EXCLUSIVE: Interview with RaeLynn From “The Voice”
Will the first one picked be the last one standing on NBC’s The Voice? That’s a storyline country singer RaeLynn would love to see play out.
It’s been a little more than three weeks since the 17-year-old made a super splash immediately after the Super Bowl. The native of Baytown, Texas led off the show’s second season by landing a spot on Blake Shelton’s team (turning down a chance to work with Adam Levine). Blake tried to entice her to join his team by telling the teen, “I can make you a country star.” He pretty much had her from the moment he turned his chair, which was a feat in itself as she bravely chose to sing a song by her inspiration and Blake’s wife, Miranda Lambert.
RaeLynn may be one of the youngest members of Team Blake, but that doesn’t mean she’s inexperienced. She’s part of a large, musically inclined family (she has seven brothers and sisters) and has been performing for most of her life. Two of her cousins are in the GRAMMY-nominated progressive worship band, “Leeland.” As for her own career, she spent a lot of time in summer school, allowing her to finish high school two years early so she could try her hand at acting. But it turned out that her life in L.A. had her leaning back toward music.
Now she’s back in the business with her eyes on the prize. That includes competing on The Voice and beyond.
We have to start by asking about your blind audition. Last season, two singers sang a Miranda Lambert song and both times Blake didn’t turn his chair. Yet, you started the whole show by singing “Hell On Heels,” her hit with the Pistol Annies. Were you confident, crazy or both?
I watched last season and in the back of my mind and I was kinda concerned because he didn’t turn around for anybody who sang one of his wife’s songs. It’s his wife so they’re gonna be compared to her.
But I have been listening to Miranda Lambert since I was 11 years old. I bought her first record, Kerosene, and I listened to it so much my dog could even sing it! (Laughs) It was just ridiculous! I absolutely adore Miranda Lambert: her voice, her lyrics; everything about her.
I thought it was almost right for me to sing a Miranda Lambert song or a Pistol Annies song because she’s influenced me so much. I just prayed to God that he would turn around because I felt like I had brought something different to the table. I didn’t sound like her. I think there’s a difference between imitating someone and then being yourself. So I thought I sounded different. I was kinda leaning on that.
By the way, what’s a girl from a religious family (both her parents are pastors) doing singing “Hell On Hells”?
(Laughs) My Mom raised me right! She actually doesn’t worry about it. She was just ecstatic for me to be even on the show. I told her what song I wanted to sing and she actually loves that song.
My Mom’s motto is “you can cuss and you can pray.” My Mom is just a normal Southern woman. In Texas it’s all the same! We all love that song here! It doesn’t matter! (Laughs
Before picking Blake, you paused a little bit. Were you honestly considering Adam or were you giving a pause of the dramatic cause?
They asked me when I first auditioned who would be my first pick and I said Blake Shelton. They asked who would be my second pick and I said definitely Adam Levine.
So Adam Levine was always my second pick and I didn’t expect him to turn around. I just didn’t expect it. He was just so picky! I didn’t think he would turn around. I was just a long shot for him to turn around.
When he did turn around it was like a validation to me that I actually had a different voice. It just made me excited. And he was just fighting so hard. It amazed me how much he was fighting for me. But then Blake was fighting just as hard.
I was just thinking in my head, “He told me I had something more than country.” Then I thought my heart’s country and really don’t want to do anything else, so I’m just gonna stick to my original pick. And I really wanted to meet Miranda! And I really wanted to be influenced by Blake and Miranda because I’ve been listening to them my whole life. I thought that would just be right.
So that’s what I did. But I actually was thinking about going with Adam for a little bit! (Laughs)
Not only did you win over Blake, but you won over Miranda, too. After your segment aired, she tweeted about you calling you a cutie and a badass. What was your reaction when you saw that?
(Laughs) There were so many emotions that day! My phone was on sensory overload. Literally it was a non-stop buzz. It was like, “buzzzzzzzzzz!” and it wasn’t stoppin’!
