BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part I

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part I

NBC's The Voice kicked off its fifth season on Monday, September 23rd. The first round of artists who made it through their blind auditions include Caroline Pennell, Kat Robichaud (Team Cee Lo), Donna Allen, James Wolpert, Nic Hawk (Team Adam), Josh Logan, Matthew Schuler (Team Christina) and Shelbie Z. (Team Blake).

Below, the artists spoke to BWW and others about their experience on the NBC singing competition!

Kat and for Donna, you both talked a little bit about sort of stepping away from music for a while to focus more on family. I'm wondering the second time around what do you hope to accomplish and what do you hope The Voice will do for your 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. And 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 like my vein of the kind of music that I like like glam rock and theater-esque rock.

Donna Allen: Yes, I wanted to commit to my son that has - my son during that time I decided to take some years BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part Ioff 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 on my career and hoping that I can, you know, get a huge record deal, you know, to do the music I enjoy doing.

Josh, you talked about playing six days a week. And I'm wondering 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, you know, especially as often as I do.

I mean, it's been great to hone my chops and to get, you know, 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, hat 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.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IMy question is for Team Adam. How influential was what he said in making your decision?

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 like in, you know, they're not just - 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 - just like voice in the back of your head telling you to go for it. And, yeah, that's my 2 cents on the matter.

Donna Allen: I kind of knew from the very beginning that I would choose - even before I even decided to do - put out my application I said if this comes around this is the guy I want for me because my voice and he sings rock and roll and I love rock and roll.

I said if he turns around I was praying honest to God, let him - if he turns (unintelligible) Murray on the matter are head telling you there's just subconscious to again is slim to none." But I was - then ever since I real for me, for him, you know, to choose him and that's - so I did so he was listening to me.

Caroline, you've said a couple times in the show yesterday that you were pretty shy and private person. So how are you making the transition from performing at camp, New York, New Jersey to singing on such a major television show?

Caroline Pennell: I, you know, it's crazy because it all happened so fast so I haven't really had time to notice the transition and my being 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. And I was really reserved musically.

So the transition has just been overwhelming. And I feel so much stronger and so much more confident now to, you know, pursue what I love to do and to make something of it so.

Kat. You got some pretty high praise on Twitter today 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 balance - like 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 3:30 last night. I tried - 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 am terrible - 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 was it like when all of a sudden simultaneously all four seats turned around? Did it 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. And just, you know, it really encouraged me. I stepped on the stage and just, I mean, started singing the a cappella verse which is crazy in itself because, I mean, like 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 I like - like a few seconds afterwards like 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 like 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, you know, to be able to sing it and sing it with the passion, you know, that I have, you know, 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, and it was important to me. So I knew I had to get through it and just, you know, have fun doing it.

Kat, do you think Sugar and Design prepared you well for this competition? And what do you think CeeLo BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part Iis going to add to that?

Kat Robichaud: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, the Sugar and the Design were the first - we were technically the same band. And it was the first experience I had on stage. And I toured with that band for seven years.

And certainly, you know, when I - the very first time that I was on stage I - my knees were shaking and I was incredibly nervous and scared. And it took a long time to develop the presence that I now have on stage and it's just taken a lot of hard work and a lot of heartache. And, you know, people giving you constructive criticism and, definitely, you know, it's a hard road and I'm sad that we're not together anymore but I learned so much from it.

And, you know, I think - 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, you know, 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, you know, 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.

And when he's singing crazy he's singing it in the character Darth Vader and it's like oh my God, Dark 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, you know, just taking and making your performance a performance and just transcending things and just, you know, transporting people into a completely new world if only for a few minutes.

And 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: Sure. 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.

And 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 to, which are kind of like rock and pop because I'm also into those genres too.

And I think just kind of the experience that he's had especially working with Maroon 5 like 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 like 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.

And 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.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IMatthew, 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. I mean, any time I get anxious like any anxiety or just I get in my head about stuff like I end up not performing well. So, I mean, 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. Like music has always been my heart. You know, I love making music. I love singing. And I love, you know, performing for people and giving them, you know, some happiness and joy, you know, 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, 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 ort be a good match. I think that it's not going to be anything that I can't handle. So 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 so.

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 so I kind of just let it all - 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 like, you know, 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.

Matthew, do you perform professionally and what venues or what situations have you performed previously?

Matthew Schuler: Yeah. Honest, I really haven't done too much. I mean, I had a bad when I was a junior at Pennsbury and we did a few like shows at skate parks. We performed at the Battle of the Best by Battle of the Bands one year.

I've been singing, you know, with my church and, I mean, I write a lot too, you know, just like jamming with friends, you know, I've been writing a lot of stuff. But I think like only, I guess, shows I've done in a concert setting have really been at, you know, open mic nights.

