The Voice – Season 13 – Auditions: Night One
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) Brandon, congratulations on making the show. During your bio segment, you talked about yourself being an English teacher by day and a musician by night. Can you give us a little bit more idea of what you’ve been doing musically before The Voice, whether you’ve been performing solo and what type of music you’ve been performing?
Brandon Showell: Absolutely. So before The Voice, I studied Music and English at George Mason University in Fairfax. I used to be in a boy band named For Sure and there were four vocalists in the group who made it on to The X Factor. And soon after the show ended, I left the group and became a solo artist, in which I went to perform for a cruise line. And then after the cruise line, I started teaching and I’m now in an agency band and we do corporate events and weddings. So that’s what I’m currently doing, as well as being my own artist.
Q) What led you to The Voice this year, especially since you also got married this year?
Brandon Showell: Yes. So I figured when it’s time to dive, it’s time to dive all the way in and that’s what I was doing with my personal life, with my now wife and as well as my career. I felt like this was the year to do it. And, you know, I trained a lot for the past year and a half vocally, and this was the year that I felt like I was ready to do it. So it definitely paid off.
Q) Chris, you had a four chair turnaround in the blind. So you arguably had one of the most difficult decisions to make. Why did you end up choosing the coach you did? And while, you know, your coach is an incredible vocalist and has a great personality, I guess was it hard to not choose say Adam or Blake given their experience on The Voice and history of cultivating winners on the show?
Chris Weaver: It was definitely difficult, especially Adam. I mean I think Adam really – they all did like really moving it down totally, and Adam certainly had soul. But you know, I felt like, you know, and as Jennifer explained, she came – you know, she knows the church route as far – as well as the drag scene in Chicago. And so I felt like this was somebody who I connected with, who has been where I’ve been, but you know, as well as being on a reality singing show. So I felt like, you know, all things aligned just right.
Q) Chris, what inspired to audition for The Voice?
Chris Weaver: So the public call audition and then I got a call from The Voice that they’re looking for 10 people to do a private audition. And so that’s how I got to do that and I actually almost didn’t send in the test, but I did send one the last and yes, then I got a call back and went for it.
Q) So the show contacted you and then you had to make a decision about whether you wanted to do it or not. What made you go for it?
Chris Weaver: It was something different. It was something that I was ready to give a shot for and it was a different way rather than doing – it was a private audition. So it was a different way of the producers seeing me rather than just being in an open call. So I said why not give it a try?
Q) Lucas, I just wanted to ask you how surprised you might have been when Jennifer Hudson not only turned her chair for you, but wanted to sing with you and picked up on the song you started to sing? That must have all taken you by surprise I would think.
Lucas Holliday: Definitely. When Jennifer finally turned for me, you know, there was definitely the sense of, you know, trying out for this and, you know, getting the shot in the first place was a beautiful thing. I have an answer kind of similar to Chris’s in the sense that I – you know, I had a private audition call. I was invited to do this after this viral video that I was seen for, which me and you’ve talked about actually. And yes, in any case I – you know, I just wanted to give this a shot. This is not my thing usually, the, you know, reality singing and so forth. I was always kind of like – people have been telling me for years to do it and I just, you know, have been like well, maybe. You know, we’ll see. Then I finally gave it a shot and, you know, I went up there and I mean this is a woman who, you know, I’ve – I watched her during Idol. I watched her, you know, play Effie. I’ve seen her, you know, do so many great things and then it’s like, you know, I’m up there and I get to sing this song that I’ve known for a very long time and I love very well. And it’s, you know, by an artist that I’ve already kind of been, you know, I guess seen with and appeared on stage with and so forth. And I’m talking about Maxwell of course. And I, you know, I just, I did my thing. And there was a point where I was kind of – you know, the nerves kicked in pretty quickly actually to be honest with you. I was actually surprised that they – you know, I was shaking a little bit. And stand there, yes, I had this moment of, you know, just elation and just everything just kind of blew up. And then the moment after was really the main – I mean the fact like – once again, like Chris Weaver said about her gospel background. I was just very happy and pleased to be able to sing a little bit of, you know, a song that I loved and from an artist that I love and so forth. And then she kind of played with me and, you know, went along with it. And yes, I mean I couldn’t be more grateful for that moment honestly. There’s nothing like it, I will say that.