It was just amazing to me! I was getting Twitters out the wazoo, so I passed her tweet up. I was flipping out and my friend said, “Oh, my God! Miranda Lambert just tweeted you!” And I was like, “No, she didn’t!” So then I just jumped up and down and I read it and I was like flippin’ out. I was like, “Oh, my gosh! She called me a badass!” I retweeted it and tweeted her back and everything. It was just so cool!
Some people had asked me if I had to fake her being my idol for the show. When I say that I’m sincerely like her biggest fan, I totally mean that 100%! None of that was put on.
That’s what I love about the show. They want you to stick to who you are. That’s what I love so much about The Voice.
Miranda will be serving as an advisor for Team Blake, so that means you’ll be getting to work with directly with her. For any aspiring country singer, just being able to work with Blake would be amazing. How do you describe the opportunity to get to work with Blake and Miranda?
Being able to work with Blake is a dream come true. Having the input from Blake and Miranda, both together, is even more amazing!
Miranda is the girl in country music right now. She is it. She has such a voice in country music. To have her speak into my life is incredible.
Oh, and let’s not forget the other advisor for Team Blake: Kelly Clarkson.
I know! They’re both amazing! I’ve been thinking about this: They (Miranda and Kelly) have both been through a show like this, too. Miranda was on Nashville Star and Kelly was on American Idol, so they know what this feels like. I thought Blake was very smart to bring them in as advisors.
Your episode of the show premiered right after the Super Bowl and had an audience of more than 37 million people! Prior to that, what was the largest crowd you had performed for?
I performed at I-POP, this little international presentation of performers thing, and I sang in front of about one thousand people. A thousand is like a tiny bit compared to 37 million. It would take a billion tours to be in front of that many people! It was so many people! (Laughs)
I had no idea I was going to be number one. I had no idea I was going to be the first one aired. The Voice people just told me I was going to be in the first episode. They didn’t tell me I was going to be the first one of the whole season!
Because you kicked off the show, did it make it easier for you because everyone had to keep it as secret whether or not they passed their blind audition? It was only a few minutes and you were able to finally let go of the secret.
Oh, yeah! Especially in the small town where I live. I was so thankful.. The Voice people just told us to say “Tune in February 5th!” I was just praying I was going to be on February 5th. Some people found out just last night that they were on a team. So they’ve had to wait almost another month.
I was thankful I was on the first episode so the cat was out of the bag. It’s been so much easier. I’m so thankful.
You have a huge family. How tough was it to not tell them?
Oh, my whole family knew! How could I not tell them! They’re just so nosy! (Laughs) And they know everything about me!
So my immediate family knew. My three cousins and my Aunt; we all knew how far I made it. But everybody outside of that – to keep my family quiet – now that was the hard part! But we did it! (Laughs)
From your blind audition, we learned that your voice can be soft and sweet. But it can also be very big, bold and brassy. How would you describe your sound?
I have two sides to my voice. I can get into that real big, gritty country-rock kinda voice. Then I can get down to that folksy, real sweet country voice.
I’ve been singing my whole life, but I really took the time this last couple of years to just sit and write and just take time with my voice and I’ve developed this unique sound.
It’s kinda hard for me to explain it, but I think it sounds real old-country. It’s not pop-country. It’s more of an old-country sound. I’ve been highly influence by Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn and different old-country artists. I love it that I have that old-country sound because that’s where it all started.
We’ve talked with your friend and Team Adam member, Nicolle Galyon (read our interview with her here), who told us she encouraged you to try out for The Voice. How much of a difference did she make in helping you decide to go for it?
I recently had signed with a manager and was going back and forth to Nashville getting to write with amazing writers in the country industry and Nicolle was one of them.
For some reason Nicolle thought I was a pop artist. But then when she heard me talkin’ in my big country accent, she was like, “That girl can’t be pop!” She told me to sing her a song, so I sang her one of my original songs called “Baby, That’s My Type.” She then said, “Please tell me you’re going to audition for The Voice.” And I said I wasn’t even thinking about it. She said, “You know they’re coming in a couple of days.”
We were writing on a Thursday and The Voice auditions were that coming Sunday. I didn’t think it would be fair for me to do it since I was already working with country writers and focusing on my music. I just didn’t think about it.
