Pharrell Williams hit it right on the nose when he described The Voice artist Amy Vachal as the type of singer who could brighten a person’s day. Though “Sunday Kind of Love” was her strongest performance thus far, Pharrell went with Madi Davis during the Knockout rounds. But Vachal’s journey on The Voice continues, as Adam Levine and Blake Shelton went for the steal, with Vachal picking Levine as her new coach.
One of this season’s most talked about performers, Evan McKeel made a lasting impression during the Blind Auditions. Though he did a great job performing the Mutemath track “Typical,” he displayed his diverse vocal skill set with an impromptu rendition of the Stevie Wonder tune “Overjoyed” (Gwen Stefani’s reaction was priceless and, from where I sit, justified).
It’s pretty impossible to give Bill Withers a run for his money, but The Voice artist Mark Hood delivered the goods with his rendition of “Use Me” during the Blind Auditions. With Pharrell as his coach, Hood advanced through the Battle Rounds after a memorable duet with Celeste Betton on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Gwen Stefani described it as her favorite battle).
After her standout performance of “Fever” during the Blind Auditions, The Voice artist Siahna Im picked Pharrell Williams as her coach. Her journey continued through the Battle Rounds as she advanced over Ivonne Acero during their performance of “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Im, whose stage presence and swagger is out of this world for a 15-year-old, talked about her experience working with Pharrell and taking part in The Voice.
Though she grew up in the small town of Crandall, Georgia (pop. 300), no moment on The Voice has been too big for Ellie Lawrence. Her compelling rendition of Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off” received a three chair turn (Blake Shelton, what were you thinking???), and her subtle self confidence and unique flair makes her a perfect member for Team Gwen.
As part of the former duo Steel Magnolia, Meghan Linsey is forging a new path on The Voice. Though she’s known for her years of experience as a country singer, Linsey is showing viewers a different side of her vocal skill set, which is probably why fellow colleague Blake Shelton didn’t turn his chair during her Blind Audition of “Love Hurts.”
One of this season’s more promising (and powerhouse) singers on The Voice is 16-year-old Mia Z. Part of Pharrell’s team, the Pittsburgh native is refreshingly grounded and composed thanks to being raised in a musically inclined household.
DaNica Shirey took a several year break from the music business after her father’s passing, but now the powerhouse singer has returned to her passion thanks to her successful run on The Voice. Whether it’s her Battle Rounds performance of “Halo” or taking on Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” during the Knockouts, Shirey has performed with a ton of confidence and inspiration (not to mention talent).
During our interview, Shirey talked about her feelings going into the Live Playoffs (she’s being coached by Pharrell), elaborated on her love for R&B/soul music, and explained why Bob Marley’s uplifting “Three Little Birds” is high on her personal music rotation.
Why “Saving All My Love For You” during Knockouts? Tacking Whitney Houston is a mighty order!
I really have been highly influenced by Whitney. It’s been one of those kind of things for me. I was little when I had my very first karaoke machine. My dad got it for me when I was 8.
I ended up having some instrumental, mixed CDs and I first learned a Whitney Houston song when I was 10. I sang it at the Apollo Theatre when I was 15. So she’s always been a big part of my life and she is kind of one of those untouchables and people don’t like (singers) doing her (songs). So I guess that kind of makes me want to do it (laughs).
I don’t feel like I could have been the same singer without her. I wanted to represent a little where I come from, you know (laughs)?
With Live Playoffs upon us, how much work goes into the process?
Knowing that we’re going into Lives, I’m super nervous and I’ve never done live TV before so I’m a little scared. I’m really excited. It’s not just up to my coach to save me – this is up to America now. So it’s kind of scary. I don’t know what America is going to want, and I may not be that person that they want to hear. But I can’t wait – and I’m finally getting recognized!
I walked down the street with Luke Wade and there was a lady who walked up and said, “Hi, I think you’re great!” And Luke says, “She’s on The Voice too.” And she said “I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are (laughs).”
I’ve noticed now with Battles and Knockouts airing, more people have recognized who I am and are coming up and saying hi to me. It’s really cool.
Luke was talking about how soul and R&B was a great way for him to directly connect with the audience. Do you feel the same way.
Yes, absolutely. For some reason, there’s just something different when I sing R&B music and soul. I feel it so much more. Everything that I sing – I feel it in my heart and I feel the emotions of the song. If I’m having an emotional day or I just don’t want to think about stuff, that would be my go-to music. I totally get why he said that. So true – it’s very true.
Do you have go-to singers or music that keeps you grounded and inspired time and time again?
I listen to a lot of Bob Marley too. He always makes me feel better. It’s just kind of the feel good music for me. That song “Three Little Birds” is a huge go-to. One of my girlfriends passed away in a car accident when I was 19 and I listened to that song every single day over and over again. My (friend) ended up buying me a sweatshirt with Bob Marley on it with the lyrics to that song because I listen to it so much.
Is it hard balancing your family life along with The Voice’s hectic schedule?
It’s hard. I do have to be away from my daughter, my fiance and my family. But at the end of the day, I just try and go with the flow as everything’s happening. I try not to think ahead because I might freak myself out a little bit. If I thought about the fact I would be out here for how long without seeing her, I would stress out.
But the cool thing is they provide travel to bring out your family and friends for each round that you do. She’s been able to come out and see me for the shows (but) she missed Knockouts because she was starting pre-school. She’ll be coming out for Lives.
