Carly Smithson's 2nd Chance At Fame

"American Idol" season seven contestant Carly Smithson, 24, from San Diego, CA. Smithson's entry into the show's final 24 raised controversy because she had released an album in 2001.
Carly Smithson may have snagged a big-time record deal as a teen, but her co-workers at an Irish pub in San Diego didn't even know the raven-haired, tattooed chanteuse could sing.

Dublin-bred Smithson, 24, worked five days a week as a waitress and then as a bartender at the Field for almost three years, up until her stint as a finalist on Fox network's "American Idol."

"Carly, one day, told us, 'I can sing.' Then she sang, and she didn't stop. That was New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 2006," the pub's chef, Thomas Beatty, 31, told The Associated Press.

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Smithson also co-owns 1-year-old San Diego tattoo shop Nothing Sacred with her tattoo artist-husband, Todd Smithson, whose face is covered in ink art.

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"She's very modest, hardworking, polite, nice," Beatty said. "Did we realize she was as good as what she was? No."

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After that New Year's Eve performance, Smithson - born Carly Hennessy - started singing at the pub every Saturday night, Beatty said.

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She would work a shift, go home for a couple of hours, then return to belt out everything from U2 to Johnny Cash.

"I was shocked at the range of her voice," the Irish chef said. "She always sang this one song 'Black Is the Color,' a Scottish song. It would make everyone silent. Everybody would just be in awe of her."

As for her 2001 MCA Records debut, "Ultimate High," which flopped, Beatty said the pub's staff never knew about it.

"She never talked about having a record deal," he said.

Kevin Dickinson, 25, a tattoo artist at Nothing Sacred and a friend of the Smithsons, said Carly Smithson invested a lot of her own money in the album. He said lackluster sales could have been due to the album coming out soon after Sept. 11, 2001.

As for her heavily tatted-up hubby, Smithson met him at Los Angeles International Airport when a friend sent her to pick him up. After a friendship and phone romance that included Smithson traveling between California and Ireland, the pair married about three and a half years ago, Dickinson said.