The Voice Interview – Season Five’s First Contestants

The Voice Season 5 First Contestants Interview
Caroline Pennell performs on 'The Voice' (Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC)
Season five of NBC’s Emmy-winning singing competition The Voice is underway, with the original coaches back in their spinning chairs. After one season off, Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green are back fighting with Adam Levine and Blake Shelton over the talented singers vying for a spot on one of the four teams.
Kicking off on September 23, 2013, Adam jumped ahead in the race by grabbing up Donna Allen, Nic Hawk, and James Wolpert to compete on his team. Team Christina snagged Matthew Schuler and Josh Logan while CeeLo sweet-talked Kat Robichaud and Caroline Pennell into joining his team. Meanwhile, Blake Shelton played it cool and won over Shelbie Z.
Together on a conference call to talk about their The Voice auditions, the new members of Team Adam, Team Christian, Team Blake, and Team CeeLo discussed their experiences thus far.
Kat and Donna, you talked a little bit about stepping away from music for a while to focus more on family. This second time around what do you hope to accomplish and what do you sort of hope The Voice will do for you in helping you to reach this goal?
Kat Robichaud: “Well, my band broke up in October. I wasn’t happy with the way things were going. I was just spending so much time on the road and we were just going in circles and just not really getting anywhere, so it was a really hard decision for me to step away from that. But I never had any intention of not playing music. It just happened to be that when the band broke up the opportunity for The Voice very quickly arose and I jumped on it. And if I had been with my band I wouldn’t have been able to take the opportunity because we were constantly touring. So if I hadn’t been playing with them, you know, they wouldn’t have been able to play and we wouldn’t have made money.
And then when I auditioned in January I didn’t find out until after my father passed away that I had made it through to the next round. What I want to do with this is I want to reemerge in the scene as a solo artist and do stuff that’s more in my vein of the kind of music that I like, like glam rock and theater-esque rock.”
Donna Allen: “I wanted to commit to my son during that time, [so] I decided to take some years off after touring for about nine years with Gloria Estefan. I just wanted to take time off for my son. I wanted to see him walk and talk and go to school and kindergarten. I wanted to be totally involved in his life. And now that he is 17 years old and taking advance placement classes in high school I decided to go here and pursue my career and hoping that I can get a huge record deal, you know, to do the music I enjoy doing.”
Josh, you said you’d been busy playing six days a week. What’s the transition like from going to playing gigs every night to performing on television in front of millions of people and everything that goes with being on a television show?
Josh Logan: “It’s pretty cushy, actually. I’ll take it, man. I’ll take playing one song – singing one song over six days a week, three hours a night any day, you know? It’s a nice switch and it’s definitely in the direction I want to go towards. I don’t want to be playing in bars for the rest of my life, especially as often as I do. I mean, it’s been great to hone my chops and to get my voice where I needed it to be, and I made a lot of friends and gained a lot of support from that. So I’m just going to utilize all the good aspects from all the gigs that I’ve done and hopefully it’ll take me to the next level with this competition.”
Nic, what compelled you to go on The Voice as opposed to any of the other many singing talent shows that you could have gone on?
Nic Hawk: “That is a solid question. Honestly, I think the reason that this show just spoke to me more than the other shows did … and I’ve tried out for American Idol five times and they obviously hated me. But, I mean, with that show it’s a lot different from this. This show I really honestly feel like it was kind of my door because I’m the kind of person you’d look at and you don’t really expect the kind of voice to come out of me that does. And so for that alone I kind of wanted people just to not know what I look like and kind of have that be either a negative or a bonus to them, whichever way they were looking at it. It was just more for me. I just wanted to musically execute the song in exactly my style and I felt like this show really gave me the opportunity to do that.”
Nic, did you plan to hit on Adam Levine? Was it premeditated? Did it roll off the tongue?
Nic Hawk: “I knew from the beginning that I wanted people to know that I was gay from the start. I didn’t want people to ever like think about that like, yeah, it’s a part of me but it’s not all of me. I had a plan for everyone when they turned around, actually. Like, if everyone would have turned around I had a plan to say to everyone like I was going to say, ‘Christina, I loved your music ever since I was little. Blake, you’ve won three in a row, the likelihood of you winning again is slim to none.’ Then I was kind of going to say something to Adam along those lines. And I ultimately honestly was going to pick CeeLo. But something told me that I just had to pick Adam, and I really don’t think it was his good looks. It was honestly I felt like he fought for me more in that situation. He turned around so quick I had to keep that in mind too.”
For Team Adam, how influential was what he actually said in making your decisions? Did he sway you away from a different judge?
Nic Hawk: “Basically I wasn’t planning on picking Adam honestly, when I walked into it. The style I sing is more towards CeeLo. But something just in that moment – the way he fought for me was just something that like I took into a lot of consideration. And for someone to say that you’re amazing … I felt it was a genuine comment. I was just like, ‘I have to go with him.’ My heart just told me in that moment to do it so.”
