Interviews

Courtney Harrell & Austin Allsup – The Voice

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Q) If somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said, hey, the key to winning this thing is to do R & B Top 40 songs, like the songs that you have written for other artists, would you have still continued the path that you went on as far as song choices and performances?

 

Courtney Harrell:  Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t know. Let me preface it by saying this. I didn’t come to the show to win The Voice. It would be awesome if I did. But I did come to – it really was a journey of self-discovery for me.  I consider myself more of a pop singer with soul. There’s some rock in there, too. But I think my style is – I think a great example of the truest form of me as a vocalist or as an artist — let me say that — because I do think there’s a big difference. As an artist would be my blind audition, River Deep Mountain High, and Bless the Broken Road. I think those three songs embody who I am as an artist.  But what I appreciate about where the show brought me, in spite of it going against who I am as an artist, it showed me what my vocal range was. I never sing with – like I’ve never – I think the first time I’ve sung in a power house way that the show tried to highlight with me was on Gravity. And I never approached a song like that outside of a demo I made for someone else, but never for myself. And so I think we kind of got on this track where it’s like, oh, she can do these high, you know, strong long notes. And we stretched it a bit. But it definitely isn’t a reflection of who I am as an artist. Maybe my vocal ability, but not me as an artist. And I think in hindsight I would have – maybe I’d go back and show more of me, my artistry and less of what my voice is capable of doing. But I’d like to have my heart be connected to everything that I’m singing. And I can’t say that was the case here.

 

Q) I think we had to follow the journey to see your way of attacking this. And you clearly expressed that in your answer.

 

Courtney Harrell:  Thank you. I don’t know if I can just answer that really quickly before we move on. Again, you know, my story is probably a little unlike the other contestants on this show in this way, and that is that I’ve not performed for the public in over 15 years. I’ve done, I think, six or seven performances in that time. And they’ve all been on the show. So and what the show didn’t also highlight was that I was singing with a vocal injury. And a few years before I had a terrible vocal injury where I couldn’t sing at all. It’s a miracle I was even on the show. So I was learning my voice at the same time of learning how to perform and connect with an audience.  And it truly was a reality show for me in that sense where America was seeing in real time how someone is developing. And I don’t think that there was a right answer for me in that approach because I had no idea what I was capable of doing after being away from it so long and really come back to singing after losing my voice completely a few years before.  So, yes, it just was an interesting journey for me. And for that reason, I don’t regret any song choice because I think it was, you know, my way of finding out how much I’ve healed at the same time from what America didn’t know happened to me before even coming here. So it definitely was a time of self-discovery for me.

 

Q) Courtney, I was wondering, you had been performing in the background musically for a long time. Where do you think this Voice experience is going to lead you? What do you see in your musical future?

 

Courtney Harrell:  Wow. I’m still questioning where it’s going to take me. Again, like, I didn’t come here with, you know, the intention to win the show and/or once I do well, I’m going to just start off with this big musical career that I never got to fully live out. I do think there is some singing in my future. I don’t know in what capacity.  I do have a passion for writing and for singing. I think I’ll always do that. Whether or not I want to do that in the same way some of the other contestants have or even the people that I write for, I know it entails a lot. And one of the acts that I sang background for was John Legend. And, you know, it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work and lot of putting yourself out there. And I’m trying to figure out whether or not that’s in my future in the way that it is for some of the others. But I do, in addition to this, have a tremendous love for teaching. I was a schoolteacher before this. And coaching other artists, I was doing that as well. And, you know, I may go on and expand in that. I haven’t figured it out quite yet how I’m going to do it.

 

Q) So you’re not really sure whether you’ll be releasing music of your own?

 

Courtney Harrell:  I think I owe it to myself and to the people who have followed me and have grown to love me to release the songs that I’ve written and to just to share my heart in that way. I just am unsure on how my career as a singer is going to look. You know, is it something that I’ve put out just to say that I’ve done it and I go back to writing. Or is it something that I’m going to go full throttle with. And I haven’t figured that out yet.

 

Q) So then, Courtney, I’d like to know what was going through your mind when you learned you were in the bottom three against Aaron and Austin. Were you surprised and what were you thinking the chances were of Aaron being saved a third time instead of you or Austin?