Q) For Lucas, what was going through your mind when all four chairs, after you finished singing, started turning and they were so surprised to see that it was you standing up there, versus someone else?
Lucas Holliday: I will say I was definitely excited, you know, watching everyone’s reactions and hearing oh, this guy is not – this isn’t the guy, like who’s, you know, who’s behind you? Like who really was singing? Tell me who because I don’t think this guy’s got it because that’s kind of my – you know, I kind of feed off of that sense of being the guy who you just don’t expect, you know. So “the whitest dude ever.” I’m not here just to shock. I’m here to – you know, I’m an artist. I love – I’m very passionate about the music that I do and I, you know, I – and the music that I’ve admired and listened to for a long time. And it’s something that I – it’s just a blessing to be able to be on that stage and to watch, you know, these people kind of try to figure this out, you know what I mean? Like this guy is kind of a freak. It’s like I’m cool with that. You know what I mean? I kind of – like I said, I live off of it. I feed off it because it’s something that – I don’t want to be conventional. I don’t want to be just a regular, you know, just like – I don’t want to be like the metal guy or whatever, or the rap guy that – you know, or the country guy that kind of comes from my city, you know. I mean Lansing is very much more based in that kind of style than it is R&B and stuff, but we’re, you know, we’re 80, whatever, 90 miles away from Detroit. I mean this is Motown, you know, right next door, and I, you know, I’m trying to show you guys that Lansing is also that too. We’re also soulful. We’re also funky and I mean it’s the same thing. You know, we come from the Rust Belt. We come from industry. We come from hard work. We come from, you know, the nine to five, you know what I mean? And I’m trying to give you some of that soul, some that blues, you know.
Q) Shi’Ann, can you tell me what led you to The Voice this year. I know you did well in the Snapchat competition. I was wondering if that’s what guided you to The Voice.
Shi’Ann Jones: Yes. That’s part of what drove me to The Voice and the other reason why it drove me to The Voice is because, you know, the situation that I’m in now. I need to do my gifts. That’s something that I love doing. I love to sing. So that’s what drove me to The Voice because it’s all about the Voice.
Q) You are one of nine siblings and now Jennifer Hudson is calling you her mini me. What’s your experience been like so far at The Voice, away from home and all your siblings, especially at your age?
Shi’Ann Jones: The experience, you know, being at The Voice has been an amazing journey. I get to see, you know, many things about my voice, the things that I couldn’t do with my voice and Jennifer has been a blessing because she turned around and stuff. And being away from home, it is kind of hard because you know like, going like once without your parents – well, the parent that you’re really close with, it’s like, you know, kind of hard, you know, to see them not actually there where you are. So this is my journey.
Q) I have a question for Brandon, Mitchell and Dave. Walking into your Voice auditions, which coach did you predict you’d choose if all of them did turn around for you, and what ended up factoring into that final decision you made about your coach? And I guess we can start with Brandon.
Brandon Showell: Okay. So when I walked into my audition, I knew that I would consider Adam or Jennifer if they turned. And then both of them turned, as well as Miley, which made things a lot more difficult. So I was thinking of Jennifer and Adam, and since both of them turned around and then Miley put up a really good fight, I had to listen closely to each one of the coaches. And one thing that Adam said to me was that he can really work with me and he pretty much understands my artistry. And I mean of course everything that he said isn’t necessarily shown, but another thing that kind of hit at home with me that he said was that he understands artists that come from where I come from and, you know, I’m from Virginia Beach. So he listed artists such as Pharell and that’s where I come from. That’s really good music and it’s music that’s going to last forever, and that’s what I want to make. So when Adam made the statement such as that, I had to choose him over Jennifer, even though it was a hard decision because Jennifer and I definitely have similar backgrounds, but when I had the opportunity to have the coach Adam, you know, with his experience and his understanding of what I want to do as an artist, I decided to go with him. I think it was a great choice.
Q) How about you Mitchell?
