Sweaty palms and butterflies. A few last touch-ups in the mirror. Replaying the song over and over in their head. These are just a few things that ReverbNation artists on Season Five of the hit NBC show “The Voice” experience before taking the stage every Monday night at 8 p.m.
Last night we were on the edge of our seats wondering if ReverbNation singers Jonny Gray and James Wolpert would be safe. Luckily, James made it past this round and into the top ten, but we were sad to see Jonny go. Since the show’s beginning, we’ve seen these artists, plus Reverb vocalists Kat Robichaud, Barry Black, Jonny Gray, Matt Cermaksi, Matthew Schuler, Will Champlin and Tessanne Chin give their all each week to wow the judges and entertain the excited live audience hanging on their every lyric – not to mention the millions of fans watching them on TV.
For singers James Wolpert, Matt Cermaksi and Will Champlin, competing on “The Voice” was a dream come true, and a result of hard work and perseverance. The singers sat down with us to talk about their pre-show rituals, offer advice to aspiring singers and talk about what it’s like to work with some of the biggest names in the business.
Matt Cermanski is one of the top up-and-coming singer-songwriters from Philadelphia, PA. After not making a team on Season Four of “The Voice,” Matt took the coaches’ advice and began taking vocal lessons and performing at local venues. He returned to The Voice with the hope of connecting with America and jumpstarting his career. Matt was eliminated on the October 21 episode, but he will continue to promote his music, primarily his debut album “Long Road Home.”
Will has music in his veins: His dad was a singer, songwriter and keyboardist for the rock band Chicago. Even though he grew up with music, Will didn’t begin singing until around age 17! After graduating from Berklee School of Music in Boston, Will left for LA to play gigs around the city. He provided backup vocals for Glenn Frey of The Eagles and even played on Michael Jackson’s last album. Today, Will’s musical inspiration is his one-year-old daughter. A favorite on “The Voice,” Will is currently Team Adam, after he was stolen by Christina and then stolen back by Adam!
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 was an Apple Store Genius by day and musician by night. His life-changing choice to follow his passion ended up leading him to audition for “The Voice.” James is proud to represent Pittsburgh on the show, but recently moved to LA in hopes of furthering his career. He, along with Matt and Will, represent Team Adam!
What was the audition and selection process like?
Matt: The audition for “The Voice” was a long but rewarding process. Everyone that works with the show, from production to the casting department, were a pleasure to work with. As you go through each level of the auditions it gets more and more exciting to know you are getting close to being on TV.
Will: It was definitely a lengthy process, but they really make sure you’re able to give your best and look your best as well. I just went in and sang a few songs and they ended up liking what I was bringing to the table and gave me a great chance that’s so far working out well.
James: The whole process was a labor of love! It was super intense and rife with pressure— I couldn’t feel my legs walking through the stage door! I didn’t think that it could be so unnerving to have 4 people not-look at you.
How do you prepare for the show? Any special rituals?
Matt: Sadly no crazy pre-show rituals. I warm my voice up and kind of just chill out. I am thankful for all the hundreds of gigs I’ve played since I was 16-years-old that made me so comfortable on the stage. Of course I get butterflies right before a performance, but as soon as I hit the stage all that drifts away and I get lost in the music and the rush of performing.
Will: I go over the song in its entirety. I find the spots that I can make my own almost as if I’m writing my own songs. I try to inject artistry into these songs the same way that I would in my own music. I warm up some, but try not to over do it.
James: I try to center myself and remind myself of why I’m doing any of this in the first place. It’s for the love of music, man! I also think of all the people in my life that I love.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from being on the show?
Matt: I learned so much, I don’t even know where to start. I learned a lot about my voice obviously, working with Adam Levine helped me learn what I need to do to get to the next level, as a singer. The whole show is just one big learning experience and I took every little piece of info I could get so I can use it to better myself all around as a singer-songwriter and musician.
Will: Don’t forget your own sound. It’s very easy for anyone to sing a song verbatim, but America doesn’t want that. Originality is the most important thing that will keep you in the game. “The Voice” is geared for artists who have a clearer idea of who they are and what they want to sound like, as opposed to other shows that simply throw on a track and say “good luck.”
James: To (counterintuitively) find a place where I can disregard the external consequences of performing on the show (What will people think of me? Will I be good? Will they vote for me? Will there be hayterz?) and completely immerse myself in the music. Because I love music :]. On a related note, Adam also likes to drive home an interesting work ethic mantra: “rehearse and rehearse and rehearse until it’s muscle memory. That way, by the time you hit the stage, you have the liberty to forget all of that and exude the song”.
What advice would you give to other aspiring artists who hope to be in your shoes one day?
Matt: My advice to all aspiring artists is think positive and positive things will happen. Never give up on your dreams, don’t let any one tell you that you can’t do something, and work as hard as you possibly can to improve yourself. If you don’t, you are only lying to yourself. My favorite quote is from rapper Macklemore: “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great cause they paint a lot”.
Will: Think outside your comfort zone and then take steps to grow beyond that. It’s a must. It’s all about finding your own formula and making it work for yourself. Music is changing so much these days. Nothing is pop or commercial until its literally popular and blasting on radio, TV and VEVO. Don’t listen to the wrong people. Trust your instincts and position yourself to prosper in your art by working hard and paying attention.
James: I refuse to believe I’m in any position to be pontificating, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Your love of music is going to be what carries you through! Allow me to repurpose the words of the late Mr. Steve Jobs in the context of music (or any art/thing for that matter) — Making music that puts dents in the universe is about being insane enough to press onward where any person in their right mind would quit. I loved music so much that I let it wreck my life a little bit— and as it turns out, that’s exactly what needed to happen :]
How has having a ReverbNation profile helped you?
Matt: ReverbNation has helped me reach out to fans and other artists who share the same love for music as I do. It is a great tool to market yourself, and in this day in age you need all the social media presence you can get. Why not take advantage of using the best for music, ReverbNation!
Will: Simply put, having a ReverbNation profile has helped me get my music heard, rather than getting lost amidst the chaos of the Internet. I feel that it is the hub of my online content, everything between gigs, as well as links to other essential social networking sites. Amazingly, I also found out about the casting call of “The Voice” Season Five through a ReverbNation opportunity, so I’d say it has been instrumental in my musical journey.
James: Reverbnation has been the hub of my digital music life for a few years now! It’s a great way to get yourself out there and share your craft with the rest of the planet!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Matt: I am currently in the works of writing new music and working on a new album. But you can buy my debut album “Long Road Home” on iTunes. Check out my website, Twitter, Facebook and join my mailing list for new updates on shows and music. Thank you all for reading! Much love!
Will: It’s been an incredible journey to get to this point, and I really want to encourage everyone that is considering taking a bold step forward in their career to make the jump. It may take a few tries, and it may seem discouraging for a bit, but perseverance is the name of game. Just don’t be afraid to dream big, because amazing things happen everyday, and I feel like I’m living proof.
Catch Will, James, Kat, Matthew, and Tessanne, every Monday at 8/7 central on NBC. See their fate on the results show, Tuesdays at 9/8 central. To learn more about “The Voice” and watch past episodes and performances, visit NBC.com.