 

Courtney Harrell:  Was I surprised that I was in the bottom three? No. Not at all. I expected it. And was I surprised that Aaron won? No. And I actually really wanted him to. We are really – not that I – I also wanted Austin. I would have been happy if it were Austin or Aaron or myself.   I think one of the most amazing experiences for me in this whole thing is how much we all really do love and support each other. And I was really inspired by how Aaron had found himself there twice before and just climbed himself out of that. It just was remarkable to me. And the fact that he had the chance to do that again was just really cool. I love the underdog story. And to see how he just kept coming back was so inspiring to me.   And there’s a video that The Voice put out of Austin and I after the elimination. But the first scene is, like, one they called the theme, I literally jumped up and down and hugged him and encouraged him, Aaron, because I just, I believe in him. I believe in everyone who’s up there.   And I think a part of that is my – you know, the mother hen in me. And the one who is used to supporting other artists in that way. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that. But in terms of me being in the bottom three, I saw it coming. I saw it coming. And I was honored to be there with the ones I was there with. You know, and…

 

Q)  And could you elaborate on why you saw it coming? Like why did you expect to be in the bottom?

 

Courtney Harrell:  A couple reasons. I started to notice that while I had many people who appreciated how I delivered the songs. You know, there were a lot of people who didn’t like my song choices. And there were a lot of people who heard pitch issues, which were definitely there.  Again, those people never knew what I was challenged with while I was singing or, you know, the injury that I had vocally or have still currently that I was trying to push through. And so, you know, I was not my best self. And it was clear.  And for those who, you know, are looking for that kind of flawless performance, you aren’t going to find that with me. I think when the Lives started for me, I just had some both personal challenges and then the physical challenges that were just really hard for me to overcome vocally. So I saw it. I saw how the people, you know, had not nice things to say and wanted me gone. And I understood it and I respected it because it is a singing competition. and there were some that I felt were not better singers, but I think stronger than me at that time that I was there. And I just, you know, kind of knew.  I’m also on a team that is, you know, while Blake is the show’s favorite, I think, you know, you have Miley and Adam and Alicia who are, you know, huge mainstream pop stars with a mainstream following in terms of social media. So when you start to consider all of that, it also becomes a numbers game.  And if I was concerned with a numbers game, I would have gone with Alicia when she had chosen me. But I wanted to go in the direction I thought would be helpful in my development as an artist and also as a songwriter. So, I just kind of took it as it was and didn’t have my hopes set on the people wanting me. You know, my hope was set on me growing and discovering who I am. And so I did that and was happy with my time ending when it did.

 

Q) Courtney, your performance of God Bless the Broken Road was really beautiful, I thought. Would you ever consider a country career?

 

Courtney Harrell:  Oh.

 

Q)  You worked with a country coach.

 

Courtney Harrell:  Yes. I would consider my career taking me into the country world, but I don’t know. Austin may laugh when I say this because he was surprised that I know this phrase, but they have one that says, you know, all you need in country is three chords and the truth. And the truth is I’m not a country singer. But I do share similarities and I like to sing with truth in everything that I’m doing, every song that I take on. And if that led me to a song that might be considered traditionally country in the way Bless the Broken Road is — and by the way thank you for that compliment. I really appreciate it. I would love to do more songs like that. It’s funny it came to the point where, you know, every time I got to the chorus in practicing that song I would break down and cry because it really is my life leading up to even being on The Voice. And so I would love to find songs that suit me in that way, suit my story that my heart can shine on that and my voice can support what my heart is trying to sing. And, you know, if that means I end up in country in some way, shape or form, then absolutely. But it definitely isn’t something that is on my immediate to do list to be known as a country artist.

 

MJ Santilli:            Thanks.

 

Courtney Harrell:  Thank you.

 

Q) Austin, I was wondering how you felt when Adam Levine asked America to vote for Aaron during the sing off.

 

Austin Allsup:       Oh, did he?

 

Courtney Harrell:  Yes, he did.

 

Q)  I guess you weren’t on stage so you wouldn’t have heard it. But what he did was he literally, you know, asked America to vote for a singer that wasn’t on his team, which happens sometimes but it’s very unusual.

 

Austin Allsup:       Well, it was probably because he was scared of what was going to happen to Josh Gallagher if I stayed on the show. So, you know, it is what it is.  Aaron quit his day job to come out here and do this. This is my job. So, you know, it’s just Twitter. And it’s crazy how it all came down to, you know, Twitter votes to keep you alive on the show. So, I don’t know. I haven’t really been thinking about it that much to tell you the truth.