Mitchell Lee: Before going into the blinds, I actually was thinking I was going to choose Miley, if I had a choice. I’ll say that I was really just hoping for a chair to turn. The fact that Miley did not turn does not bother me because I was not expecting for three chairs to turn. The reason why I was going to pick Miley is, although she kind of forged her career in the pop world, especially lately, her return kind of back to her roots and her kind of folky, sort of country thing, I thought catching her in that crossroads was a good thing for me because I didn’t identify myself as an exact country artist, but kind of a Southern pop rock thing. And her being similar in age to me, I felt like we were sort of could have been in the same world and figured out how to work well together. Now, that being said, although that would have been really nice since she didn’t turn, what that did is it put me in a predicament because without expecting the three chairs to turn, I had to listen like Brandon, very intently to figure out who now was I going to pick because I didn’t have a name going in. So listening to them, I’ll admit that I changed my mind almost 15 times trying to come up with who I was going to say if they were to turn around and ask me okay, now who do you pick? I didn’t want to say well, I don’t know yet. So it definitely was the craziest experience going in and having to choose and having three of these people fight over me was an amazing experience. I actually felt like I was in somebody else’s body watching it happen. And what got me eventually was Blake said that it was really going to come down to the really smart song choices that would showcase me being kind of a pop rock guy with a Southern undertone, which is what I identified as. But all the coaches kind of had me at one point and I ultimately decided to go with Blake.
Q) And how about you, Dave?
Dave Crosby: So my answer is going to be pretty similar to Mitchell’s. I went into the competition pretty sure I was going to pick Blake or Adam if I had the opportunity. Obviously you just want one chair to turn and you don’t care what it is. But being in that situation where you’re just like blown away and amazed that you just got, you know, for me three chairs turn, you just feel so grateful and blessed. So I kind of decided beforehand to choose Blake or Adam. And as they kind of talked to me and each made their individual cases – so I had Blake, Miley and Adam. So through that process, it felt like Adam and Miley were fighting really hard for me. Blake, not as much. I mean he was still great and said some great things to me, but I felt like Blake, or I felt like Adam and Miley were saying, like really fighting hard for me. And so I was super close to picking Miley because for me it’s like Mitch said, it’s like my voice is kind of unique and it’s different. It’s not like and I’m doing crazy runs like everyone else. For me, song choice is just really important and just I have to pick the right songs for my voice on that. And so that was what I really listening for from Adam and Miley, and both of them sold me on that really hard. For me, honestly it just came down to Adam turned for me 10 seconds into my song and Miley turned at the last second. I mean I – like Adam was believing in me from the very beginning and I just believe that he would pick really good songs for me. So that’s why I ended up picking Adam in the end.
Q) For Janice, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your thinking in choosing Miley Cyrus as your coach, as opposed to say somebody like Jennifer Hudson.
Janice Freeman: Hi. I figured that would be probably everyone’s thought. But the thing was me, the kind of person I am, the kind of artist that I try to live every day is being transparent, is being uncomfortable. In this world we live uncomfortable enough and – but it’s in the uncomfortableness that we grow. You learn about yourself. You learn what’s for you, what’s not for you. And I usually don’t like to be in a safe world or try to live under stereotypes as well. As I stated, I’m pretty sure a lot of people assumed that I would go with Jennifer Hudson because of who she is and she’s amazing, amazing artist, amazing woman. But Miley I felt would be that uncomfortable area, stepping outside of a box or even living as if there is no box. And what allowed me to grow and feel things about myself and so other areas about myself that I probably wouldn’t have had I gone with Jennifer Hudson, that’s no slight on her at all, but I believe it depends on, you know, the person and the audience and I believe she can open up a whole another side, a whole another genre and perspective for me. So it was very – it was hard, but it was a strategic move and I’m glad I made that move.
Q) Shi’Ann, you’re 15 and you decided to sing a really classic song. Can you talk to me about that song choice, explain why you decided to do that song?
Shi’Ann Jones: Well, the reason why did that song was because, you know, it’s in my genre and I do soul and me and Aretha Franklin have like the same kind of genre where she does soul and stuff and a little bit of R&B, but mainly soul. So I just love soul and that’s what I’m all about is just soul.
