An Interview with Sa’Rayah from NBC’s The Voice

Sa’Rayah grew up in Cabrini Green, one of the most dangerous housing projects in Chicago, with a mom who was addicted to drugs. Her life has since turned around after her mom got clean and together they moved into a better, safer neighborhood where they raise single-mom Sa’Rayah’s two year old daughter.

Her life has been rough but that didn’t stop this gospel singer from clawing through the auditions and the battles to make the Top 12. Her big hair and her even bigger voice were hard to forget! Unfortunately her time was cut short when she landed in the bottom two on the first live elimination night with Aaron Gibson.  Each week Talk Nerdy with Us participates in a roundtable conference call with the eliminated contestants. Read on to see what is in store for Sa’Rayah!

What did you think your chances were of staying or leaving at the point when you knew you were up against Aaron?

At that point I knew I was leaving because, and the reason I say that is because of who his coach is, Miley Cyrus. And I’m just going to be totally open here, she has a huge following and they allow the team, The Voice allows the coaches to weigh in on telling their fans to vote for their teammate.

You know, so at the point that I was up against anybody on Miley’s team, I knew that I was going to be going home because it’s a, although it’s a little unfair, it’s the reality of it. Anytime she has triple the followers than Alicia Keys has, so we were both tweeted out but she was tweeted out to 55 million people that follow her. So I knew, I kind of knew what the fate was going to be at that point.

What do you envision for yourself musically going forward?
Well now, this is the time where I’ll be kind of moving forward full speed ahead with my own career. I have, you know, definitely been playing with different bands before and I probably will still do a few of those kinds of gigs. But my main focus will be kind of pushing my own career down more so of a pop rock vibe always filled with soul though. But definitely that’s what things are shaping up to be right now.

So you envision releasing your own music?

Absolutely. That’s happening soon.

You were also up against Aaron in the battle round. You must have been experiencing some major déjà vu last night. Since Aaron had won that battle, did that affect your confidence at all going into your final performance?

No, no. Not at all. I kind of felt like if it was anybody that I was going to lose against I wouldn’t mind it being Aaron because what people don’t know is we’ve really established such a great relationship and a true love for one another. And I think we established that during the times we were up against one another in battles.

And so when it was he and I standing there hand in hand, you know, we were like literally, listen I love you. You know, and it’s like whatever happens for me it happens but I would rather it be nobody but him, like other than him. You know, so yes, it was definitely like a déjà vu moment happening but I feel like, I’m very happy with the results of everything at the end of the day.

You did Living on a Prayer, which is a great song, and then Rock Steady. Can you talk about why you chose those songs?

Yes, Living on a Prayer was a song that would allow me to kind of show America that I’m kind of capable of different things then just what they’ve seen me doing. It was a different light of what I’m capable of doing.

And also, Living on a Prayer, the message in it, you know, dealing with, it was dealing with a relationship where two people were within, let’s say they’re willing to hold on because they had one another and it was all about love.

And I feel like this time in the world and especially in America the one thing that we have been lacking is love and that willingness to stand together and hold on. But I feel like it’s necessary right now so Living on a Prayer was the perfect song for that.

Rock Steady, that was a song that was already on the agenda to do, if I ever needed to do it. I chose that song because I feel like Aretha Franklin is definitely somebody that embodies everything that I am as far as soul is concerned. And so she, her song Rock Steady, it allows kind of brings a fun vibe to the stage as well as shows the soulful side of my voice as I always have in here.

Just to clarify, was Living on a Prayer your song choice? Did you choose that?

Well it was a collective decision. I sat down with my coach Alicia and one of the executive producers of The Voice. We kind of went through choices and possibilities. And that was just the one that we kind of settled down with, you know, all together. After having tried the song, I felt like it was something that would be beneficial for me to sing, you know.

And were you familiar with the song? Had you performed it before?

(laughs) You know, I performed it with the Chicago Catz not leading it. I was one of the supporting vocalists for the song when I sang it with the Chicago Catz. So this would be the first time that I presented it while I was leading.

I was able to kind of put my own little twist to it in the middle of the song and then bring it back to the original version of it to keep the integrity of the song. So, yes, I was a little bit familiar with it because I had sang background on it before.

What do you think is the biggest thing you’re going to take away from The Voice experience?

The biggest thing that I’ll take away from it is knowledge on how to handle my business. The reason I say that is because The Voice is a T. V. show and it’s a well-oiled machine.

It’s like a continuous business where everything is running and everybody has their rightful place. Everybody’s delegated certain jobs to do and I just feel like it’s definitely given me a clear vision of how to operate when it comes to my own business.

It’s also given me huge inspiration and showed me the things that I’m very capable of. You know a lot of the things that I’ve done on the show and the pressure that I’ve had to stand up against, I feel that it’s given me so much more motivation and strength to move forward in my own career knowing that it’s all possible.

When the top twelve was determined, Alicia chose to save you over Josh and Kylie. What was your reaction to her decision and did she ever explain to you afterwards why she did decide to keep you?

I feel like over the time period that I’ve been on the show Alicia has always shown some kind of connection to me as a person just as far as she saw that I’m somebody who’s all about light and love. And I feel like she shares that same thing about herself.

She connected to that, and I think that she honestly believed in me and what I’m able to do when I step up on that stage, and that’s what called her to choose me.

