Erika Van Pelt, “American Idol” Season 11 Top 10 finalist, is kicking off a tour with a performance at the Warwick Mall Saturday. The 27-year-old owner of Van Pelt Entertainment, and a 2003 South Kingstown High School graduate, is looking forward to playing in Warwick, especially since she’s living in the city.
“I’m definitely going to do my first single, ‘Listen, Learn, Then Delete,’ and my second single, ‘Hurricane,’” said Van Pelt, who studied music, along with sound engineering and production, at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Van Pelt remembers performing at the mall about nine years ago, and is happy to be making another appearance.
“It’s been almost a decade, so now I get to come back and sing my original songs, which is really cool,” she said.
The tour has stops in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and was scheduled to promote her debut album, “My Independence,” which will be released Oct. 8. Hard copies will be sold at Newbury Comics, with online versions available on iTunes.
“Listen, Learn, Then Delete” is already available via online distributors, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, ReverbNation and more. For every single that’s purchased through ReverbNation, the Fender Music Foundation Charity will receive half the proceeds. The charity benefits music education throughout the United States.
“It’s important to me because before I started performing, I planned on being a music teacher,” she said. “It’s something that I still think about as a possibility down the road.”
Van Pelt began recording the album, which she describes as a unique combination of pop, soul, and rock, after completing the American Idol Summer Tour in 2012. She teamed up with notable producers, including Anthony J. Resta, known for his work with Elton John and Duran Duran, and Christian Lohr, who has worked with Joss Stone.
She co-wrote a few songs on the album with The Young Pandas, a New England-based indie group. They also produced two tracks.
“They are dear friends of mine, and it’s been a really nice working relationship,” said Van Pelt. “They’re fantastic.”
The 11-track album is fully recorded, and has been mixed and mastered. On Tuesday, she received an e-mail from one of her producers, saying that the first shipment of the finished product has arrived.
“I’m so excited,” Van Pelt said. “I haven’t even seen them yet.”
As an independent artist, funding the album isn’t easy. She’s using her own money, as well as funds raised through Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. She raised $8,525 at press time but needs more.
“It’s a great start, but I really need to raise $20,000,” she said, noting that the money will be used for distribution and marketing. The campaign ends at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27. Donations can be made by visiting Kickstarter.com and doing a search for Erika Van Pelt.
“Coming off ‘Idol,’ I’m very blessed to have a pretty solid fan base,” she said. “We spent a good amount of money on recording, production and shooting two music videos, but when you don’t have major label backing, it’s very hard to get your songs heard. If I don’t want my record to sit on a shelf, I really have to let people know about it and the best way to do that is through marketing and distribution.”
She has been recruiting friends, family and fans for help, reminding them that Kickstarter is not a charity. Donors receive prizes for contributions.
“They are really investing in my dream,” Van Pelt said. “I’m not just asking for handouts. My Irish pride wouldn’t let me do that.”
When she’s not writing, recording or performing throughout Rhode Island, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Miami and Palm Beach, she’s operating Van Pelt Entertainment, which provides high-end mobile DJ services for events. She established it in 2004, specializing in weddings, private functions, karaoke, trivia and bar bingo, and leads seven staffers, including her younger brother, Collin Van Pelt.
“He’s great,” she said. “When I was away with ‘Idol,’ he held down the fort for me.”
She is also working with NBC’s “The Voice,” a talent show that features music superstars Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and CeeLo Green as judges. Representatives from the show approached Van Pelt to be a “Reality TV Insider” for the upcoming season.
“I think it’s really cool,” she said. “‘The Voice’ is huge, and I like the way that it’s structured.”
Despite her busy schedule, she makes sure to keep in touch with loved ones. She often chats with her “American Idol” co-stars, including one in particular.
“I talk to Phillip Phillips probably more than I talk to anyone,” said Van Pelt.
After wrapping up the mall tour in October, she hopes to embark on another tour. She would like to visit every major city on the East Coast.
“We’re also heading to New Orleans, Nashville and ending up in Texas,” she said. “That’s in the works right now, and we’re very excited about that.”
And while most of her friends are getting married and having children, she’s focused on her career.
“My work is my marriage,” Van Pelt said. “I’m fully dedicated to it and ready to rock and roll. Performing is the love of my life.”
Van Pelt will be at the mall from noon to 3 p.m. The Mall is located at 400 Bald Hill Road.