A Q&A session with The Voice Season 8 coaches

Raymond Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Two weeks ago, this writer was invited to an exclusive Q&A session with the Season 8 coaches of The Voice US. It was held on a late Monday afternoon. The Grammys was held the previous night but all four coaches were up early that day and taped an episode of The Voice all day before they sat for the half-hour interview with us.

Multiple Grammy winner — and once rumored to be of Filipino descent — Pharrell Williams, who is back for his second season, joined permanent coaches Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton.

Adam was not wearing his usual white shirt but wore a blue button-down shirt over his usual ripped jeans. Christina was in black pantsuit and looked as lovely as ever. Blake had a simple black shirt and jeans on and was understandably sipping coffee all throughout. Pharrell was in green sweatshirt and athletic pants on. They all looked great despite having had almost no sleep. Good looks must really come with their superstar genes!

Season 8 of The Voice promises to be as fun, entertaining and full of dramatic twists and surprises as the previous seven seasons.

“There’s always, you know, the steal, after the blinds, you have the knockouts and battles,” Christina remarked. “It’s always, you know, such a surprise. Sometimes, you will start with four button pushes. That’s a tricky thing. This is part of the camp training. They start getting in their own head sometimes. Nerves are a big factor.”

“It doesn’t matter sometimes how great a singer you are, if you struggle under pressure, things go wrong sometimes. And you need to know how to get out of your own headspace; get out of your own way and push forward.”

For Pharrell, the competition on the show is comparable to any sport contest.

“You can be the best person in the world. And, clearly, I don’t know anything about sports but what I notice is that the same thing is consistent in all fields. You can be good at something, but when the pressure comes in… it’s a complete different thing because the conditions are different. Even in archery, when the wind is blowing, you have to factor that in. Like golf — the wind is a factor and that’s where the pressure comes in, because it’s not something that you’re anticipating,” he said.

Pharrell also added that he learned two things from his first season on the show: Being able to pay forward the success he’s had as a recording artist by sharing what he knows to the contestants on the show and discovering the real people behind the superstars sitting on the show’s iconic revolving chairs.

“How much I really enjoyed paying everything forward. You know all the stuff that we learned as musicians, how much I really got a kick out of that, because I do that as a studio artist. But to do that with kids; we get to give them advice and suggestions that we’ve been given, and things that we’ve done on our own as well,” Pharrell said before adding that the show starts when the cameras wrap.

“Because these are the funniest people ever,” he added. “It’s like a show that you walk off the stage and that’s where all of the funniest and the best parts of the show are behind the scenes, seriously. What’s amazing, and what I find, like, mind-boggling is how the show has just not given anyone what happens behind the curtains. And it’s absolutely why I keep showing up.”

“That’s true,” Christina agreed.

The Voice is one of the most popular and most successful reality television singing competition franchises in the world. It is based on the reality singing competition The Voice of Holland and has spawned over 50 versions in various countries all over the world. Some consider it more popular than the American Idol and The X-Factor franchises today. But, unlike American Idol, The Voice has struggled to produce a real breakout star like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood — and this is one particularly touchy subject that Pharrell has a strong opinion about.

“You devil. You devil. You went there!” Adam playfully admonished the journalist who dared ask the question that many were hesitant to ask.

Christina decided to pass on the question. “It’s a question for you guys.”

“Yeah, we want to have that happen. That would be great,” Adam exclaimed. “There are a lot of other things that have been great that have happened as a result of the show, and its impact as well. So it’s hard to do that. I think that people kind of judge success like it’s this kind of all — or — nothing thing, and that’s not the case. Being successful is really, really difficult. And a lot of things have to come together at the right moment for that to happen, whether it’s on a television show or it’s on a record label. Whatever your scenario is, it’s tough. So, it’s going to happen. I believe — I genuinely believe that. I don’t believe that there’s any sort of formula that can guarantee that.”

“There have been a lot of successes!” Christina added.

When it was Pharrell’s turn to address the question, he showed that he was a little “unhappy” with those questioning why the show has not produced a breakout star yet.

“Well, if I may humbly add to that, the show is not a record company,” he started. “There’s a lot of good that comes out of this show. I mean, we’re reminded that there’s a lot of talent in America with this show. And we’re also reminded that there’s goodwill in TV shows. Because you’re watching someone go through it. Which I think Christina summed it up so wonderfully with her phrase, it’s a training camp. It’s an academy. And you only advance forward when you have what it takes to move forward. And there’s nothing wrong with working for something. There’s nothing wrong with having your eye on the prize and not winning. But there’s always a winner, and there’s 11 other people who ultimately end up going home. But they go home different people, because they’ve had tutors that they would never ever in a million years probably have met, let alone get singing lessons from Adam Levine, or learn how to control your bravado, strengthening your bravado, from Christina Aguilera, or learn how to put more heart and soul into your performance, like Blake Shelton.”

“And, secondly, I would also like to say that I don’t understand why we have these interviews and people ask that same question every time,” Pharrell continued. “And I think it’s because I feel like you’re looking for something. And I’d almost rather you just ask Adam, or whoever it is that you want to know this from, whoever you want to see will give you something that you can take back that’s going to really bite and make your bosses excited that you got something good. That’s not why we’re here to do this interview. We’re here to do this interview because we want to explain to you what this is and what it means to us. It’s a gift.”

“It’s a gift to be able to pay forward everything that you’ve learned. So every time you ask us the same question every interview, ‘How come you never produce stars?’ Well, when was the last — when was the last star you produced?”

To be fair, the show may not have produced a huge star but it has made its mark in the industry by launching some of the most popular songs in recent years.

“Well, I think it’s had a profound impact on the music industry, because, I mean, look at, like, the song that Christina did (Say Something, Great Big World). That song Say Something was launched in The Voice. And she won a Grammy. You know, they all won a Grammy for it this year. So, that was like a direct result of the song being great,” Adam said.

Some of the hit songs that have been helped by the show are Bruno Mars’ When I Was Your Man, Blurred Lines and Moves Like Jagger.

Blake remained noticeably quiet for much of the 30-minute interview. He would occasionally chime in but never really said anything except when someone asked if he or Adam would consider taking a season off the show similar to what Christina has done in the past. Cee Lo Green, one of the original hosts, is on extended leave from the show.

“I won’t take time off. I mean, if I step away once, it’s going to be for good, you know. I mean, because it’s just the way my mind works. I’m either going to focus on this thing as long as I want to, or can handle it,” Blake said. “And then, it’ll be on to whatever the next phase of my life is going to be.”

But until then, Blake — or Adam — remains the most formidable coach having mentored the most winners.

The Voice premiered this week and airs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:50 p.m. first and exclusively on AXN in the Philippines.


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