These days, Miss Issa Bayaua is doing her best to remain calm and not cause an accident while driving around the freeways of Los Angeles — but that's not easy when your very first single has just hit the radio airwaves.
"I thought it over and over in my mind — how am I going to react when I hear my song on the radio? I knew that I would probably just scream my lungs out," proclaims the 23-year-old newcomer of her excitement these days.
Emerging from a family surrounded by music — her mom was a singer and her uncles performed in a Mariachi band — Miss Issa says that her family's musical talents helped influence her from an early age.
"I really didn't care about music until my mom turned me onto it," she says. "She started playing Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight — everything from country to rock — and I became really well-rounded."
As a 5-year-old, Miss Issa would perform at family gatherings in her hometown of San Diego, but her actual gift was not always so clear to those in attendance.
"My mom never thought I was going to be a singer," Miss Issa explains with a laugh. "She always thought that I was going to be a comedian because I would always joke around in front of the mic. I would start singing and she would say, 'Wow, my daughter can sing.' And then I'd break into something funny and crazy."
Feeling like she wasn't as focused as she could be, Miss Issa left San Diego as a teenager for Houston, where she lived with her sister for six years.
"I got my act together and did what I was supposed to do," she says of her time in Texas.
However, Miss Issa grew tired of the Houston scene and felt like it was time for a change, so last year she took a chance and moved to Los Angeles.
"I didn't feel like I had a direction of where my life was going," she says of her decision to move back west.
Shortly after arriving in L.A. in late 2004, Miss Issa auditioned for TLC's "R U the Girl," where she obtained a finalist position. However, after reading the contract, she decided against appearing on the show.
"The contract — it was going to kill me," she explains. "They were telling me that I had to wave all my rights and I just didn't want to do that."
The recognition of her talents was enough to prove that she could succeed on her own.
"I had about an ounce of confidence when I went to the "R U the Girl" audition," Miss Issa recalls. "But while I was auditioning, I realized that a lot of these girls do this for a living, and that's what I wanted to do as well."
Miss Issa decided to sign on with producer Kairi Brown, whom she had met just after her first audition for the show. By summer, Brown had her in the studio working on her first album.
"What's amazing is I never took music seriously until just this last year," she says. "I'm overwhelmed with everything that's been going on. It's been such a short period of time that I've been singing professionally."
Once in the studio, it was simply on-the-job training from day one.
"He (Brown) obviously knew that I didn't have any experience, but he decided to throw me into the studio raw — so I had a hard time with being sharp," Miss Issa explains. "I knew that I had to catch on quick and I settled down after the first month. I'm such a perfectionist. I like to get it right as soon as they tell me."