Lilli Passero & Mark Isaiah – The Voice
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) Mark, I was wondering how you were able to keep a positive attitude week after week being in the bottom?
Mark Isaiah: Well, just I mean, I’ve been enjoying this whole journey so far. I mean, I’ve been enjoying this experience and this journey and that’s all I can think about at the moment that I’m on that stage. Just the fact that I’m there, you know, standing in front of millions of people just performing live on television every week so, you know, I can’t be mad. There’s people out there that don’t get the opportunity to be where I’m at, I was top ten, I’ve accomplished more than what I thought I would accomplish and I’m super grateful for this experience so I mean, all I can do is keep a smile on my face and I have the support from everyone, all of my fans and back at home. So I feel great and I’m super excited that I got the opportunity to make it this far in the competition.
Q) So when you learned that you were in the bottom three with Vanessa [Ferguson] in the lead, I’m wondering what was going through your mind. Like what did you think your chances were staying and then how did that mindset change after hearing all three of the performances?
Mark Isaiah: I mean, first of all, everyone is so incredibly talented on the show and when I was at the bottom three with those two ladies it was just all love. I just felt like, you know, whoever went on definitely deserved it because we all worked so hard to get there where we were and I mean, just watching the performance, it was amazing. They were just giving it all out and I’m glad Vanessa was safe, she definitely deserved that especially after that performance but I mean, it was just such an awesome experience being there and being able to share that experience with everybody on the show.
Q) Mark, your coach Adam Levine said that – he allowed you to choose your own songs and I was wondering how you chose your song?
Mark Isaiah: How I picked my song it was just something that I kind of already had planned out before I even did the show because even – I’ve always had the mindset of doing the show and I kind of already had my list of songs I wanted to do and some of them were on it and I think those songs, especially were easy to make arrangements with for me because they’re kind of my style like pop and R&B so I just picked my genre and put my own flavor to it, you know, just made my own arrangements to it. And I’m glad that Adam believed in me as much to keep me on the show this long and to be able to give me the tips and advice that he gave me this whole way through the competition.
Q) Did you change your strategy at all when you chose your Save Me songs?
Mark Isaiah: Not really, not really. I just take the songs that I really already had planned to do on the show it’s just I take them for (the times) I guess. Yes, but I always had my list of songs that I wanted to perform on the show.
Q) Mark, I was watching last night and I noticed Adam and Alicia had some very inspirational words for all three of you and with Adam he said something really good when he said that it’s, you know, your success is determined by what you do, by what you do in the future and how do you plan to apply the things that you learned on the show now going into further your career after the show?
Mark Isaiah: Oh man, there’s so much that I can apply from what I’ve learned on the show to my actual career. Just my personality now and the way that I carry myself on camera and off camera it’s just different now because now I’ve gained more experience, you know, being an artist and everything like that and basically this is like boot camp honestly like the whole show behind the scenes it was like boot camp preparing you to become the best artist and then to do your best and Adam was a great coach in doing that and helping me to become a better artist and do my best on stage. Just I mean, performing, interviewing and everything behind the scenes, it’s going to make it easier for me to go out and do my own thing, you know, start doing my solo music and start going on tour, you know, future… I told Adam actually after the show I was like, yes Adam, I’ll see you at the Grammys soon. He was like, yes, I wouldn’t doubt it. We’re definitely keeping in touch and hopefully in the future we’ll get some music started.
Q) Lilli, a question for you that I asked Mark earlier. When you learned that you were in the bottom three with Mark and Vanessa, I’m wondering what was going through your mind, like what did you think your chances were of staying and how did that mindset change after hearing all three of the performances?
Lilli Passero: It’s funny because you never know what’s going to happen but I did sort of have – I had this little gut feeling that it was getting near to my time to go home. So when I wound up in the bottom three it was a bit of an overwhelming experience because you’re sort of preparing yourself to leave before you know the results. So I think I was preemptively kind of feeling everything when maybe it wasn’t time yet. And seeing the performances didn’t change anything for me. I still was pretty sure I was going home.
Q) Lilli, you were very sick a couple of weeks ago. Could you talk about what you went through and how it affected your journey and your performances on The Voice? I mean, Adam noted last night that you hadn’t really broken through in the competition yet so I’m wondering why that was and whether your illness played a role in that?
Lilli Passero: I don’t want to say that my illness played a role in it. I think that my illness just affected my – that one week, because we didn’t have time to land on the perfect song and the perfect performance. And then after that I think because I can be flexible and versatile in some ways, and also because I think I was one of the least fully flushed out artists before I came to the show. I didn’t already have a clear lane to share with my coach. It was more about discovering that lane so it was really – our time together was kind of more about learning about each other and trying things rather than sticking to what we already knew I should be doing. And also a lot of the music I love is not necessarily music that would be conducive to the audience on the show. So, I’m amazed that I got as far as I did with kind of just trying to figure it out as I went. But I think that the sickness had little to do with it, just that one week.
