Jackie Evancho has entered the club of adulthood!
The opera prodigy — who rose to fame in 2010 when she was the runner-up on America’s Got Talent at the age of 10 —says she’s grown older and wiser since turning 18 earlier this year, but she’s still very much a kid at heart.
“It feels kinda the same as 17 at first, but then all the responsibilities come hitting you all at once and I suddenly wish I was 17 again,” the “Pedestal” singer tells PEOPLE. But, she says of adulthood, “I love it, I get more control of my career now which is amazing.”
For Jackie, maturity has never been measured by her age, rather it’s been built by her attitude over the experiences and bumps she’s faced in her career thus far.
“The biggest change I feel I’ve undergone is just the enthusiasm I have for my career and all aspects of it,” she says about the biggest change in her career since she first began her journey. “When I was a little girl all I wanted to do was play or sing.”
“I wasn’t a fan of planes after a while or long car rides and, unfortunately, that was a big part of the job,” she adds. “I was also afraid of the business side of the entertainment world. I never understood it. Now I love it all.”
In January 2017 at the age of 16, Jackie faced backlash and became the target of vicious Twitter bullying for singing the national anthem at President Trump’s inauguration. Previously she’d opened up to PEOPLE about her family being a “big target” due to the fact that her sister, Juliet, is transgender. Jackie says it’s her family’s undying support that keeps her grounded and able to keep following her passion in the public eye.
“My family has helped me a lot, but I do have to say that growing up I always heard horror stories about people achieving some amount of fame and changing into something awful because of it,” she says. “I never ever wanted that for myself.”
“I had and still have a clear image of what I want to be and that was NOT it,” she continues. “So, needless to say, if my family wasn’t helping me stay grounded, I doubt I would have become something I didn’t want to be anyway.”
RELATED: Jackie & Juliet Evancho on Their Fight for Transgender Rights & President Trump’s Military Ban
As for Juliet, 20 – who first revealed she was transgender when she posed on a red carpet alongside Jackie at the Global Lyme Alliance’s inaugural gala in New York in 2015 – Jackie says she’s doing “wonderful.”
“Juliet is wonderful! She is currently at home in [Pennsylvania] for now getting herself together before she officially moves up with me a few months after me,” says Jackie, who recently made the move to New York. “She still really wants to tackle her modeling career and may even branch out into acting!”
Jackie says moving out on her own to the Big Apple has boosted her career more than ever.
“I had always really loved the area, but I was afraid to take the final step and officially move,” she says. “My manager ended up convincing me and I am so glad he did because the level of creativity in New York is amazing and makes me feel so at home.”
“I’m most excited about the independence and the opportunity for me to discover who I am since all I’ll have to talk to is myself and my dogs,” she says about how she feels towards leaving the nest. “I’m most nervous of feeling lonely.”
With new beginnings come new projects – ones that are “very much me!”
“Fans can expect new material early next year that I think caters to both young and old,” Jackie says about continuing her success. “I finally get to have full control of the direction I want to go in now that I’m 18.”
“It’s an album of songs taken from contemporary Broadway musicals – like Hamilton, Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen, etc,” she adds. “As an 18-year-old, I feel I have something unique to say with these songs [and] people tend to take my ideas a bit more seriously with the new age.”