The Voice on NBC kicked off its 11th season last week. I had the opportunity to join in on a conference call with some of the contestants that made it through to the next round. Read on to find out what child star Billy Gilman has been up to and find out what goes through these contestants’ minds when choosing a coach.
Lauren, what was it like to have Alicia Keys sing directly to you on the show?
Lauren Diaz: That definitely was the – I couldn’t even explain how amazing it was. You know, I was – she had been my idol my entire life, like I said. And listening to her actually sing If I Ain’t Got You and saying if I ain’t got you, Lauren was the most liberating thing, you know, I ever felt. I still can’t believe, you know, I’m still dumb founded on what happened. So it was just awesome.
Were you worried about singing one of her own songs for your audition?
Lauren Diaz: I was definitely skeptical about it because I did not want to fail her. I obviously wanted her to love it. And so that was probably the most nerve-wracking for me is going out there and singing, you know, a judge’s song. But I mean, I just hope for the best and it ended up being, you know, it turned out really amazing so I’m really thankful for that.
Sophia, you front a rock band. It looks like it’s still active. But you also released some solo music this past summer. Where are you hoping The Voice takes you musically?
Sophia Urista: I want to be the biggest rock star on the planet. So that’s the goal. And I think that The Voice has so far, you know, by letting me sing Come Together really honoring that passion and desire that I have and allowing me to show the world that rock and roll is in my blood, in my bones, and I hope to keep doing that, showing America that that lane, like Alicia Keys said, that’s my lane and it’s wide open. And there’s no one like me in that lane.
And why Team Miley?
Sophia Urista: Why Team Miley? Because I believe that for me the performance is not just about singing and I think she brings a very well-rounded breadth of knowledge, of style, presentation, and performance, and attitude, and – that I really want to work with.
Billy, Adam said it’s going to be an uphill battle for you on the show because you’re a talented person who’s had some prior success. You know, he kind of said you’re like the opposite of the underdog who fans typically tend to root for. So how do you feel about that and what is your approach going to be on the show because of those circumstances?
Billy Gilman: First of all, hi. It’s a very scary thing, to be honest to God truthful. You just don’t know how the chips will fall because of certain situations that happened when I was younger.
That being said, the great thing about The Voice is they give so many professionals a chance. I mean, there are so many fabulous singers on this season that have fans and that work at this point.
So the past success I hope won’t define the outcome of what’s to come. But you just never know and you just have to be humble. It’s a totally different situation now. I mean, it was 17 years ago that I had success. And then, you know, going through what every male singer goes through — the voice change. And that was a horrible experience.
And when this opportunity came about, I said this is the perfect vehicle to finally sing the way I want to sing, because even with my past success, I feel that being told what do. And finally I hope at 28, someone can do what they want and this was the vehicle, you know. It’s a classy television show. And it’s going to be a long road, but it’s already been a long road and this is what I am, so it’s what’s meant to be, I think.
Billy, you addressed some of this before, but you had a lot of success in the past. You sold millions of records. You toured. Is it fair for you to be on a show with people who have had no experience the way you have?
Billy Gilman: Well, I would not discredit them because there’s a block of – the majority I think that have had amazing opportunities and worked, you know, their butts off for an opportunity even more than I at this moment in time. Does the past success override anything? I don’t think so because it’s not like I’m trying to do something I did other than sing.
You know, I’m starting at such a new angle, you know. It’s been so long since I’ve had any kind of success. And to be quite frankly, I’m not one to ignore comments, so I know what they’re saying but the majority of people are going we don’t know what he did so why does it matter. So there is a whole new audience that has no clue.
So if you want to remember who I am and if you do, that’s fantastic. But it’s two separate situations. And hopefully that will place it in – and you have to be humble about it, you know? If people aren’t going to be okay with it, then that’s going to be the reality that’s going to happen.
But all I knew at the moment was the struggle it’s been to let anyone believe that I was a singer still. And when this opportunity, you know, came into my realm, I said this is the perfect situation.
They give everyone a chance on this show — having past success, not having past success, working, not working in the music business. And they hold you with a very high regard, you know? It’s a very scary thing for all of us contestants to be so naked out there and tell you story in such ways, you know.