James Wolpert: “Yeah, it’s not always a black and white decision when you’re up there. But there’s always this weird subconscious kind of gut feeling that takes over. I think that’s something that a lot of us have in common when we got up there; it’s just hearing them all talk is really confusing. But there’s just kind of this weird little voice in the back of your head telling you to go for it. And, yeah, that’s my two cents on the matter.”
Caroline, you said a couple times on the show that you were a pretty shy and private person. How are you making the transition from performing at camp to singing on such a major television show?
Caroline Pennell: “You know, t’s crazy because it all happened so fast so I haven’t really had time to notice the transition and the way that I am as a person now as opposed to before. But it’s funny, you know, I’ve never really considered myself a very shy person. And then the more I thought about it I realized I had never shared my music with anybody else. I was really reserved musically, so the transition has just been overwhelming. I feel so much stronger and so much more confident now to pursue what I love to do and to make something of it.”
Kat, you got some pretty big praise on Twitter from former Voice contestant, Terry McDermott. Have you been checking out social media to see the responses to your selection for the show?
Kat Robichaud: “I haven’t stopped. It’s been really bad and I need to figure out a healthy balance because I probably didn’t go to sleep until… I had a nice little viewing party at my apartment last night. and then when everybody left I started like responding to everybody. I was up until about 3:30am. One thing I’ve learned in the seven years of being on the road and being in a band is that fans are so important and they really do make or break you and they keep you going, and that’s the entire reason I do this. So, I tried to respond to pretty much everybody last night. And then when I woke up at like 8:30 this morning I started all over again. And it’s been absolutely insane. I’m pretty good on Facebook but I’m terrible on Twitter; I’m new to it, so I didn’t see that Terry McDermott said something. And that’s incredibly sweet because I admire him and I absolutely love him and certainly like being compared to him. But, yeah, it’s been absolutely crazy.”
Matthew, what did it feel like when all four chairs turned around almost simultaneously? What did it take to keep on going after that happened? Did it kind of throw you off or did you just keep on being a champ about it?
Matthew Schuler: “No, it’s really crazy. I mean, I feel like when I stepped on that stage I was at so much peace, you know, and I knew I just had so much support from back home, like people who were praying for me. It really encouraged me. I stepped on the stage and just started singing the a cappella verse which is crazy in itself because I didn’t have any music behind me so it was literally just me. But when they turned around in like the first few seconds I freaked out on the inside; I can’t lie. I was ecstatic. But my eyes were kind of closed in the beginning so I actually didn’t really see them turn until like a few seconds afterwards. I opened my eyes and all I saw were these white lights. And I’m like, ‘What?!’ Like in my head I was just like, ‘What is happening right now?’
But really I knew from that point on I’m like, ‘All right, the hard part is over. They turned around so now I can just have fun.’ And really that’s what I try to do on stage, you know? I just – I love the song, Young the Giant is one of my favorite bands and ‘Cough Syrup’ one of my favorite songs so I was so blessed to be able to sing it and sing it with the passion that I have for my music. It’s amazing.
You know, I want to change the world with my music because, I mean, to be able to sing that song and be able to put on a good show, you know, it was important to me. So I knew I had to get through it and just have fun doing it.”
Kat, how do you think CeeLo will be able to help you as an artist?
Kat Robichaud: “The reason that I picked CeeLo is I feel that he and I have so much in common as far as vocally and he’s going to be able to help me really hone my craft and tweak my voice. Not change it but make it stronger, and help me to be able to do more with it and have more control over it. But I think as far as just having fun together, it’s just going to be a blast. I mean, he’s such a great performer and one of the things that I really love about him was the first time that I saw him perform was the VMAs where he came out dressed as Darth Vader. And all of his band members were dressed like characters from the movie. When he’s singing crazy he’s singing it in the character Darth Vader and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, Darth Vader is trying to reach out to people and hold their hand say look, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be this way.’ And that’s what I really love about just taking and making your performance a performance and just transcending things and just transporting people into a completely new world, if only for a few minutes. That’s what I really love about performing and that’s what I love about CeeLo. I think that we can do that together.”
James, Christina made a comment about finding out which genre inspired you. Can you talk a little bit about your musical influences and also what specifically drew you to Adam?
James Wolpert: “I’ve been kind of trying to pin down what genre I fit into myself recently and where I fit in musically, as I’m sure we all are. But I guess a few of my biggest influences and a few of the people that I really look up to musically are people like Jack White and people like Freddie Mercury from Queen. I think those are my two most favorite artists, at least right now, because that kind of thing is constantly, constantly changing. And I’m sure if you would have asked me like a few years ago my answer would have been different.