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: Oh yeah, 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.

Matthew, how has it been working with Christina so far?

Matthew Schuler: Man, Christina is absolutely amazing. I couldn't - I could talk about her all day. I mean, she's such a blessing. You know, I mean, she just has like one of the greatest voices of our generation. You know, it's amazing, you know, to be learning under her.

She has nothing but, you know, support for everyone on our team. I know Josh can definitely advocate for her as well. You know, she's just amazing. You know, you can't not learn something from just being around her. And she has just such like - just 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. You know, I felt like she really cared. She really cares about her team.

And I think you guys are going to be excited for what you see in the upcoming episodes. You know, she's amazing. She's getting us ready for real life, you know, in this entertainment industry. You know, it's amazing because she's a powerhouse. You know, I'm so blessed to be under her and on her team.

Matthew, obviously you have a lot of high praise for Christina. But if you got to choose your coach, was BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part Ishe always going to be your choice or did she do something at that moment that really made you decide to go with her?

Matthew Schuler: Bro, to be honest I actually went in thinking I was going to pick Adam or CeeLo seriously. But like this is a testament to the production of the show. Like our producers, everyone who works on the show, the staff, is amazing. And they're like - they're seriously there for us.

I had one of the producers come up to me before my blind audition and was just like, you know, make sure that you have an open mind going out there, you know, and picking your coach.

Because, I mean, we can get in there with preconceived notions but, I mean, we have to survive like we have the battles coming up, we have the knockouts coming up and we have to survive those rounds and we need a coach that's really going to - that's really going to fight for us who really loves us, you know, who wants to invest in us.

And, you know, I had to go out there with an open mind and open heart. And she said really listen to what they have to say; listen to, you know, how the coaches, you know, fight for you, what they want to do with you. And, I mean, there were some tough like bidding. Like CeeLo said, like, talking about me owning myself. Like that was - it was very intriguing. Like he almost had me with that.

But, I mean, I don't know, there was just something about Christina. And, I mean, Adam (unintelligible) out of his chair, Blake coming up and giving ma high five like it was insane, you know. And so it was a really tough decision.

But I feel like, you know, Christina, like I said, that she has that motherly quality, that nurturing quality and she's just such an amazing, amazing vocalist. And I really feel like she wants to win this season. And, you know, if she has the faith in me to think that, you know, I can bring it home for her than I'm all for it, you know.

I think she's really going to fight for me. And, you know, I love her and I really appreciate, you know, everything that she's been teaching me. It's amazing. She's great. And I'm really excited to still be on the team and to be working with her right now.

What have you been learning so far on the show.

Matthew Schuler: Yeah, I think one of the best things Christina's taught me, you know, is just - is that letting your heart show through your music is the most important thing in that, you know, it impacts people; it impacts lives. You know, and that's what I want to do, you know, through my music. Like the original stuff that I've been writing, you know, like hopefully after the show I get to share with the world one day.

You know, just - I'm all about transparency just like letting it hang out, you know, because, I mean, nobody's perfect. But music is something that unites people and it brings us together. And if you're being honest in your music, you know, you're just, you know, letting people in I think that's really important.

And, yeah, I think that's one of the most important she's taught me thus far. And the reward that comes through it, you know, like, you know, the standing ovations, you know, all that stuff it's amazing, you know, it's very rewarding to see, you know, you know, that like putting that action into actual practice. You know, it's amazing.


BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part ICaroline Pennell (Team CeeLo) - Saddle River, NJ

Caroline's parents met in an acapella group in college, so it was only a matter of time until Caroline got the music bug. She learned to sing at Summer Camp and took the skills she learned to record a full album this past year. She's never performed at a large venue before so The Voice will be her biggest audience yet. Follow Caroline on Twitter at @carolinepennell.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IDonna Allen (Team Adam) - Tampa Bay and Hallandale, FL

Growing up in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, Donna knows what it's like to be a trailblazer. She was the first black homecoming queen at her high school and the first black professional cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She wants to continue that tradition and become the first over-40 winner of The Voice. The most important thing to Donna is teaching her son the power of perseverance and never giving up on dreams. Follow Donna on Twitter at @DonnaAllenMusic.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IJames Wolpert (Team Adam) - Strasburg, PA

After attending Carnegie Mellon for two years, James dropped out to pursue music. Despite his family's hope of re-enrollment, he moved to Pittsburgh, where he's an Apple Store Genius by day and musician by night. James recently moved to LA for a fresh start and is hoping The Voice will help jumpstart his career. Follow James on Twitter at @jamespwolpert.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IJosh Logan (Team Christina) - Manchester, NH