 

Q) Austin,  I was wondering if you could tell us where you think this will take you musically. What’s next in your music plans? What can fans expect from you?

 

Austin Allsup:       Well, I’ll be putting out my fifth record of all original music in the coming months. I just put my fourth full length record out in April before I came out here, which one of my songs hit number 19 on the iTunes country chart while I was on The Voice. So that was kind of cool.  I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I’m sorry, I’m kind of sick. I was super sick Monday and Tuesday. So, I’ve kind of been fighting that demon on the inside of knowing that I was at my absolute worst on Monday and Tuesday. But I still gave it a run for the money so. After this, I’ve already got a lot of calls and meetings and all kinds of stuff set up. So I plan on taking over the world if I can.

 

Q)   Speaking of which, I think you were supposed to go overseas as part of the Texas Takeover Tour, but you were unable to because of The Voice.

 

Austin Allsup:       I’m getting on a plane in about three hours to fly to London, England so.

 

Q) And you’ll be playing with Luke Wade and who else?

 

Austin Allsup:       Sean McConnell, who’s written songs for Aretha Franklin, Vince Gill, Plain White T’s, Jack Ingram, who’s also a number 1 Billboard artist. These are all friends of mine that I’ve known for a long time. I’ve been touring with. I mean this show was kind of just a good break from my reality and to let people know who I am out there. I didn’t do this for me. I did it for my wife and kids. And to be honest, I’m really glad it’s over and that I’m back to normal. I’m not a big fan of not being in control of what’s going on, you know, in my life. I’m not a real big fan of singing cover songs because I’m an original artist. And I’m not a big fan of being told how to sing them either. So I’m really glad that I get to do what I want again to tell you the truth.

 

Q) Do you actually think that now moving forward because this was outside your comfort zone that you pretty much now – did this help you, like, grow as an artist, this whole experience?

 

Austin Allsup:       Yes. I do believe it did. I haven’t gotten to really kind of, you know, think about myself or anything like that. I’ve been raising kids and trying to make a living at music. And when you’re trying to be a good dad and a good husband and a successful touring artist, you don’t really have a whole lot of time to think about who you are. You’re just kind of in the moment every day. It’s kind of always a struggle.  So it was good to get out there for a few months and really be able to kind of focus on who I am and stuff like that. I think there’s some moves I could have done better, you know. I had never done that John Waite’s tune. So I was already a little anxious going into the last week with a song that I didn’t know. But I felt like that really kind of helped me grow, too, and get out of my comfort zone a little bit. So, yes, hell, yes. It was an awesome experience and all the folks on The Voice are really awesome. All the people there, they’re always just trying to build you up. And I made some of my best friends ever there. Courtney and Sundance, I think will be lifelong friends.  I want to write some music with Courtney. And, you know, do whatever we can in the future together. And I think that’s what it’s all about is relationships and just kind of expressing that love for one another and helping build each other up. So the show was really a good way for me to go about doing that.

 

Q) Austin, I feel like you went out on a limb this week by showing a different side of yourself, like a softer, vulnerable side by singing Missing You. So I just want to get your opinion of whether or not you regret singing that song, I guess. If you stand by it. If you’re glad you showed that side of yourself. It’s just kind of unfortunate the way things ended up considering.

 

Austin Allsup:       I mean, part of me wants to say I went and shot myself in the foot. Another part of me wants to say that I grew, you know, and I learned something new about myself. It probably wasn’t the smartest move for me to do something that different at this time in the show. But, you know, to me music flags art. You do it, you put it out there, you move on, you do the next song, the next record, the next show, whatever it is. You don’t think about, you know, the bad brush lip on the canvas from your last painting. You just frickin’ paint a new painting.  So that’s what it really is all about to me. I hate that I was so sick. That was probably – I mean, I had an awful upper respiratory infection. I had fever and snot flying out of me every time I went to sing. So, you know, for me to have barely gotten beat on my absolute worst day, I can’t feel too damn bad about that.

 

 

Q)  Austin, I was wondering, how did you arrive at your song choices? Did you and Blake just – were some of those song choices yours or were they mostly Blake’s, or did you just work together and come up with a compromise?