I think we’re all of even playing field when it comes down to it because it only should matter what you’re singing at that moment and the emotion and the humility you bring to the table.
Billy, why Team Adam?
Billy Gilman: Team Adam because he knew that we would have a struggle, you know? They were saying wonderful things and I’m so good but for every kind of comment that I will receive because if anyone didn’t believe I would ever have a second chance, it was me. Believe me. And so for him to say, you know, this isn’t going to be an easy ride but that just means he’s going to fight all the more to convey to people that, you know, I deserve some kind of a second chance. I thought was the attack that I had to go.
And because he’s so involved with much, much more than just singing. He’s a producer. He’s a writer. There’s a lot of different entities to him.
Lauren, I was just wondering how you feel about being on Team Alicia and working with or against your announced teammate We?
Lauren Diaz: It’s definitely like I said before amazing being able to work with her, you know All the years going through my life and my music career and never thinking that I would even get an opportunity like this, so it really is a dream come true. And now being able to work alongside We, you know, it’s definitely different for me but I’m very excited for what is yet to come.
Lauren. as a vocal coach yourself, and someone who already has some clear direction in music, what areas are you hoping that having Alicia Keys as a coach will be able to help you explore and grow in music?
Lauren Diaz: You know, just a lot of people say, you know, well you’re a vocal – I am, but I do. I truly believe that I’m never done growing. And I think she just has so much wisdom to give me, you know? My goals in life that I want to achieve and just everything that I just really believe that she can help me grow in who I am and what I want to do in my music, in my singing, you know. I just feel like it’s going to be a really great thing.
What did you think when Miley played that video of Dolly Parton?
Sophia Urista: I knew she was pulling a wild card there. And it’s the biggest name drop in the history of The Voice I think, right? So it definitely worked on me. She’s a hero of mine. And I’m a really big fan of country music, classic country music, old school country. It was just the rock and roll of its era, you know? And wow, I was really impressed and convinced that she wanted me on her team, because she brought her out.
Yes. And were you already thinking you were going to go with Miley? Or did that video kind of sway you to her side?
Sophia Urista: I was waiting for them to convince me. I had Miley in mind in my dreams before like when I first, you know, was going through the audition process because I wasn’t sure anybody else was going to turn around. But something told me that she would definitely turn around. When Alicia turned her chair, I was shocked and was ready to give her a chance. Absolutely.
This question is for Sa’Rayah and for Ali. Could you both explain why you selected Team Miley?
Ali Caldwell: I can honestly say I picked Miley because for one, it was a gut feeling first and I always go with my first instinct and my gut is usually most of the time right. So I just went with her because I wanted to do something different. And I just, you know, I’ve been inspired by so many different kinds of genres. I just felt like she would be the perfect person to, you know, give me new knowledge about music that I probably never even, you know, heard of before or wouldn’t even think to do as an R&B soul singer.
So I feel really confident about my choice.
Sa’Rayah: Yes. Hello everybody. I have some of the same reasoning why. I know that I’m a soul singer at heart, but I’ve never wanted to be boxed into anything. And I feel like the sky is the limit when you believe in what you’re able and capable of doing when you just try.
And I believe that Miley has proven to be kind of a person that’s free and out of the box. And so I pretty much chose her because I was kind of ready to try something new and to learn something new. I pretty much believe that I can learn something from all of the coaches, you know.
But she fought so hard for me. And like you didn’t really get to see half of what was really said on the show last night. But she really fought hard for me and it was a really tough battle. But yes, basically because of that I wanted to definitely learn new things and kind of be taken out of my comfort zone a little bit and just spread my wings.
Lauren, you previously called your boyfriend your pretend husband. Had you been wanting him to propose for a while? And therefore was the proposal a big surprise to you?
Lauren Diaz: It definitely was a shocker. We have joked with our friends that I would call him my fake husband. You know, he is my son’s dad. We have been, you know, on and off for six years and it was, you know, about time.
I had no idea he was going to do that. That was obviously I just walked away because I was literally in shock. But, you know, it was a long time coming. We had been talking about it. And I can’t believe that he did it on national television, which was the icing on the cake and it was just a really exciting moment for us.
