Here's the latest on and around NBC's The Voice: auditions for Season 2 wrapped last week in Los Angeles, and yours truly was there. Here's my audition-day dish.
It's been hard for me to talk about Season 2 auditions, because I haven't been at any of them (although Nakia did give some insight on the Houston round in a previous blog). That changed on August 30, when they arrived at the Los Angeles Forum. Now, I should note that this blog is going to be from the first person and not a news report...because I wasn't there to cover the auditions. I was there to audition.
I can tell you what all those thousands of hopefuls had to go through, because I was one of them.
Audition day started for me at 3 AM. I was having a little talk with myself and trying not to let my nerves turn my stomach. For me things were different than most; they were personal, not professional. I sing because I love to, not because I'm good at it; I'm certainly no Javier Colon. My vocal triumph was leading part of the America's Got Talent audience in a rendition of Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" last month.
Plus, I had my audition pass in my hands, and it said #8800. #8800 on the first day of Los Angeles auditions alone. Knowing there are only 32 spots on the show's four teams, I could do the math.
No, I wasn't driving three hours because I thought I was "The Voice." I was stepping to the mic because The Voice has given me a love of music and through that, a love for life again. Because I've been through so much with the show and the people involved in it that I wanted to try.
I swallowed my fear and arrived at the LA Forum at 6:15, just under an hour before my 7 AM call time. There was already a sizeable crowd of hopefuls there, of all sorts. Some people had slept there. Some brought their parents or children. Others were pointing out friends that they hadn't known were coming.
I met one girl who'd never even seen the show - she was auditioning because her friends were. There was another who was a friend of Tyler Robinson from Team Blake, who told me that there were four to five rounds of callbacks between today and the blind audition rounds that we see on TV. And then I met Jonathan, who'd gone to open calls for American Idol. By the end of the day, we'd be pretty good friends.
We were shepherded down the Forum's massive driveway and into the stadium proper, where we were separated and searched. Once we'd gotten through security, we were sent to one of nine lines that were being formed on the actual Forum floor.
I was in line #9, along with Jonathan and yet more new faces. There was Gabriel, who'd driven all the way from Phoenix to audition, and Emily, who had tried out for America's Got Talent as a teenager but remarked that this call was already more organized than that one had been. There were six of us near the front of line #9, and we'd be stuck there with each other for about two hours.
As you can expect, we bonded quickly. We traded life stories and tips. When those ran out, we just started singing - not anything we were auditioning with, but anything that came to mind, songs by Alicia Keys and Anthony Hamilton. And, we wondered aloud, would anyone ever be crazy enough to sing something by "Weird Al" Yankovic?
Our lovefest was occasionally interrupted by announcements from a man in charge of the whole thing. At least, I assume he was because I never knew his name, and he was always talking from the other side of the room, so I only heard half of what he said. Mostly, it was further instructions, but he made one important statement. We were told that we would not be berated or intimidated, that this was a positive place and that we should feel free to lose our nerves. The auditions share the same emphasis as the show: positive and constructive.
I didn't lose my nerves, though. I knew the only thing that would get me to calm down was another pep talk from my coach, Adam Levine, and he was in Florida with Maroon 5 on tour. Then I thought about that and realized if he was there, he'd want to hear me sing and I'd be even more nervous.
I've spoken at length about my respect for my coach and I've been lucky enough to have him still in my life even after season one of The Voice ended. I knew I wasn't going to make his team, but all I wanted to do with my audition was make Adam proud of me.
So, too, had actor-musician Scott Grimes, who had not only said yes to my request to audition with one of his songs, but sat me down at San Diego Comic-Con and given me advice, and even tweeted his encouragement that day. I didn't want to tell him I'd messed up his song.
I had a lot of people behind me, and I didn't want to let any of them down. And I had two hours in line to be nervous, as we stood there and watched groups of people queued up in the seats, then led back to audition. There were hundreds going before us and there would be thousands more after us, all with nerves of their own.
Finally, we reached the front of the line, showed our passes and were given blue wristbands that identified us as performers (as opposed to yellow ones that I assumed were for parents accompanying minors). We thought we'd all be auditioning together, but we were forced to quickly say goodbye as we were sent to yet another series of lines, which would be our actual audition groups. Jonathan and I were lucky enough to stick together, but I'd never know what happened to Gabriel, Emily or anyone else.
The production assistant at the front of my line noticed my walker and got the two of us an escort so we could be walked back to our audition room rather than have to climb stairs. I found out too late that the Forum has one elevator and it's on the other side of the floor. Imagine this: on two broken legs, you're walking across a stadium floor, onto an elevator, then across the building again as you navigate hallways to where you're supposed to be.
By the time I made it to room C1, I was physically spent. They took one look at me and asked if I'd like to wait a few minutes to rest. I did, sitting down and feeling a rush of pain hit me. I had a good idea then that I was done for. It's hard to give a good performance when you've expended all your energy before you even get in the door.
It wasn't a good time to be me, which is why I appreciated more what happened next: the woman who was in charge of said audition room personally introduced herself to me, and explained to me exactly what was going to happen. She put me at ease. Not only did she not have to do that, I'm pretty sure that most people in her position wouldn't have even bothered.
It's worth noting because it's another example of how The Voice is comprised of great people. I think we need to recognize that everyone I've dealt with on the show, from the coaches to the ushers and now at auditions, have been kind, polite and positive in a world that's often anything but.
That continued in the audition room. The producer we were performing for met us there with stress release candles on the table. There were five chairs on either side of a mark at the center of the room. Once we'd all sat down, she gave us a pep talk. We were encouraged to support one another. We weren't just numbers to be run through for her, either.
We got a verse and a chorus to impress her - not even an entire song. My room was comprised of some pretty great singers. Jonathan got the dubious honor of going first. Then there was an eclectic bunch of people, with some opera, a little Carrie Underwood, and one guy who quipped that he was singing "everything - not all the songs, that's the title of the song." I sat back and listened to them all while trying to run through my own lyrics in my head, because for better or for worse, I was called up last.
I told her what I was singing and her face told me that she had never heard it. This worked to my advantage because - even though I'd been practicing since June - I got most of the way through the verse before I forgot a line. I did what we'd been advised to do by the instruction guy downstairs: I made something up. Then I got through the chorus without incident and sat down to applause.
I wasn't expecting a callback, but I was disappointed when we were told no one in our room would be getting one. The standards, we were told, had just been set very high by season one.
You'd expect us to be upset, or at least a little sad, but as we all got up to leave and queued by the door we were surprisingly chipper. We were congratulating each other. I admitted that I flubbed a line and the girl who'd sung Carrie Underwood smiled and told me she'd done the same thing. That made me feel a lot better. Still in good spirits, we were officially let go when they cut our wristbands. Our time had come and gone.
In the parking lot, I spotted a guy that looked just like Javier Colon (he wasn't) and had a good laugh. Then Jonathan and I went to celebrate our defeat with pancakes. Maybe next year.
I'm not "The Voice" and I won't be on the show, but I'm glad that I rose to a challenge that I would never even have thought of three months ago. And if there's one thing I can leave you with, dear readers, it's that if you are someone who can sing, or even someone like me who just wants to, this is how you ought to do it. Auditions for The Voice are the most respectful, positive, well-organized, fun and most importantly, safe that I've ever seen. It's the best chance that you could take.
Who knows: maybe I'll see you in line next year...?