Q) For Lucas, I know you talked about this a little bit, about people being surprised when they turned around, who was standing on the stage. Are you used to getting that type of reaction when you have sang before?
Lucas Holliday: I will say that that is kind of my life story. It’s something that, you know, you don’t really expect to come out of – coming out of me. You know, this – the style that I do, the, you know, the voice that I have and so forth. It’s something that, you know, I’m kind of a real kind of quiet, sometimes shy dude. I’m kind of soft spoken and so forth. But then – I mean unless I know you really well and then of course I’m kind of like the opposite. I start to get a little more bombastic. But my voice is not quiet at all. And it’s just something that I’ve – yes, I’ve always dealt with. I’ve always kind of been the guy that, you know, the big voice that just kind of just shocks you immediately. And so it’s kind of like, you know, I’ve kind of been waiting for a moment like this though. I mean I always figured it was going to be some – you know, something like this that was going to lead me, but I really lead me to – what am I trying to say? Lead me to, you know, a potential blow up I guess, something that really could, you know, give me some real exposure. But I really didn’t – like once again, I really didn’t think I was going to be trying out for a reality TV show or that I was going to be doing a singing competition. I never really had that mindset. And yes, you know, once again I’m just very blessed and fortunate to have been given the shot to shock people.
Q) Shi’Ann, what have the reactions been like from the people back home?
Shi’Ann Jones: The people back home is like they was in shock because, you know, I didn’t tell anybody else, just keeping it on the down low. And they was just like so amazed and they was like they actually have a star like sitting in my classroom, sitting in their classroom. And like the teachers, they was like just didn’t even believed, you know.
Q) Shi’Ann, you had two coaches turn around for you, Jennifer and Blake and they both seemed very invested in you. So how did you arrive at the decision to choose Jennifer? And was she the coach you initially hoped to work with?
Shi’Ann Jones: She was the coach that I initially chose to work with because Jennifer, I’ve seen her. I grew up with her movies, with Dreamgirls and stuff. I love watching her. She’s a phenomenal singer and I just feel like we connect more, you know, as an artist and it’s just been amazing.
Q) Lucas, I’d like your thoughts on working with Jennifer now. Like I know she was the only coach to turn around for you, but it seems like a pretty perfect fit.
Lucas Holliday: Yes, definitely. Jennifer Hudson, that was in my mind actually from the beginning when I – you know, as I was getting into this process and knew who the coaches were and so forth. I was kind of – in my head, I was like I really am hoping that Jennifer turns because I feel like she’s somebody that understands, you know, not just like R&B and, you know, what I love. I mean I’m definitely an R&B hound, but I think it’s more, you know, she understands like what I – like I think she would get – she – I thought she would understand. And I, you know, I still definitely do think she understands what my voice, you know, is capable of, you know what I mean, because she has the range she has, but also the ability to emote as much as possible. And so it’s similar to Shi’Ann’s definitely that, you know, I also grew up – I mean I’ve always been a fan of R&B divas. Like I’ve – you know, I had a high voice as a kid and I always wanted to try to sing whatever I could sing that sounded good. So I tried to follow Whitney. I tried to follow just – even like obviously Aretha and people like this, Patti Labelle, you know what I mean? I grew up listening to like a lot of that, trying to, you know, emulate that and do like I said, the unconventional. And Jennifer definitely, you know, is another person that I’ve looked at and I’m like wow, yes. That’s a great feat. I mean obviously I want to do, you know, what I want to do. I want to be somebody that’s – you know, there’s other artists. you know, I look at the male artists that I’ve grown up listening to as, you know, somebody – you know, there’s a bit of me that wants to become, you know, to an extent, wants to become somebody as revered as maybe like Prince or somebody like this. But this is the same kind of thing. Prince was somebody who loved, you know, Chaka Khan and like artists that – ladies that are just really powerhouses, you know what I mean? And that’s my same kind of trajectory. That’s my same goal, you know. and I’m just really – once again, I’m just really, really blessed, really fortunate she turned around and I’m just happy that we got a chance to sing a little together. You know, if there’s never going to be another shot at that, you know, I couldn’t be more happy.