And a question for the Team Blake members. Ethan and Dan, why did you ultimately pick Blake? And Dan also, do you think your age might serve as an advantage for you because you’re going to stand out? Or a disadvantage for some reason?
Dan Shafer: Okay. Yes, ma’am. I was going to say I’d probably side with Billy on that one. I don’t think age matters. I don’t think age, creed, color, any of those things matter. I think you know, music is an internal thing that we’re all blessed with. Now whether you, you know, excel at that particular gift or not is another story.
But I don’t think the age is going to affect me very much, although I have a lot of years behind that. And my style of vocal is just, you know, there’s just not very many fellows left who can sing – you know, the Paul McCartneys of the world, the Paul Rogers of Bad Company, you know, the Freddy Mercurys of Queen, you know, the classic rock. I mean, this market is 1968 to about ‘77 anyhow where forms of music are going. So I think by my taking a lead on that matter might raise just the level of awareness to that type of a singer versus what’s going on in the market currently, which is just almost the opposite of that – you know, almost…
So I don’t know. I think that age doesn’t have as far as, you know, a facture in that it would be a hindrance – I do think that it would be an advantage only because of experience and knowing where we are in the market and so forth, so.
Ethan, I’m wondering why you picked Blake as your coach?
Ethan Tucker: Well I felt like Blake is so different as far as the style of music that we perform that it would really push me to learn something new. Because you’re never going to become great if you don’t learn as much as you can possibly learn, you know? So I just felt like I could learn some things from him that I didn’t already know.
Billy, you seemed very emotional when you finished singing. Maybe you cried a little. What was going through your head at that point?
Billy Gilman: My God, I mean I was a nervous wreck. I just, you know, you just don’t’ know how it’s going to fall, you know? And I’ve seen a lot of fantastic people with past success, you know, watching this show as a fan of it years prior, I’ve seen people that had bigger success than me with bigger songs in the early 2000’s and they didn’t get a chair turn. So you just don’t know and I’m not one to pry like that.
And it’s just – with the interview process and how they display your life, and you start to – I’m not one to really think about the past, you know? I just always look to the future and to go backwards like that a little bit and be reflective, it brought out a side of me that, and I don’t like showing.
Yes, it’s just a very raw feeling, you know what I mean? To be in a very vulnerable feeling to be up there. And this time, you know, I’m not having to impress anybody. I’m not having to service a label and sing the song they wanted ad almost be an actor. I was just totally being me and that’s what I guess the new me does is get all emotional and wacky. But yes, it’s just – it’s quite the roller coaster. I’ll tell you that, emotionally.
So, why an Adele song? Are you no longer considering yourself a country artist?
Billy Gilman: When I grew up, well first of all country music is and will forever be in my roots. I’m indebted to that for the past opportunities that I had. But as you get older, you realize your voice either can do that well or it’s fitted for something else.
And so about, I mean, from the age of like 13 and 14, I would do my duties with what I had to do as a youngster. And I’d go in the hotel room or whatever and I would belt out a Celine Dion song. All of the contestants are probably sick of me singing all those songs around the hallways, I’m sure.
But it’s just what it was. And I never had that opportunity because everyone in past times I would sing that way and they would never credit it as he’s more of a pop singer. But they would say he’s Broadway. And not that Broadway’s bad. It’s just no, it’s not Broadway. It’s just I’m a singer like an Adele or a Celine or a, you know, a Jordan Smith. That’s just what I am.
And when this opportunity came about, I said well, if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to be 100% me. I can’t be a fake me or a version of what someone would want me to be. I’m going to sing what I want to sing and luckily they chose a song that I felt fit that situation.
Another question for Lauren. Watching the show, one of the comments that Alicia made after your audition was that you actually sang her song better than she does. So what’s going through your mind when you hear such a major compliment from one of your music idols?
Lauren Diaz: My gosh, I can’t even begin to explain that when I heard that. I mean, basically it was a dream come true. And for your idol that you have been obsessed with your whole life to say that you sang her song better than her, I mean, it’s just mind-blowing.
And I’m so thankful that, you know, I even got the opportunity to do this. This show is an amazing, you know, platform for e and be able to meet her and all of the other judges is just shocking. I’m shocked. I’m dumbfounded. I still have no words.
