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That Was The Voice

Apr 28 | Posted by: Rebecca Loebe |

Four years ago this week I performed as a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.” Time is so funny, it feels like forever ago but also kind of like yesterday. Honestly, I never had any desire to be on a musical game show whatsoever. When I was invited to audition I figured there was no way they would pick me since I’m not the type of R&B diva singer that they usually feature on shows like that. So I went with a backpack full of my CDs and figured it might be a good way to meet some folks in the big bad Entertainment Industry. I figured that if I got really lucky, maybe someday one of the production assistants would run a movie studio and put one of my songs in a feature film. To my surprise, they invited me to a few callback auditions and next thing I knew I was sequestered in a hotel in Los Angeles.

On the day of my blind audition, I woke up at 4:30 am. My call time wasn’t until 8 but my roommate’s call was at 6 so I woke up when she did to the sounds of her frantically trying to make herself “camera ready.” As she was leaving for van call in the lobby my alarm went off and I got up and repeated the process.

On set, I was given my outfit for the day, something that had been purchased at TJ Maxx for me by the wardrobe department in an attempt to make me look “folksy.” I hated it, but I hated it less than the previous four outfits they had presented. I was afraid that if I didn’t agree to something they would make me perform naked or not let me audition at all. The make up team coated another layer of makeup on top of the base coat I was instructed to arrive wearing, and re-did my hair which I was instructed to style in advance. This process was done by roughly 11 am, at which point I was escorted to a jumbled, dimly lit backstage waiting area full of other contestants who were pacing around nervously.

The show had flown my boyfriend and my brother out to LA to act as my “support team,” meaning that their reactions to my performance would be filmed and inter spliced with footage of me onstage. If you’ve ever seen a show like this you know what I’m talking about. Both of these boys are very sweet and very shy and have never had any desire to be photographed or filmed doing anything. Their very presence was a testament to their love for me, to say nothing of their easygoing behavior in the midst of a very stressful environment (most of the other contestants were getting a lot of static from their families who were not used to the chaos and utter lack of helpful information one finds on a television set, but my sweet dudes made a pact to not cause me any additional stress and they really stuck to it).

We were reunited in a second “waiting area.” This one was really well lit and branded with the show’s logo (in future seasons this area would also be branded with sponsors logos, but since I was on season 1 there were no sponsors). We huddled together nervously in a corner, trying to stay inconspicuous and not catch the attention of one of the roving camera crews looking to interview jittery contestants before their auditions. Eventually they found us - we were stuck in that room for six hours, after all - and I listened as my shy boys displayed their devotion by nervously talking about me on camera.

Around 5 pm we were instructed to go outside and wait for golf carts to take us across the lot to the studio where auditions were being filmed. When we arrived, I was pulled into a tent for last minute hair and makeup touchups. The boys wished me luck as they rode off on the golf cart.
From the wings backstage I watched two auditions in a row in which no chairs turned around - for those of you unfamiliar with the show, that means that no coaches chose to work with those contestants and that they would therefore be returning home. It was rough.

Someone put a microphone in my hand and told me I was up. I took some deep breaths and worked on centering my energy the way my acupuncturist had taught me to do in stressful situations. All of a sudden a loud sound signaled a break. A production assistant told me that the coaches requested a break. I was relieved. ‘Yes! A break!’ I thought. Anything to put them in a better mood.

I stood dumbly with a wireless microphone in my hand as the audience members began filing past for a restroom break. Most of them were dressed up as if for a party. One of them asked another “Do you know where we go to get paid?” Ah. Right. Paid extras. That explained why they were looking at me so skeptically, wearing my TJ Maxx get up while awkwardly holding a wireless mic in my hand.

A thoughtful PA offered to bring me back to a more private area backstage, cordoned off by the kind of pipe and drape that I used to set up when I worked as a freelance audio tech. I paced around and grew increasingly more nervous. In retrospect it is funny to me that the entire experience was so intimidating. I knew it was not life and death, yet I was so nervous that you would have thought that if I didn’t make it through a pit in the floor would open up and engulf me in flames.

