The Voice Experience

“I am overly ambitious because I realize it can be done” –  Pharrell Williams

Over 40,000 singers try out for The Voice every season.  Each one with the hopes of earning one of the 48 coveted spots on a superstar coach’s team. I spent nearly 3 out of 6 months living in Los Angeles, CA. I sometimes think to myself, did this really just happen? I thought I would journal a few highlights here to remind myself that in fact this big dream has come true.

I was unsuccessful in my first few auditions with the show. The perceived rejection hurts and tempts you to give up, but it can also motivate you to grow in your craft.  I was taught that every “no” puts you that much closer to a “yes”. This is great advice when pursuing your dream.

2015 was shaping up to be special year for me. I was finishing up my sophomore year at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR when I received a totally unexpected gift. I was blessed with another very generous scholarship. I also won some coveted prize money by winning a regional talent show.  This allowed me to put some of my college savings into my dream of recording my original songs. This was a huge opportunity for me, but I had even more in store after finishing up recording my debut EP.

Summer 2015

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I went to the Oklahoma City auditions. I prepared 3 songs, “Hold Back The River” by James Bay, “Budapest” by George Ezra and “Sweater Weather” by the Neighborhood.  During your audition, if things are going well, you are allowed to sing all 3 songs. I moved my way through the audition, getting to sing every song. I swear I knew the songs so well that I could’ve sang them backwards if asked to do so. I practiced harder than I ever had in my life up to that point. I was then sent through to interview and left OKC with a chance to be invited to the executive call back auditions in LA.

Six weeks later, it was confirmed that I would be on my way to LA for the next round of casting with the executive producers. Around 140 singers would join me there.  Here we were to expect more cuts before the dream of singing for the coaches would come true. I still couldn’t believe I was so close! I mean, I was one step away. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to the blinds. We all went through another round of interviews before our audition for the producers. After that, we were waiting anxiously waiting for our names to be called to go audition. In the midst of being anxious, we all began to spark friendships, and the friendships we developed would end up being more valuable than we could ever imagine.

I was the second person out of the 140 contestants to audition for the producers. This had become a trend since high school, where I was always drawn to be in the first or second group of singers to audition for All-Region/All-State choir. It was just me, my guitar and around 15 producers. I sang “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran and “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood.  I felt really good about my performance and it appeared to be well received.  That night, I found out that I had made the cut of nearly 100 singers to return for the blind auditions!!! When they told us we had made the cut, I thought the walls were going to fall down. We were all celebrating like crazy! What a dream come true!

We all returned to LA a few weeks early to prepare for the blind auditions. It was a great time of making new friends while enjoying some California sun. We then picked our song for our blind audition! We worked for weeks with our vocal coach, the band and staging coach.  We all wanted to make our moment great as only 48 of us would earn a spot on the coaches teams.

For my blind audition, I sang the song “Geronimo” by Sheppard. This song was tough! I knew that if could nail this song, I had a good chance of making a team. Plus, maybe adding my own spin on it would make it a special moment.

It was awesome to work with this world class band. I had an idea to change up to last part of the song and make it my own. They immediately knew what I wanted and made this a very special audition song and recording.  I worked hard with the band and staging to make it undeniably good. That’s all I could do, my personal best.

Then the unthinkable happened. A couple of days before my audition, I took on a sinus infection. I was thinking, why me? Why now?  The same thing happened before my All-State choir audition during my junior year, but I powered through and made the cut. Nothing was going to stop me this time either. My song was so demanding, requiring my best vocal range including my falsetto. I took everything I could to try and clear up but the best medicine would be time, something I did not have.

They did more interviews the day of the audition. One question they asked was “What does your song “Geronimo” mean to you?” I definitely related to the song as it was all about taking a leap and going for your dreams regardless of the outcome.

That is exactly what I did on that stage and watched coach Blake Shelton turn his chair for me. At that moment I knew that my life was forever changed! Everyone that makes the show is a huge winner. For a singer, I had just hit the lottery of a lifetime.

