The Voice Audition Recap
Well, I did it. I auditioned for a television show. So now, everyone from my parents to the mailman who emphatically say, "you should audition for [enter reality-like singing competition-like show], you would be perfect for that show!" can rest easy.
I did it.
I don't mean to sound ungrateful; it’s a compliment. But it doesn’t quite fit into my plan for a career in the music business. More on that later...
Well, all of that was true until yesterday morning, that is...
I received an email from a friend regarding a youtube video that I posted for a songwriting challenge. She thought that I should set up an artist account with The Voice. So I did. I was awarded with an "Artist Pass" and a 2pm time slot to audition for the show.
The day of the audition started as many do, getting up with a cup of coffee, attending meetings, and grabbing a quick bite to eat while drinking as much water as I can before I have to sing.
My buddy Cody Gianotti, also known as "The Flute Beatboxer" and a genuinely great guy (check out his loop performance in this youtube video), offered to give me a lift to our certain destiny... also known as the South San Francisco Convention Center.
We jumped into his brother’s dusty old pickup which sounds pretty normal for two guys from Manteca, California, a central valley dairy town in the middle of orchards, but a little less so for the town we now call home, San Francisco. In fact, I can count on one hand the amount of times I've rode in a truck since moving here in the last 5 years and each of those times, well, I was moving.
As we rumbled down the freeway, we talked about songs and kept up with our friends on Facebook, and all the fans back in our little hometown. (We were both featured in a front page news article about the audition. My parents were ecstatic to say the least to see my picture.)
As we circled around off the freeway we were instantly in a car accident. Well, technically it was an accident, but really we were just bumped from behind by some very nervous kid driving what was obviously his parents car. And it was a good thing we were in that large vehicle, because all the damage that was inflicted upon me was a much needed chiropractic adjustment.
Upon arriving to the compound... er... convention center, we saw singers and groups outside of all kinds... hippies, rock-stars, gospel groups, and some other types of music artists that I'm not really sure have a genre yet, unless Burlesque-Lamay-Circus-Country is a new genre.
And when we got to the pearly gates holding our Artist Passes, Release contracts (that were more likened to a contract selling your soul), and our IDs... then I heard, “Where is my I.D.?”
Well, not mine. Cody's. It was gone.
He was just staring at his wallet, flayed open, exposing the universal clear vinyl window where a person’s ID always lives, and the last thing you think about, because it's always there. Except when it's not.
Cody's ID was stolen, he figured. So they left. Off to an apartment in Bayview to search through boxes to find his passport. Or at least that's what I thought I heard as they jettisoned off in a trail of dust behind a Ford F250 with a newly crunched back bumper.
"Great. I'm going to have to face Cee Lo by myself," I thought. And off I went, to storm the castle.
Pass the guards, I walked inside and saw droves of people, lines, and more lines of every type of singer you could imagine. And everyone doing the exact same thing. People watching and trying to keep their voice warm, all while thinking, "Is that the next Voice? How about her? Hmm... that guy?"
And we filed. And got scanned. And stamped. And all updated our Facebook statuses "Holy crap, I think I can smell Christina from HERE! So close... I wonder if anyone else is singing "At Last?"
So we waited. I made a couple of friends, and got busted for taking the picture you see. (I later apologized.)
When I finally got in the room, 2 ½ hours later, there were 10 chairs, a single table, a very pleasant looking female "judge" seated at the table with a laptop. She welcomed the 10 of us and told us to take our seats facing her. I observed that I was the only male in the room and decided that was to my advantage. And then we went... the first 8 ladies went up and down, singing their hearts out (and quite well, actually) but no response from the judge. Just a hand up, "Thank You," smile, and sit down. I was very last except for one more singer. She got up and sang the famous song... yup, you guessed it, Etta James' "At Last." And it was exceptional. But this time... the judge asked for more. Another song. And then, some scribbling, and then "thank you."
I was so excited for her, I got up for my turn, introduced myself and ripped into "Trouble" by Ray Lamontagne. (Thanks to my Facebook friends for recommending it.) It was great. All the notes felt good, and even my voice had a little scratch on it from sitting without a warm up for those long hours... but it was me. My sound and my voice.
At the end of my song a few fellow singers in the room jumped up, applauded and yelped for me. It caught me off guard but was very kind. It felt amazing.
And... then, "Thank you" from the judge. Sit down.
And that was it.
And I'm pretty grateful for it.
I showed them MY voice.
The truth is... I wasn’t counting on making the show. I was hoping to have a good audition. Because I’m terrible at auditions. And I did.
[Warning: I’m about to reveal (read: rant) the secret (read: my opinion) about what’s behind “Song Competition” Shows. If you enjoy them... maybe stop here.]
But, there are no shortcuts in this business for the professional. You make business plans. You rehearse. A lot. And if you're building for longevity, you take breaks as they come, but you work towards each step in front of you.
And I have had my breaks. I've got hundreds of people that support me, come out to shows, buy my album on iTunes, and thousands of email fans and friends. I pay a portion of my bills playing music and get to write and sing as a part of my daily life. That's pretty lucky, if you ask me. A win, if you will. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I still feel fortunate.
The Voice, Idol, and the like, are television shows. NOT singing competitions. Any professional actor/musician/marketer in LA will tell you that. You don't have to come to my defense if you like my music, because it's not a rejection of me, or my voice (in fact, they were much more respectful and kind than any audition I've ever been to), it's just I'm not what they are looking for in the CASTING of a show.
Because it's NOT a singing competition. It's a television show, FIRST and FOREMOST.
The audition process is actually brilliant grassroots marketing at it's core. Do you really believe that they are hoping to find talent they just can't find in professional music business channels of the thousands of pro level singers already beating down the doors of record labels? That the missing link is a talented dreamer singing karaoke in Sebastopol, CA? It's not likely. The show’s producers are looking to make someone a pop star... so why not choose someone who already looks and sounds like one that’s living just a few blocks from their LA/NYC/Nashville office?
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but if it was me, and my job was to make money for The Voice, I would do the national auditions because THE IDEA of a normal person becoming a superstar overnight is a dream for many people. And a very lucrative dream that many people will spend money voting for, and watching commercials, and buying IDOL Concert Tour tickets for, because it could happen... right? Every person that auditions or knows someone that auditioned, is going to watch the show... they want to know why they weren’t picked, why someone else was, or what will happen to the people who are on the show. You see... we sat in there for hours... imagining how our lives would change if given a shot. Thinking about how Christina smells... wondering if Adam will share makeup tips, if Cee Lo is really 4’10”, and what is the last guys name? Honestly, I’ve NEVER pondered a television show that much in my life. (Except for maybe Arrested Development. But I digress.) Odds aren't supporting the idea of a couch potato Voice/Idol, but you never know. Right? And so they glamorize that idea. And profit from it. But let's not forget, it's TELEVISION.
So you know who the biggest winner was that day? The Voice. The fact that I've never watched a single episode of the show... but now? Yup. Well, that’s how they get us.
You could be thinking... “Roem, you’re just saying that because you weren’t picked.” Which is partly true.
Would I have turned down a chance to be on the show? Probably not. But I wouldn’t turn down a chance to play your living room either. Call me an opportunist.
Irregardless, I had a wonderful time, met some new singer friends, and got to hear from a lot of old friends from Facebook, texts, and phone calls wishing me good luck, and I got to be on the front page of a newspaper in my hometown that I used to deliver to doorsteps on my bike as a kid.
From paperboy to small town hero? That’s a win in my book.
[Update: Cody found his I.D. right before the last possible audition slot, got a call back, and went on to go to the 4th round! Congrats, Cody!]