Pacing around, my stage fright increased until I was more nervous than I had ever been in my entire life. I became saturated with nervousness. The balloon in my chest expanded to it’s absolute maximum until, eventually, there was nowhere for it to go but down. While my anxiety remained very much present, it receded to a more manageable level just in time for it to be my turn, again.

The extras returned to their seats and I was led back to the side stage door. The camera crew asked me if I had any final thoughts. Looking back over my shoulder, trying to be as nonchalant and glamorous as possible, I said “Boldly going where no folk singer has gone before” (shockingly, my Star Trek reference did not make it into the final cut).

There was no introduction, no applause. I walked out across the stage in silence, actually aware of the sound of my own footsteps echoing across the room. When I got in place, the band started. I took a deep breath and thought ‘The train is leaving the station. Are you on it or not?’ I looked at the backs of four giant red chairs in front of me, somehow cartoonish yet imposing. ‘Just drop the quarter in the slot and let it roll down the track’ I thought.

If you listen to my performance you will hear what sounds like vibrato but I assure you it is actually the sound of my whole body trembling. I had practiced that little 90 second clip hundreds of times in the ten days prior, and I tried to relax enough to just let my muscles take over.

After about a minute a chair began to turn around. Before I even saw who was in it, I immediately thought about all the gigs I was going to have to cancel in order to stay and film more of the show. I realized that about 20 feet ahead Christina Aguilera was smiling at me with an enormous amount of nurturing goodwill. Moments later, Adam Levine turned around. I was relieved. Although I didn’t know much about the coaches, he seemed like the one whose career was most similar to that of a pop/rock singer/songwriter, so he seemed like a good fit for me.

When I was done singing, all four coaches said really nice stuff. Once they had all given feedback the room got really quiet and I realized that everyone was looking at me. Oh! It was my turn to talk. I had been told that if I got to choose between coaches I should ask some questions before choosing who to work with. I licked my lips, or at least tried to. My mouth was extremely dry.

I stammered through a question about the importance of songwriting. Adam and Christina both gave great answers and reiterated that they each wanted to work with me. I listened to them with half a brain and used the other half to construct a response about why I was going to choose Adam.

In the editing most of that was cut out so it looks like I thought of what I wanted to say very quickly. After I announced my decision the music cued up and it was time for me to leave the stage. I can’t remember who started it (probably me; I’m a nerd) but Adam and I did a cheesy slow motion run thing towards each other and hugged. After a quick embrace we looked at each other and I said literally the only words that I could summon:

I don’t have any liquid in my mouth.”

“Well,” he said with his brow furrowed and his head cocked to one side, visibly confused by my awkwardness. “You should probably do something about that.”

And then I was in motion again. The audience was still cheering and I was moving through the dark space between the stage and the wall towards a production assistant waving a flashlight to indicate the door I was supposed to exit through. I was in a hallway. Someone gave me a water bottle. I walked up some stairs, down a hallway, through some doors, through another set of doors and BOOM! More lights, more cameras, my boyfriend and my brother. Oh, and Carson Daly.

I hugged my boys and chatted about the surreal experience I had just had. Then I was separated from my guys and pulled into a quick but fun interview with social media correspondent Alison Haislip who, until that moment, I had no idea existed. Moments later I was back on a van, being whisked off to a super secret location. Hilarity ensued.

I bring it up because earlier today someone tagged me in one of those Facebook time hop posts which made me realize that the four year anniversary of that whole shebang came and went sometime in the past week. Thanks to all my friends who have known me since long before then for not disowning me or making fun of me (too much). It’s funny to think that one of the things I was *really* nervous about prior to going on the show was some sort of backlash from people who already supported my career. It turns out I had nothing to worry about whatsoever - you were all mind blowingly supportive and I’m super grateful to you for that. Thanks also to everyone I’ve met since then, it’s been a seriously incredible and seriously fun four years!

Hard to say what things would have been like without the show. I do know that there are a lot of incredible people that I otherwise would not have made friends with and that it was worth it for the relationships it brought me alone. It also taught me a lot about myself, what I want from my career, what it feels like to be judged onstage and how that is 100% different than playing shows for people who are seeking creativity, community and joy.
All in all, I’d say it was a win.

Thanks for tuning in and following along in my journey! Sending you lots and lots of love!

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