But I was drawn to Adam because he seems like a very genuine guy. He’s someone I definitely want to work with based on the genres that he’s into, which are kind of like rock and pop because I’m also into those genres too. I think just kind of the experience that he’s had, especially working with Maroon 5 forever now, and just based on the work he’s done, I think it was a good fit. And like I said earlier, I think it’s mostly a gut feeling decision there when you’re on stage especially facing everyone – and especially in light of Christina’s comments and her praise and the fact that she’s from Pittsburgh and all that stuff.”
What’s been the response since the episode aired last night?
James Wolpert: “I’ve been really flattered by the response. Everybody seems to enjoy the performance and I guess that’s really the ultimate goal. My friends and family have been amazing through this whole thing. My phone exploded, and everything has been going great. It’s been kind of one of the weirdest things that’s ever happened seeing – like watching my Twitter feed update and watching my Facebook notifications just go nuts. I got to watch it with a few of my friends last night on the West Coast, but naturally the East Coast aired a few hours earlier and all the spoilers came tumbling in – and everybody that I love is on the East Coast. So I don’t know, it’s overwhelming, I think is the perfect word for it.”
Matthew, Christina thinks you’re her best hope to be the first female coach in the history of the show to win. Is that a lot of pressure on you?
Matthew Schuler: “It’s a little bit of pressure but I think I can handle it. I mean, I’m really just focused on having fun up there. Any time I get anxious, like any anxiety or just I get in my head about stuff, I end up not performing well. So, I think what I really need to focus on to live up to that expectation is to just have fun. And just, you know, I’m doing what I love. Music has always been my heart. I love making music. I love singing and I love performing for people and giving them some happiness and joy through my performances. So I’m really excited to just go at it and just have that be the focus and have fun while I’m doing it.”
Nic, what’s the difference between Idol and going for this?
Nic Hawk: “Honestly, I think it’s just a timing thing. I think that it took me a while, honestly, to discover what kind of music I really loved to sing. And so I think I was honestly just going in there and singing songs that I thought people wanted to hear as opposed to songs that I loved to sing. This year I came in and like this is the perfect entrance song. You know, I felt really in comfort zone for this.”
Do you really think Adam’s going to be too distracting with all his handsomeness?
Nic Hawk: “No. I mean, he is pretty good looking, I’m not going to lie about it. But honestly I think that it’s going to be a good match. I think that it’s not going to be anything that I can’t handle. I always view myself as the underdog so I think that gives me a little bit more fight because I just am constantly harder on myself than anyone else is.”
Josh, why did you choose Christina?
Josh Logan: “Because CeeLo didn’t turn around. [Laughing] No I’m just … that’s not really what I mean. But I went into the competition with my heart set on him because what I do, he’s like the perfect kind of cat for me. So when he didn’t stand and it came down to – I’m still blessed to have three people turn around for me, no doubt. So obviously when Blake and Adam were going back and forth being goofy and Christina was kind of steadfast looking me in the eye like very serious about what she wanted to offer me and what she thought I was capable of, I felt that she was the one that was really taking my seriously at that point. And I don’t know. My gut just said to go with it so I just went with my gut.”
Caroline, what made you pick CeeLo over Blake?
Caroline Pennell: “You know what? Going into it I had no idea who I was going to pick because I knew I would change my mind, because I’m so indecisive. I kind of just left it to the moment. And I don’t know, sometimes you just have a feeling about something and you have an urge and when they say go with gut and just no matter what anyone says just choose who you want to choose, it’s so true because you never know what your gut is going to tell you. And, I don’t know, my mind and my heart really leaned towards CeeLo so I’m really glad that I made that decision.”
James, the judges told you that you could win this competition. Do you feel that confident now or now that you’ve watched some of the other performers are you getting more nervous?
James Wolpert: “That’s a tough question because I don’t know. Winning the competition is definitely a nice end goal; it would be really great. What I’m looking for is to get as much out of the experience as possible though. I think there’s a lot more here to glean from the competition than winning it, like all of the friends that I’ve met thus far. Like Matt especially, we’ve had a lot of time to hang out and get to know each other. I think ultimately the praise from the judges is really nice and it really is definitely an ego boost in a lot of ways, but I don’t think that’s any kind of feedback that you can rely on to take you through the competition. I think it’s best to be as modest as possible because there’s a lot of amazing people in the competition right now. And anything can happen.”
Matthew, how is your relationship with Christina working out thus far?
Matthew Schuler: “Man, Christina is absolutely amazing. I could talk about her all day. I mean, she’s such a blessing. She just has like one of the greatest voices of our generation. It’s amazing to be learning under her. She has nothing but support for everyone on our team. I know Josh can definitely advocate for her as well. She’s just amazing. You can’t not learn something from just being around her. And she has just such a nurturing motherly quality to her. You know, like I think that’s one of the main reasons why I chose her just because I felt that. I felt like she really cared. She really cares about her team.”

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