Lauren, I know there are strict rules about what you can say about your blind audition until it airs. Yet you returned from yours with an engagement ring. How did you handle that? What did you tell people?
Lauren Diaz: It was hard for us because we could not speak about how it happened. So we kind of just told, you know, everybody we got engaged. And, you know, everybody had a lot of questions. And I live in a small town. Everyone knows everybody. Everybody wanted to know the dirty details.
And, you know, we just said we went to I think we had gone on vacation and we just said we got engaged there. But everybody was knocking on our door and asking us tons of questions.
And the reaction that you’ve gotten now?
Lauren Diaz: Gosh I mean my phone is going to crash. It was fun to show everybody what happened. Nobody knew, you knew. Our home town they just knew I was, you know, gone for a little bit and then once they saw that and then once they saw my audition and on top of that the proposal everybody was just in shock.
And Randy is a very shy person. so for him to get the courage to do that, I mean that just blew everybody away right there.
Billy, what do you hope to get out of this? What do you hope being on the show is going to do for you?
Billy Gilman: Well, I think we all go on the show to have our voices be heard. For me, it’s been a long process of wanting to wanting to be heard in that singing style and have it done correctly. And we – it was in a very different time the music business. There aren’t so many artist developments anymore and even still everyone’s kind of harping on the past success,
If I were to go back and do that, they don’t do that anymore, those artist development deals. They just – the money’s just not there because of…
And illegal downloading and catching up here and catching up there. And the Spotify and all of that. It’s just a different world. And this is a fantastic marketing world for any singer to show who they are, and if you are lucky enough to stay in it for any length of time, it’s technically like an artist development because people are seeing you develop into yourself in many ways that we don’t even know who we are yet. And we’re in our 20s and 30s and even older, you know.
It’s just an invaluable marketing tool that hopefully will, you know, show that people are still interested, you know. This is, you know, all I’ve done for my whole life, you know. I sincerely believe that I was chosen to do this. I didn’t choose to do it.
But if it enables more records down the line and concerts and to get out there to touch people and to sing story songs and to inspire other singers to never give up no matter what and no matter what and no matter who says what. That’s a goal that’s achieved. We continue to inspire by being you, you know?
Question: This question is for Sophia. I’m curious to what you thought if you saw the show last night when Blake said he was intimidated by your voice.
Sophia Urista: I think that what he meant was — and Adam too. They both had really good things to say about my performance. But they both made it clear that I just wasn’t the type of style that they wanted on their team. And I think that you know, music is not all about skill. It’s about taste, you know? Somebody could have a perfect sounding voice and maybe it’s just not you thing,
So I think that I just wasn’t who they wanted to push and but I’m glad I turned those other chairs, women who believe in me and people who believe in me. And I wasn’t offended. I was actually quite flattered and I think I made the right choice.
Okay. As a follow up, were you already kind of leaning towards Miley when she mentioned you sounded like a rock and roll Dolly Parton? Like what was the point that you really thought you made up your mind that you’d go with Miley instead of Alicia?
Sophia Urista Well, it was tough because Alicia Keys hit my soft spot when she said I reminded her of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner and One Voice. That was wow- I about passed out after I heard her say that.
It was more about I’d seen Alicia in concert and I’ve seen Miley in concert and I think that I wanted somebody who incorporates performance, presentation, I want fireworks at my shows. I want somebody who can build beyond the voice. And I think Miley was the best coach for that.
Brendan, three coaches turned around except for Blake. Who did you hope would turn around for you heading to your audition? And why did you ultimately pick Adam? Like did Miley and Alicia’s lack of experience on the show have anything to do with your decision?
Brendan Fletcher: You know what? I kind of went in with a game plan. My really only plan was if someone turns around, like if anyone turns around I’m going with him. I did not expect three chairs to turn. I was kind of leaning towards Blake before going into the blind audition. But, you know, once Adam said, you know, described my voice like, you know. Your voice may not be the most technically, you know, rich voice. But, you know, I think when you sing, it affects people in a positive way.
So that kind of – you definitely changed me into picking him and he was the first person to turn and I’m a firm believer in, you know, the person that believes in you first is the one you should go with. So that’s my main reason for choosing Adam.
Tune in Monday night for another round of blind auditions on The Voice!