Life has been a whirlwind for Ashley Hess since she made it to the Top 14 on ABC’s “American Idol” earlier this year.

“A lot of cool opportunities have come up and I’ve been playing a lot of shows,” Hess told the Daily Herald in a recent phone interview. “It’s crazy to me that now I’m a full-time musician because that’s something I’ve been working towards for the past couple years, and to have that now be something that’s possible and something that I’m doing, that I’m traveling a ton and playing shows and that I’m making an income off of something I’m so passionate about, is a dream come true.”

Hess, a former dental hygiene student at Utah Valley University in Orem who got her start as a singer in the Utah music scene, will return from her new home in Nashville to the Beehive State this week for the first time since she competed on “American Idol” to perform at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo.

“It’ll be really fun just to get back to Utah and play a celebratory kind of hometown show. I guess hometown is California, but I spent the last eight years in Utah, so it’ll be fun to get back there,” Hess said. “I have a lot of family and friends back there and I’m just excited to get back and play a show, especially at Velour because that’s a staple venue in Utah County and I’ve played there a couple times, and so it’s cool to go back there, back to my roots where music all started for me.”

The singer plans to perform a lot of her original music that never aired on “American Idol” as well as some covers listeners will be familiar with at the concert. Hess said some other musicians, both local and nonlocal, will join her onstage during her set.

“I’m excited to play my own songs and to see how people react and if people connect with those,” Hess said. “It’ll be fun to just bring people together for a night of good music, so crossing my fingers that people come out because it’ll be a fun show.”

Hess also will share the stage with fellow “American Idol” Top 20 contestant Logan Johnson of Idaho, who will open the concert.

“I made a lot of really good friends on the show and all of us have just said, ‘If you’re ever playing a show close to me, let me know,’ ” Hess said. “This will be his first actual show that he’s playing besides ‘American Idol.’ Being on ‘Idol’ was the first time he had played, and so I thought it would be fun for him to come out and play and open up the show with me and just do a mini ‘Idol’ reunion with a couple of contestants and put on the show in Utah.”

Contestants on the show become part of an “American Idol” family, according to Hess.

“Even people in previous seasons were reaching out to me that were just saying, ‘Hey, wishing you the best of luck,’ and they were offering advice, like Brooke White and David Archuleta, and it was so nice to have their support,” Hess said. “But then also the people on the show, the contestants on the show this year, we all just got really close.”

Hess said knowing she made it to the Top 14 of “American Idol” is still crazy to her and “really cool” because it’s not something she ever expected to do and she “had no idea what was going to come from it.”

“For me to actually make the Top 14 out of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people that auditioned is really humbling,” Hess said. “It’s just a really big confidence booster for me to see that I made it that far, and I’m just super grateful for the opportunity and the things that I’ve learned and the people that I’ve met, the relationships that I have had, that I have now, and the experiences that have helped me grow, not only as an artist, but as a person.”

Looking back, Hess said she feels “super grateful” for “American Idol” because the show taught her a lot and gave her experience she has never had before.

“It also gave me the confidence and the reassurance that music is something that I can make a career out of and it’s not just something that I can do as a hobby,” Hess said. “I learned that there’s a place for anyone if you work hard enough and if you stick to it, and if you have the confidence in yourself and work hard enough that it’s possible.”

Hess said she hopes through her musical career to tour and connect with people, more so than to just make money.

“Music is such a cool thing because it connects you in such a deep and personal way,” Hess said. “I love meeting people and hearing their stories and hearing how they connect with my music or with the performances.”

The singer said she wants to write music that she feels is a true representation of who she is.

“That’s what my goal is, is to just be really true and authentic in my writing and what I’m putting out into the world and to hopefully connect with people and to continue doing that enough to do it for the rest of my life,” Hess said.