 

Austin Allsup:       All of the songs up to Missing You were all my choices. I tried to fight back a little bit on the Missing You, but when your coach and production is telling you one thing and, you know, it kind of alters your own way of thinking a little bit, like maybe where I was once real hesitant, maybe they kind of convinced me to do it. The song is freakin’ bad ass, too. So that was hard, too. It’s kind of hard not to want to do a great song even though it’s not you. So, I mean…

 

Q)  So what was the thinking behind – was it like just pushing you out of your box a little bit?

 

Austin Allsup:       I don’t really know. Each week a lot of this – the song choice isn’t just about the song and how well we like it or whatever it is. It’s how we can relate our story to it, you know? So I think a lot of it had to do with that. They knew about me and my wife and me and my mother having such a crazy relationship, you know. And me and my dad, I haven’t even talked to my dad since he came out there for blind auditions.  So, I think they knew some of that. And we were just trying to get a good story along with the song so it played a part. But I’m so not here to sit here and say I could have done it better. I could have done this or that. I just can’t wait to do what I’m going to do next so.

 

Q) Courtney, did you ever consider singing songs that you wrote because I know that you’ve written songs for some pop singers?

 

Courtney Harrell:  Yes. I definitely did. I think the hope was after – well, let’s say my journey in song choices was a collaborative effort. And I think we – the hope that if what was selected was successful enough that the moment would come where I could showcase myself as a songwriter or that aspect of me. And that moment didn’t come. But it definitely was up for consideration thinking which songs would be not just the good songs that I’ve written, but, you know, the other thing that we considered are what songs are going to translate on stage and how big they are. And so we’ve gone through that process, you know, discovering which would be strong enough to do that. And we just didn’t get the opportunity to execute.

 

Q) Austin, earlier in the call Courtney told us that she never expected to win The Voice, like, she didn’t audition for the show to win it exactly. So I guess I want to get your opinion on that. I mean how far did you expect to make it? Did you make it as far as you hoped, things like that?

 

Austin Allsup:       No, I wanted to make it to the top 8 for sure. But I didn’t really want that until I got to the bottom 10. So it’s kind of – when I went out there for the blind audition, I just wanted to get on a team. And then I’ve never really had winning in mind. To be quite honest, I didn’t want to win it. I’ve got a lot of music out there. I’ve got a lot of things that have been going on in my own life involving songs. And they may cut certain songs of mine and who’s doing what. And I knew that if you won that then, you know, you would have to succumb to the fine print of those contracts. So I’m really glad to be where I’m at right now to be quite honest with you.

 

Q) Courtney, now that you kind of getting back to normal in more like a behind the scenes person like writing for other artists, who do you think is your frontrunner to win The Voice? Like, who is your favorite to win the whole thing?

 

Courtney Harrell:  I don’t have a favorite, I think. And I’m not saying that to be politically correct. I really do think it’s anyone’s game.  They’re all incredibly talented and incredibly, you know, just deserving. And the other reason I don’t have a favorite is I know how hard everyone has to work to progress in the show. No one is there off of raw talent alone. They’re all there because they’re putting in the work. And when I consider, you know, who deserves to win, I consider how hard have you worked? And they all are doing that. And so I would be thrilled with whomever walks away with that title.

 

Q)  That’s still politically correct.

 

Courtney Harrell:  Okay. It is politically correct, but it is the truth. And the one thing I can promise you is that I will be truthful with you. And to further that truth, we all are very close to each other. And I know some people have a hard time grasping that because the world sees a competition. And in essence it is, but none of us carry it that way. I’ll give you an example of Wé, who I would love to see win the show. And what Wé says to me after she realized that I had confidence issues, but how much I believed in everyone else around me, she said, now I just wish you could believe in yourself in the same way you believe in us, you know, and then you could win. So for her to say that, and she’s slated as one to win, like, we all just really love each other. And Austin is right about the people who work for The Voice. They foster that love and that relationship.  I’ve been in the music business, like, mainstream music business, for a very long time. The Voice is hands down the most loving, nurturing, encouraging, affirming musical environment I have ever been in. And if I will miss anything about being on the show, it will be being in that beautiful family environment. So while it is politically correct, I am most definitely, Bobby, telling you the truth.

 

Bobby Jones:         No, I hear you. Because we all notice the love with you guys amongst everyone else. So I purposely asked you a hard question almost like, yes, who’s you’re favorite kid?

 

Courtney Harrell:    Oh, yes. And I don’t have a favorite. I really don’t. I really don’t. They’re all brilliant. Whoever wins, I hope I’m writing for them.

 

 

*CONFERENCE CALL*

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