I do think that we had a great connection. I’m not going to say that it was any bigger than the relationship she had with the other two because they started with her. I didn’t. You know, she actually stole me to her team from Miley’s team.

So I do think that we did establish a great connection. But she saw something in me that she felt needed to stick around on the show and she did express that.

Can you compare your experiences with Miley and Alicia? How did they differ as coaches in terms of their methods and styles? Did one sort of help you more than the other?

In this case I feel like I spent a little more time with Alicia because I was only with Miley for the very first portion of the show. What Miley, the purpose that Miley served for me was kind of that first song that I was able to do with Aaron. That was something that was outside of my comfort zone a bit. I had to rise to the occasion because the song was really more flatting for Aaron’s voice.

He has the rock grit. It was more flattering for his voice but I had to rise to the occasion and bring something to it that would cause me to shine as well. She created a moment for me that was a lasting moment. People still talk about the battle that Aaron and I had. It’s a memorable moment and that’s what I feel like she made happen by putting us together with that song choice.

However I feel that Alicia Keys, because of the connection that I was able to have with her, you know, she saw something great. And she saw light and love and that’s what she’s all about. I believe that she was very invested into making sure that I go on on the show as long as I could because that’s necessary in the world that we’re in today.

I felt like I had a greater connection with Alicia Keys the entire time than I ever could have had with Miley because I didn’t spend enough time there. Alicia showed her interest in me in the very beginning and she stuck with that interest. She made sure that I knew she believed in me the entire time.

And everything that she fought for in the blind auditions she held to it. And for that, I would say I got more out of that experience than the one I had with Miley.

Do you have any regrets looking over your journey on The Voice, something you would have done differently?

(laughs) I actually don’t. I don’t have any regrets. I feel like I have done everything that I can. I guess one thing that I wish could have taken place is that I could have shown the different side of my voice. I’m capable of a lot more than what I’ve been able to show thus far.

Everything has catered to the strength of my voice like being a powerhouse but I do also have another part of my voice that I love to share and I didn’t really have that opportunity through the songs that I sang thus far to show that different element.

If anything, that would be the only thing that I regret that I didn’t show that much sooner. But other than that, I’m very happy with the experience overall and I feel like there’s nothing that I could have done to change last night’s fate. But, you know, I do appreciate all that’s happened thus far.

Are you going to continue the #loveonly movement that you’ve established beyond The Voice? Do you feel that the events leading up to you having to create the movement was the reason why you were in the bottom?

You know what, I kind of, I do feel like yes, to answer your question, the love only movement, this has been just the beginning of that. It’s very much so we’ll continue on because it’s very necessary. I’m glad to have even been the one to begin such a powerful and awesome movement because it’s going to be relevant in so many different ways for so many different people.

You know, it goes beyond The Voice. It goes beyond singing. It’s something that, it goes beyond me. It’s something that everyone has need for and I’m glad I have been able to start it for the event leading up to it with Michael Sanchez, the battle against Michael Sanchez.

I do feel like in a lot of ways people that were onboard for Michael, which, it is a lot of people that were onboard for him and really rooting for him. To them, I’m the reason he’s gone and they hated me for that.

A lot of them hated me for that. You know, and I do feel that had an effect on me moving forward and I say that because even the videos that I’ve done after, you know, the songs that I’ve done after, you would see some of his followers commenting on those songs that they just wish it was him.

So yes, I do think it has an effect on that hopefully …

Looking back, what are your favorite memories of being on the show?

Well, my favorite memories, I think that the relationships that I’ve established with the people there, both the staff on the show and also my close friends, the other contestants. I feel like the times that we come together and us just really growing in this process together has created a huge memory for me that will be everlasting.

I’ve established some friendships that are going to be here forever now and I think that those are the memories, the memories that we’ve had together growing in this process is what I’ll cherish.

Were there any contestants in particular that you bonded with the most?

Yes, you know I had a great bond with Aaron, especially after we were paired together for the battle. We established a great friendship and every time I saw him I just lit up. I lit up to see him because he’s such a sweet and humble spirit.

He’s definitely one that I had a strong connection with. I had established a connection with Ali Caldwell because we were roommates and, you know we were together a lot because of that. Jason Warrior, we shared, we were both Chicago natives and we always stuck by that.

You know, and Dana, is somebody that also I was connected to. And Cortney Harrell. We shared similarities spiritually and we’re very spiritually in tune with one another.

Just a light-hearted question. Blake tried to steal you earlier in the season saying that you actually won your battle hands down. Did you ever think about how your experience on the show might have been different had you been on Blake’s team?

(laughs) I have thought about that. I honestly had a tough time deciding between he and Alicia Keys when they both hit their bells to steal me because I noticed that along the way Blake expressed a lot of interest in me and my talent.

He definitely showed that he had become a believer after that battle between Aaron and I. You know, he had never turned his chair for me in the blind audition. But after that battle he expressed that he saw something greater.

He was a hard worker. He saw somebody that’s capable of doing anything and I believe that it has definitely, I have a newly found respect and love for Blake Shelton because the entire time that I’ve been there he’s fought for me.

He’s told me that hey, I don’t care what anybody says, you won that. I see you, he saw me on a larger scale and I truly do appreciate that. But I feel like, going with Alicia Keys was probably my best bet because I feel like she was, she kept me around as long as she could because she believed in me just that much.

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