Q) Did you think you did finally find your lane though by the end of your time on The Voice or…
Lilli Passero: Well, it’s funny because I grew up with standards, the Great American Song Book and I sang Unforgettable as a little girl and Town Without Pity, you know, the (vibe) that I never sung before was incredibly familiar in terms of the music that I grew up on but I don’t think that my lane necessarily is the music I grew up on, I think that the music I grew up on is one of my influences and I’m influenced by so many different kinds of music. So, it was more about the lane that I left in was more about illuminating some of my influences rather than the lane that – I’m not about to put out a jazz album but you will always hear it in my singing and in my music.
MJ Santilli: Hi Lilli, you attended Carnegie Mellon University, I was wondering if you consider yourself an actress who sings or singer who acts?
Lilli Passero: Unfortunately ,I’m sorry to tell you this, I don’t really respond to either one of those. I don’t – I’ve never been comfortable putting myself in a box and I don’t think I’m going to start now. I’m very fortunate to be able to do both and to say that I love doing both and I will continue to do both.
Q) Are you interested in a Broadway career?
Lilli Passero: That is an interesting question. Because I am an actor, there are certain straight plays, of course, that I would love, love, love to do. I have not always really responded to a lot of current musical theater for whatever reason, maybe because I was raised on the classics that when they don’t look like that it’s hard for me to get excited about them. You never know what the future holds and if the right role came along it would be an honor to participate in anything that I believe in so, you know, we shall see.
Q) So how do you see yourself moving forward musically? Would you like to make an album coming off The Voice?
Lilli Passero: I think to start with an EP to really throw myself into making a couple of like great songs that I’m really proud of and see how people respond to them and then go from there.
Q) What kind of style would you be interested in your album to be?
Lilli Passero: I think the easiest thing to call it would probably be vintage pop. You will hear jazz, you will hear blues, you will hear influence from the doo wop groups of the 50s and 60s, you’ll hear a lot of things.
Q) On your style I really loved actually your take on “Unforgettable,” I thought it was very beautiful. I – it just really reminded me of like – that’s kind of what I compare you to, like your style, but do you think that maybe thinking that – other people, do you think maybe not ready to embrace a female crooner or like what do you think about that?
Lilli Passero: I don’t know, I mean, I think if the artist – I think the artist can transcend the song, I think it’s more about the person you’re watching and less about what they’re signing so I think I connected with as many people as I could and I’m not really interested, or it doesn’t matter to me as much who I didn’t connect with because that’s out of my hands. So, I think the world is ready for anything as long as it’s the right time for it.
Q) Lilli, I just want to talk to you a little bit more about your Instant Save song. Looking back, do you think it was the right song to do in terms of showing your strengths and full potential? Maybe you wish you had done something different.
Lilli Passero: Yes, that’s interesting. I mean, maybe a bigger flashier song would have done the job. I think that Alicia’s pitch for Vanessa was really like remarkable. Like I was – I almost started crying listening to her fight for her. I think there’s so many factors that go into it and, you know, from the beginning I never thought I would get this far and I even said like God, how amazing would it be to get to the top 12? And then I got to the top ten so maybe it was something I manifested that it was just my time to go home, I don’t really know. I think it’s hard. I understand the desire to want to find the answer, find the solution or pinpoint the exact moment or all of that but I don’t know if that’s necessarily something you can do.
Q) Also, what was it like working with Adam in general? I mean did you two always agree on song choices and style and performance techniques? Did it take you time to get on the same page? I mean, what were your rehearsal sessions like with him?
Lilli Passero: They were interesting. He – I mean, first of all, they were always fun. He’s like such a fun guy to hang out with and he’s so smart and he knows so much about music and he’s very passionate, he really knows what he wants and I think he knew what he wanted more than I knew what I wanted and so it was – you know, we would like get head-to-head on things and at the end of the day I would – if I feel a million percent about something like I’m going to stick up for it. But if I’m kind of unsure then I’m more likely to allow someone who knows more than me to have the final word. So he was picking my songs at the end and he really inspired me to be more confident in them because with “Unforgettable” I was really nervous to sing it especially because the Nat King Cole version is so – it’s held so near to so many people and also because of the nature of the song I thought well at this point in the competition do I need to do something bigger or is this the right choice for me? And he really encouraged me to stop worrying about the competition and to just focus on me and doing something that looked really good on me and I really admire that about him. That even though he’s working for the show he is not married to the outcome of the show, he’s married to the outcome of who we are as artists and people.
Q) This question is for both of you, Lilli and Mark. What drew you to audition for The Voice?