TEAM BLAKE

THE VOICE -- "Team Blake Battle Reality" -- Pictured: (l-r) Brittany Kennell, Peyton Parker, Justin Whisnant, Mary Sarah, Adam Wakefield, Brittney Lawrence, Teresa Guidry, Blake Shelton, Paxton Ingram, Gina Castanzo, Jared Harder, Trey ODell, Angie Keilhauer -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Pictured: (l-r) Brittany Kennell, Peyton Parker, Justin Whisnant, Mary Sarah, Adam Wakefield, Brittney Lawrence, Teresa Guidry, Blake Shelton, Paxton Ingram, Gina Castanzo, Jared Harder, Trey ODell, Angie Keilhauer — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

I returned home for what seemed like forever before the next round of filming would take place. To say that it was hard to focus on my studies would be an understatement. When I got back I had mountains of schoolwork to do. I knew that before I returned, that I would need to take a semester off to focus on the show.

Returning to LA with the other 47 contestants was unbelievable. I was with the some of the best talent in America getting ready to be coached by superstars in the music business.

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The first task at hand was for each of us to head over to the world famous Henson Studios to record our blind audition song for iTunes.

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The staff was so great to work with. They gave us so much respect and rolled out the red carpet to meet our every need.

Next up was the battle rounds. We soon found out who our duet partner was and what song we would be performing together. I was paired with Brittany Kennell to perform the classic rock tune, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.  We could not wait to meet meet with Blake Shelton again to work on our performance.

For this round, Blake also brought in superstar advisor, THE Gwen Stefani. I remember hearing her first solo album in fourth grade. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever expect to get to work with her, but it happened. It was so cool to kick it with a legend!

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It was great to sing for Blake again. This time without the sinus infection. Blake commented on the power in my voice and how much better I sounded. Blake and Gwen loved our take on the song and gave some great advice to make this a special moment on the show. They were convinced that a steal should be involved, saying we both should advance on the show.

Before the performance we would head back over to Henson studios to record our duet for iTunes. We were treated with a special bonus that day. Chris Martin from Coldplay was in the studio when we arrived. His band was putting the final touches on their upcoming Superbowl performance! Coldplay has been one of my favorite bands my whole life, and seeing them at the studio didn’t even feel real. LA was treating me well.

We were excited about our recording knowing this duet had the potential to be a special moment on the show. If you haven’t heard it yet check in out on Apple music.

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On performance day, with met with Blake once again. He told us that there was one steal remaining and with that kind of performance we should both stay on the show.

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We slayed the song and enjoyed the praises of all 4 superstar coaches.  I am used to seeing superstars endorse products on TV.  But here they were endorsing me on National television! WHAT!

Blake had to make the final decision as to who won the battle. He loved us both, but named Brittany the winner of the battle. But I had a strong feeling that my journey wasn’t over. While I was talking to Blake, Christina Aguilera slammed her steal button to snatch me up to fill the last spot on her team heading into the Knockout rounds!

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This was another exciting round as we would get to work with another industry giant (and my middle school crush), Miley Cyrus.

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For the Knockout Round I chose “I Lived” by One Republic. I relate with the song on so many levels. It’s another song about going for your dreams and making every second count. I knew it’s message would empower people and make a statement, whether I moved on or not.

In the knockout round, I was paired with Bryan Bautista. He chose the hit song (and one of my favorites) “Sorry” by Justin Bieber.

THE VOICE -- "Knockout Rounds" -- Pictured: Trey ODell -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

Just like my song says, I gave it all on the stage that day. Bryan did as well and moved forward to the next round.

This allowed me to start on the next chapter of my career immediately. Everyone wins on this show and all leave better off than before. I am playing some incredible shows with a great band. I’m also writing new music with the best in the business.

The response back home has been incredible. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Be ambitious –  it can be done:)

This next chapter is gonna be special. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Trey