single next month, she says, and in the meantime performs this Tuesday on the multi-artist bill "Breaking Sound NYC" at the Manhattan nightspot Pianos.

This Sunday, however, she'll be at Grafton Street Pub for a viewing party for her "American Idol" appearance. Or her second appearance, technically: She was seen in the first few seconds of the season premiere on Feb. 19, twirling in a hot pink dress during the opening credits and saying brightly, "I just want to run in there and do my thing and show the judges what I got!"

"I had no idea" she was going to be on, she says. "I was actually supposed to be watching it with my friend and they're on the wrong channel, and I got a text about being in the first 30 seconds of the first episode — so I actually missed it!" she says with a laugh. "I had to watch it afterward. But, yeah, that's me!"

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