It's hard to believe that Kira Means gets more nervous performing in front of her parents at home than she did when taking the Wilma Theatre stage for the annual First Night Idol talent competition.
But it's true, she says. And it showed when the precocious 14-year-old Hellgate High freshman confidently belted out her poppy, self-penned song, "Hello," on New Year's Eve. The performance brought the crowd to its feet, and earned Means the title.
"I didn't really believe it for a while," she says. "It didn't really hit me until the next day. It was pretty overwhelming. I couldn't stop smiling."
Means is more Norah Jones than Kelly Clarkson when it comes to being a music idol. She writes all of her own songs, plays guitar and piano, and her mom says the budding musician is eyeing the cello as her next musical challenge. Local musician Eden Atwood serves as Means' voice coach and another Missoula luminary, Tom Catmull, is teaching her new guitar techniques. Means frequently plays gigs around town, bringing her guitar to perform at the farmers' market, charity fundraisers and Sean Kelly's. She's also laid down four tracks at Missoula's Club Schmed Recording Studios and plans on returning to record a few more after the semester ends.
"I've been singing since I could talk, practically," she says.
For First Night Idol, Means sailed through the preliminary rounds and then beat 12 other Missoula area high school students in the final. By the time she reached the Wilma stage, Means said her usual nerves had disappeared.
"It didn't even really feel like a competition," she says.
Fresh off her win and a flurry of other gigs, Means says she's taking a breather. But she'll keep writing music as the mood strikes.
"It seems like every time I write a new song," she says, "it becomes my favorite."