Josh became a father at age 17 and worked construction to support his child. After four years, he left construction to pursue music full time, performing shows several nights a week. He was signed by a manager who promised to fund and produce his album but ended up leaving Josh high and dry. Since then, it's been a struggle to get his career back on track and he hopes The Voice will be his first step. Follow Josh on Twitter at @Josh_Logan.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IKat Robichaud (Team CeeLo) - Raleigh, NC

Kat grew up on the musicals she got from her dad's collection of VHS tapes, which greatly influenced her showmanship on stage. Kat joined a Glam Rock band called "The Design" in college and toured with them full time for seven years. Her father recently passed away, reaffirming Kat's love for music. She hopes TheVoice can be the next chapter for her. Follow Kat on Twitter at @katrowbeeshow.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IMatthew Schuler (Team Christina) - Yardley, PA

Matthew is always making his voice heard, whether it be in the locker room or at college parties. The indie rocker is a sophomore at Westchester University and splits his time between maintaining straight A's and playing rugby. Matthew's parents have passed down a strong work ethic which carries over to his two passions: rugby and music. Follow Matthew on Twitter at @This_YoungHeart.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part INic Hawk (Team Adam) - Davenport, IA and Dallas, TX

Nic is a big character who loves dance and musical theatre. Right after high school, he got a job as a traveling musical theatre performer and performed in shows for more than four years. Nic recently moved back home to Iowa to help his mother and younger brother, where he teaches dance a few nights a week. Follow Nic on Twitter at @mrnichawk.

BWW Interviews - THE VOICE Artists Chat Blind Auditions - Part IShelbie Z. (Team Blake) - Jasper, AL

With a big voice and a personality to match, Shelbie wants nothing more than to win. Originally from Alabama, she's a cosmetologist by day and a pageant consultant for young girls by night. She also competes in pageants herself, where she can showcase her singing. Follow Shelbie on Twitter at @Shelbie_Z


The Voice airs Mondays (8-10 p.m. ET) and Tuesdays (8-9 p.m. ET) on NBC

"The Voice" returns with the strongest vocalists from across the country invited to compete in the blockbuster vocal competition show's fifth season. Celebrity musicians and original coaches Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton all return, while Carson Daly continues to serve as host.

The show's innovative format features four stages of competition: the blind auditions, the battle rounds, the knockouts and, finally, the live performance shows.

During the blind auditions, the decisions from the musician coaches are based solely on voice and not on looks. The coaches hear the artists perform, but they don't get to see them - thanks to rotating chairs. If a coach is impressed by the artist's voice, he/she pushes a button to select the artist for his/her team. At this point, the coach's chair will swivel so that he/she can face the artist he/she has selected. If more than one coach pushes his/her button, the power then shifts to the artists to choose which coach they want to work with. If no coach pushes his/her button, the artist is eliminated from the competition.

Once the teams are set, the battle is on. Coaches will dedicate themselves to developing their team of artists, giving them advice and sharing the secrets of their success, along with help from their celebrity advisers. During the battle rounds, the coaches will pit two of their own team members against each other to sing the same song together in front of a studio audience.

After the vocal battle, the coach must choose which of his/her singers will advance to the next round of competition, while the losing artist is available to be stolen by another coach. Each coach has two steals available during the battle rounds.

At the end of the battles, only the strongest members of each coach's roster remain and proceed to the knockout rounds. The artists will be paired again with a member of their own teams, but this time they find out only minutes before performing with whom they are competing. The artists each select their own songs to perform individually, while their direct competitor watches and waits. They are vying for their coach's confidence and decision to take them to the live shows. Their coach will choose the winner, and the artist not selected will be sent home.

In the final live performance phase of the competition, the top artists from each team will compete each week against each other during a live broadcast. The television audience will vote to save their favorite artists, and the two artists with the lowest number of votes will be sent home each week. In the end, one will be named "The Voice" and will receive the grand prize of a recording contract.

"The Voice" is a presentation of Mark Burnett's One Three Inc., Talpa Media USA Inc. and Warner Horizon Television. The series is created by John de Mol, who executive produces along with Burnett, Audrey Morrissey, Stijn Bakkers and Lee Metzger.

Photo credit: Tyler Golden/NBC

Photo credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

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Caryn Robbins Caryn Robbins is a Senior Editor and daily contributor to BroadwayWorld, and manages the TV, Film and Music spin-off sites. Her original musical comedy DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT (follow @DearStudent) has been staged in two NYC theater festivals and was performed as an Equity Staged Reading in New York City in 2015. This June, DEAR PROSPECTIVE STUDENT won 'Best Ensemble Show' in Chicago's Premier Premieres Festival. Follow Caryn on Twitter @CarynRobbins
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