I don’t find it that hard. I’m a stay at home mom. I think if I had work on top of this that would probably be a lot harder. For me, I’m very luck in the sense that I stay at home with her and I’m pretty good with my time (management) and juggling the two.
How does it feel to return to music with The Voice?
This has been my breakout moment again, because for a while there I hadn’t (done music). This has only encouraged me to keep chasing my dream. I know, coming out here, that this is not going to be just it for me. I definitely see my career going further and it’s all thanks to this opportunity. Obviously it’s going to give me more opportunities but just the experience and everything I’ve been learning so far from Pharrell song-wise that I didn’t know I could do before. I want to be able to continue to share that even after the competition.
I know I’m not going to stop and I’m not going to give up and I’ll use everything I’ve learned and put it into songwriting and all that good stuff (laughs)!
Thanks again for your time and good luck with the Live Playoffs.
Thank you so much!
Luke Wade jumped right out of The Voice gate with a stirring and emotive rendition of “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” and with the four chair turn Wade picked Pharrell as his coach.
It was a solid move for Wade, whose R&B and soul passions originated from listening to his parent’s stacks (or excuse the pun, Stax) of records. With a couple of albums already under his belt (The River was released in March), Wade talked about receiving production insight from Coach Pharrell.
Check out our interview below as Wade talks about his journey on The Voice and why, whenever he’s on stage, it feels like he’s “going home.”
You’re one of the frontrunners to win it all on The Voice. Is that, for lack of a better word, a good or bad thing?
The show is about the human connection between the audience and you. Being a frontrunner has nothing to do with how much you connect with people, because ultimately it’s their desire to help you get further that is going to push you through the show.
The disadvantage of being a frontrunner is that people think you may have it made already and you’re going to skate through – so maybe they’ll vote for someone they don’t think will make it but they also like.
At this point, I think it’s all about that human connection. The vocal performance is definitely probably the most important part of it. That’s my focus – I’m not going to be better or worse than anybody. I’m just going to be somebody who happens to be on a show and hopefully people will identify with that and want to save me.
Growing up you must have listened to a ton of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Curtis Mayfield. Is that where some of your early motivations lie – R&B and soul of yesteryear.
My mom’s a dance teacher and in order for me to get my five dollar allowance as a kid – it went up to $10 when I got my driver’s license. I would clean my mom’s dance studio and all she would have over there was records. I would listen my dad and mom’s old records. It was some Otis, some Sam Cooke, a lot of Led Zeppelin though, and a lot of Beatles. A lot of Eric Clapton and a lot of Bob Marley.
Really when I got into soul music it was when I had the realization – I actually started singing because I had something to say. It wasn’t based out of an idolization of someone else. I wen through a lot of hard times as a young man and I needed to find a way to express that. Music was the way.
Soul music, the thing about it, is that you can say less and say more because it’s all about the soul (and) the inflection. You can say almost anything if you sing it right. That’s when I jumped down that rabbit hole and I guess ultimately it got me here.
How much practice and preparation goes into the songs that are performed on The Voice. Do the artists have tons of prep time?
It varies from person to person greatly depending on their level of comfort and confidence. Because you can definitely over practice and over prepare. You definitely want it to be genuine and of the moment, and you can rehearse that out of yourself if you do it too much.
But you definitely have lots of time to prepare. We have lots of help. So you’re talking anywhere between a week and a whole month to prepare for these songs. It varies from performance to performance. You have your coach and you also have your vocal coach. So yeah – a lot of TLC.
It must also be great to have albums under your belt that fans can currently check out, along with your music on The Voice.
I’m so glad that I have that, because what this show is really about from a personal perspective – it’s about trying to catch as much lightning in a bottle as you can. The way I tell people to think about the show is that it’s not like someone is giving you a car and keys and you can drive wherever. Someone’s giving you fuel. If you don’t somehow build or acquire something to put the fuel in – like a team of people and a mechanism for going somewhere, it’s just going to be a really pretty explosion.
Those albums I have, and I have a great manager and a great booking agency, a road manager, and band, and great merchandising. All that great stuff in place, so for me it’s just amazing that I can take this and go from it being a career to a career that I want. So it makes all the difference in the world.
Learning from Pharrell are you seeing a different angle to music, especially from a production standpoint?
Yeah, definitely. One of the first things he said to me was to not overthink and over feel. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and I’ve been doing it professionally for 5 years. It means to stop trying to produce myself all the time and allow myself to be an artist. And allow people to help me with their perspective. It’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle. Sometimes you have to ask people to do that.
And that’s something I’m going to carry with me into producing and creating the next album. It’s just really getting someone whose ears and vision I trust to create something that shows everyone who I am more than I thought was possible.
Lastly, going into Lives, what is it like performing in front of people in general?
To me, it’s like going home. What happens is that we think that we’re all separate and that all of these things outside of us, and it might be material things or it might be the idea of a relationship or romantic love or something that we can find and reintroduce into ourselves that will make us whole.
The thing is, we’re all really the same thing and the same person. And whenever you can create a moment that you can share with everyone, you can remind yourself and everyone in the audience that’s where they belong. The thing we’re missing is that connection – the feeling that we’re all the same.
We can chip away at it with social media and it feeds it for a nanosecond at a time. But that moment on stage is where you can actually spend some time where you belong.
Luke, thank you so much for your time and good luck.
Well thank you so much.
The Voice Live Playoffs start tonight on NBC (8 pm et/pt)