Q) Shi’Ann, when Jennifer turned her chair she was trying to make sure that no other coach turned their chair. I mean she really wanted you to join her team. So did you see all of that happening while you were singing and what did that mean to you?
Shi’Ann Jones: I saw all of that happening when I was singing. I just wanted to stop and, you know, just scream because this is what it’s about a celebrity, a coach who is just like fighting over me and it just felt amazing. I just kept singing and they made me want to sing harder because I just love to sing and I’m just so thankful.
Q) Lucas, I know at the time your bio was filmed, you were still working the cashier job and you’re still doing that. And also can you update us on your status with your band? I think it’s called Tell Yo Mama?
Lucas Holliday: That’s right. Tell Yo Mama is very alive and well. We’re still working. We’re still, you know, planning on gigging and pushing forward as much as possible right now. I mean of course, I’ll be going on to battle rounds and that’s amazing for me. But you know, my plan is to keep the work of my collaborations as vital and alive as possible. Also when it comes to the store, I am technically still employed with Dollar General, yes. But I honestly have been so wrapped up and busy with, you know, trying to push forward with my music and with my passion that, you know, I haven’t actually been back yet. Actually my plan is to probably move on from the store soon here and, you know, and just really start pursuing music. I’ve really, you know, found a sense of kind of enlightenment I guess in my life, you know, since I’ve auditioned. I mean obviously I’ll be focusing very hard on the work ahead with the show. But just in general, my trajectories now like, let’s not settle. You know what I mean? Let’s keep moving forward and let’s keep traveling. Let’s keep seeing the world. If I have to struggle to sing on the street, I’ll do it, but I – that’s what I want to do. You know, that’s all I want to do, so.
Q) Brandon, can you talk about, what’s it like performing on cruise ships? How is that schedule like and is it the year round situation?
Brandon Showell: Oh, wow. When Jennifer said last night that, you know, that was kind of her test as far as being an artist, that’s completely accurate. It is nonstop. It is very long days. You always should have a smile on because even when you’re going up to get some pizza around the guests, you’re working. So it’s 24 hours and when you’re on the stage, that’s just a portion of the process of being a crucial performer. I love the traveling aspect, but the hardest part about being a crucial performer was two things for me. One, I can’t swim. So every day was a Fear Factor for me because I sometimes would even sleep with my life jacket in my little bunk because I did not want to have a Titanic part two. And then secondly was just being away from my family. I was – you know, I’ve been with my now wife for seven years and the distance never gets easy. I’m very family oriented, so being away for eight months out to sea and being able to only see my family when they come to visit the cruise, that’s extremely difficult. But Royal Caribbean was great to me and it’s a job and an opportunity that I will always remember, because I grew as a performer and I met so many different people from all over the world. You know, the ship that I was on, actually we had about a 1,000 employees and only 24 of us were from the US. So that kind of puts into perspective that I was able to see the world in one location and meet so many different people and experience so many different cultures. So I’ll never forget it and I appreciate every minute of it.
Q) For Chris Weaver, I was wondering what you sang for Jennifer Hudson at the Color Purple party that had her throwing shoes at you?
Chris Weaver: I actually sang the same song I sang for my blind audition. I sang Try a Little Tenderness.
Q) What was that experience like? Were you just so shocked that she would do that? Were you like not expecting that at all?
Chris Weaver: Actually a friend of mine was in the Color Purple with her and just invited me to this party and didn’t tell me what it was. And we get there and, you know, he said it was open bar. So for me that was like okay. That’s all I need to know. But we’re standing at the bar and a friend of mine says turn around, like you’re not going to believe it. I turned around and Jennifer Hudson is standing there and I was like you’ve got to be kidding me. And so she had a lot going on there and my friend said, what do you want to sing? And I was like I don’t want to sing. I don’t think I can sing in front of her. And so I ended up singing and the response was very much overwhelming and it was – and so to be – two years later to be in front of her and be able to sing that, relive that and get the same response, it was amazing.