Updated Tue. May. 23 2006 12:41 PM ET
Before making it to Top 9 on Season 3 of Canadian Idol, the gregarious Ashley Leitao was already gigging in British Columbia's Lower Mainland and had recorded a few demos. Since finishing her run on the show, she's doing a lot of the same things -- but in high gear.
She's made a CD with two other Idol finalists, has been playing more often and for bigger crowds and is leaving a long string of adoring fans in her wake -- including a corporate executive who was so enthralled by her performances on the show he hired her band for his company's Christmas party.
"He contacted my parents at our family bakery after seeing me on TV," Leitao told Eye on Idol. "Apparently he had his whole corporation watching the show and voting for me."
Her band -- comprised of herself and hired musicians Sam Schoichet, Niko Friesen and Stephen Nikleva -- rocked 800 employees of Syscon Software for the entire evening of their holiday celebration.
The devotion to music that Leitao exudes has certainly worked in her favour. In March, she joined Casey LeBlanc and Amber Fleury in Ontario's Niagara Region to record an album under the direction of Idol accompanyist Mark Lalama.
"It was the first time we'd been up close and personal with each other since the show," said Leitao, speaking on her cell phone during a break from a shift at the bakery. "The finished product sounds fantastic. It's more of a grownup CD that blends our different musical styles. We really blend well."
Lalama, who co-wrote the songs with three other writers, said musical influences on the album include Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and Fleetwood Mac.
There is no word yet on who will distribute the record, but Lalama said his lawyer is negotiating distribution rights "as we speak." He bills it as the first trio album to rise out of an Idol show anywhere in the world.
But, to keep this title, the as-yet-unnamed group faces some stiff competition from three finalists from the Croation version of the show, Hrvatski Idol. Pamela Ramljak, Neda Parmaæ, and Ivana Maric formed the group Feminnem in 2004 and also have plans to release an album this summer.
While she's eagerly anticipating the album's launch, Leitao has also kept busy with a million other projects.
She presented an award and performed at the CFL Player Awards in November, sang the national anthem at the Canadian Junior Hockey Championships in December and has continued playing her regular café and restaurant gigs throughout the area.
Leitao said being on the show gave her new energy and pushed her to promote herself.
"It's given me an easier opening as far as getting through doors in this industry," she said. "After being on Canadian Idol, I came home feeling really inspired."