Lilli Passero: My parents brought it up to me, they thought it would be a great opportunity for me to kind of get my career to the next level to put my abilities and what I do in front of a bigger audience and they thought I had nothing to – they said you have nothing to lose only so much to gain and they were right and I’m glad that I divorced my comfort zone to do it because I never wanted to be a part of a competition before. And I didn’t even want to this time but I’m so glad that I allowed myself to participate in it because it was so, so, so rewarding.
Mark Isaiah: So, what made me want to audition for The Voice? I just always had the passion for music and I remember auditioning when I was 17. I went to the New York location and I auditioned there like at the open call and they accepted me and then the next one I wasn’t accepted like they didn’t call me back or anything like that so I was like really let down for that and so I just decided to keep following my dreams and never give up. I just couldn’t find anything else that can replace music in my life, you know what I mean, so I was just like I’ve got to do it again and I prepared myself. I had to work on my confidence again like I said before my blind audition and I just did it, went out there and I made it all of the way to the top ten and I couldn’t be more grateful to everybody that was a part of it or had such a good time on this experience and it really helped me grow.
Q) What do you see yourself doing next?
Mark Isaiah: Next I mean I’m definitely going to start putting everything to use that I’ve learned on the show like I’m going to start definitely recording music, I’m going to (do a single) as soon as I can and just start promoting and finding connections and producing at the studio and stuff like that.
Q) Last night when Alicia was fighting for votes for Vanessa, what did you guys think about that? Did you think it was fair when she said to vote for Vanessa or a vote for her would be a vote for Vanessa? What did you guys think of that?
Lilli Passero: I mean, like she said, I don’t know if you guys saw the whole episode but like she said in the Mother’s Day video, you know, to be a mother is to be a lioness and I think Alicia sees the people on her team as her cubs and I respect the hell out of her for saying and doing whatever she has to do to protect Vanessa and that same spirit is what got me on her team during the blinds. I mean, she decided that she wanted me and she sang me a song and made sure she got me and I really admire and respect her for doing everything in her power to get what she wants for what she believes and, you know, that’s just the way it is. Of course it’s fair, if anything it’s something that we should all aspire to do ourselves to have that kind of passion and fire.
Mark Isaiah: Yes, perfectly said actually. That’s exactly what I would say.
Q) Mark, Adam said a couple of times that you chose all of your own songs for the live shows. So did he blindly trust your choices or did he ever suggest any other songs at times and you kind of turned down his input, like what was it like working with Adam?
Mark Isaiah: Yes, it was like that for once, one time it did happen. He tried to change my song but I strongly felt like the song that he was giving me wasn’t – I feel like maybe it wasn’t appropriate for that week because I was getting a lot of requests from my fans, I try to hear out everybody that comes out to me. But I mean we worked together and just the fact that he’s been on the show for so long and to think that my ideas, the idea that I’m bringing to the table, are good and that he believes in me as much to make my own arrangements and to pick my own songs, it’s awesome. He does help with arrangements and he’s just an awesome coach. I’m really glad that I got to meet him and work with him.
Q) Are you glad that you chose “Sorry” for your instant save song and was that your choice or Adam’s suggestion?
Mark Isaiah: To be honest with you, that song was – so for the last eight songs we’ve got to like pick from list that they provide for us and out of that list that was the most familiar one I was with and, you know, it as getting to the point where it was hard for me to learn two songs every week because I was at the bottom every week and so I was really working twice as hard as everybody else on the show just performing twice on TV and still having to learn two more songs for the next week and practice my last day’s song and my live song plus the coach song that we did with Adam, Hey Jude, so it’s been a lot, a lot of songs coming in place and so that was the one that I was most familiar with on the list that they gave me and I just picked that one because I just had to make it easier on me for that week.
Q) Lilli, could you compare working with Alicia versus working with Adam?
Lilli Passero: Sure I can try. It’s night and day. They’re very different people I think that’s why they are both coaches on the show because they’re both wildly qualified but very, very, very, very different. I think Alicia would have had me – I mean as you saw she probably would have thrown me down a slightly different lane in terms of song choices but other that that I mean, I always felt kind of like in aw of her when I was around her. I don’t know if it’s because she’s a women and has that like maternal kind of queen-like vibe to her. And then working with Adam, I mean you really forget that he’s Adam Levine because he’s so down to earth and he’s very easy going and he treats you like a buddy right way. He’s very frank and straightforward and he doesn’t hold anything back and it makes you feel like you’re with your best friend who you can say anything to. And he was super, super dedicated and committed to finding the right things for me and I really appreciate how much he cared and how he never gave up and put his all into doing everything that he thought he could to let me shine. Working with him during the live week – we got much more time together than I got with Alicia so in a way I felt like I got to know him better but I’m so grateful that I got to work with both of them. I’ll probably be having realizations for the rest of my life about things that they left me with.