The Voice has been traveling all around the country this summer, first with the semi-finalists from the first season hitting select cities on their first ever musical concert tour, and then with season two audition stops from coast to coast. But let’s face it: season two really didn’t feel like it was officially beginning until they touched back down on southland soil, hitting Los Angeles’ own The Forum for two days of non-stop crooning.
August 30th and 31st is seeing hopefuls from all over LaLaLand (and some who traveled across state lines for their shot at stardom) lining up for the initial audition rounds with The Voice casting director Michelle McNulty and their shot at stardom on NBC. True to the form of the first season, there was no age limit on those auditioning, and that brought out a diverse crowd, some of whom had special tee-shirts printed up specifically to leave a lasting impression and hopefully inspire a callback. But perhaps what was even more refreshing was how open, warm, and encouraging everyone seemed to be with each other. The hopeful contestants who were signing in, filling out release forms, and practicing their vocals as they walked to their own respective lines were not sizing each other up as direct competition and brushing each other aside. Instead they were chatting with each other, forming small clusters to direct each other (and us, we must point out!) on where to go, and joking that if the whole solo thing didn’t work out, they could form a group. They weren’t even on the show yet, but they were already embodying the positivity for which the first season became known.
Yet only a select few would emerge with not quite golden in color, but definitely so in sentiment, tickets on to the next round. Groups of ten individuals brought in to sing their hearts out– a cappella!– for McNulty often all emerged empty-handed, but no one was in hysterics over a lost opportunity or judgements passed. Given constructive criticism and the advice to keep singing, keep polishing their instruments, and try again next year, spirits seemed high for even those who did not get the illustrious call back card.
They had to be keeping things in perspective. There can only be one winner at the end of the competition anyway, and they have some pretty big shoes to fill with first season champion Javier Colon, a man whose energy, enthusiasm, and sheer talent was apparent immediately to McNulty in his early, early auditions. So what exactly was she looking for that she felt Colon had? And how does she go about finding it for the sophomore season? LA TV Insider Examiner had a chance to chat with McNulty about where The Voice is right now.
LA TV Insider Examiner: When we see the audition rounds on The Voice, they are blind; the coaches turn their backs to the singers. In these earliest stages, though, they walk the hopeful contestants right in front of you. How do you still focus on just the voice when some come in with instruments and gimmicks?
Michelle McNulty: We all do our version of the blind audition where I try to look down, take notes on the songs and stuff. Absolutely the voice is still the first and foremost, without a doubt, but with that being said, it is a live performance show, and there is a live band and a live performance on a giant stage with epic concerts being done every week. You want to make sure somebody knows how to engage and to perform or can at least focus on what they’re doing, as well as their voice being phenomenal.
Describe the process from initial audition to callback and so on. What makes each round unique or shows off another layer to an artist’s talent?
M.M.: They’re brought in ten at a time, and today they’ll be singing a cappella. Those who get a call back can sing to a track, with instruments, with someone accompanying them…The callbacks are more intimate, one at a time, and they sing more than just a verse and a chorus. They can sing the whole song, and they’re on stage, and that’s when you actually get to see if they can stay in that pocket.
The show is called The Voice, and you are stressing that the voice is what is most important, but so many in the first season played instruments, too. Do you think it helps for a contestant to be a more well-rounded musician?
M.M.: I think that’s the artist side of thing and where you can tell if somebody was really on their grind or if someone just woke up this morning and was like ‘I’m gonna be a singer!’ That’s the difference. And as the callbacks progress, that’s when we really get to see that.
The Voice is so much about working with the artists to build them up and make them better; how much does someone walking into the early audition really have to be perfect versus being someone you can see the potential in but who may need some work?
M.M.: There’s absolutely both sides of it. You can walk in and there’s that it factor that everybody always talks about; it’s sort of undefinable, but it’s there. And then there’s those that walk in with that it factor and they can’t sing. And if they can’t sing I can’t do anything with it.
I think with a lot of people when they come in and they audition, they’re not necessarily– they’re ready for our show, it’s just ‘Keep working on your vocals’ and giving them some pointers on what it is they can work on– everything from their timing to their pitch to their pacing. And then on the flip end of it, there are some people who come in who look like they rolled out of bed, but they’ve got this phenomenal voice, and you [have to say] ‘This is a gig; this is not a rehearsal, so if you’re getting a call back, think about those things.’
What is the most important advice you can give to someone auditioning?
M.M.: Do the kinds of songs that you want to do as an artist. If you’re a country artist, sing a country song; don’t sing “At Last;” it doesn’t really help me if you want to be Carrie Underwood.
The Voice returns to NBC right after the Superbowl this winter. Did you audition today or any of the previous dates, in other cities? Leave your story in the comments below!
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