Then she was like, “No! You have to audition! I’ll give you my spot to audition!” I had just met her, by the way. And I said, “Don’t give me your spot to audition!” But she insisted, saying, “No, I’m giving it to you!” So I said, “Oh, God! Okay!”
I auditioned and made it to the top 200. I had lost her number. Then we saw each other at the top 200 and I almost had a heart attack when I saw her! I was like, “If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have even auditioned!” Then to see both me and her both in the final 48 was just a dream come true for me. It’s just so cool.
You two actually made a rap about the story you just told us (see the video below). It’s all in fun, but it also shows a lot of collaborating has been going on between the contestants. How much have you appreciated being around all of those talented people?
We were all together for a very long time. And they told us that we couldn’t leave the hotel sometimes. I would be kinda sad that we couldn’t leave, but then I thought about it. I realized I will never be in this place again; surrounded by so many talented people. So I took it all in.
Being around so many talented people who share the same passion as you, was just amazing to me. To just talk to them…and they had the same goals as you. Everybody has a different story. For some people, their parents aren’t as excited about them doing music. Some people have been doing music since they were two. Some have only been singing for ten months.
Everybody has a different story, but everybody comes together with the passion of singing. It was amazing to me to see so many people wanting to have this as a career and just love to sing.
Does the support and admiration you have for everybody change now that you’re headed to the battle rounds?
One thing I can say about this show is, of course we’re gonna be competitive people, but we’re all happy for each other. When I comes to battles or it came to whoever made a team; we’re just excited to be where we are; to be one of 48.
If I didn’t make it any further, I’d be happy because I made it to the 48 on The Voice. That’s what all of us thought about. We’re all happy for each other.
When was it that you made the decision that music is what you wanted to pursue as your career?
My whole family sings, so I wanted to break out of the box and do something different. So when I was 15, I started acting.
I went to this convention and I started acting and I got 25 call-backs from agents and managers. So I moved to L.A. But I wasn’t getting lots of auditions, so I started singing again. Then I started writing and that’s how I met my music manager and that’s how, really, all of those doors started opening.
I still love to act and it’s still one of my passions. I graduated early to do acting, but I realized that during all my downtime in California I was singing – I wasn’t acting. I realized that music was still my passion. So that’s when I started singing again.
What do you hope to get from your time on The Voice.
My overall goal from this show is to get fans and to also just get a record deal. I’m just praying that (if I don’t win) someone picks me up after this. I’m giving 150% to this because this is what I love to do.
I’m just praying that I get some fans that’ll stick with me. And then I’ve got an awesome person like Blake. I’m just praying that Blake will help me and I know he will. That’s another reason I picked Blake because I saw the way he treated his artists last year and I wanted someone like that behind me.
You’ve seen that Blake’s taken Dia Frampton (last year’s The Voice runner-up) out on tour with him. Is that a dream that’s too big at this stage of the game or is it “if I keep working then someday that can be me,” too?
I’m so happy for her! I bet she can’t even believe that’s happening for her out of just The Voice. I would’ve never dreamed of that. It would be so cool if that happened to me and I’m praying. Whatever happens is God’s will. So I’m just kinda hoping. But if I do good in the competition, you never know!
Obviously, you’d love to win The Voice, but if you don’t, you can again look to Miranda Lambert. She took third place during her season on Nashville Star and has done just fine. Does she show for you that you don’t have to take the title to be a winner?
You know what? That’s exactly what I think! My Momma tells me all the time: “You don’t have to win this show to do well.” Sometimes on American Idol, the people who took second do better than the winners.
I realize if I win it will be amazing and if I don’t win and I just make it to the Top 48 or the Top 24 or the Top 10, it’s all what is supposed to happy and I’m just lucky to be on the show.
Will you share with us something that your fans probably don’t know about you?
The funny thing about me is that I love country music, but I absolutely love the Sweeney Todd record! I know it’s weird, but Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite plays! (Laughs) It’s really gory and stuff, but I love the music in it and I listen to it all the time. I’m like, “(singing) I feel you, Johanna!” (Laughs)
I love that record and I love the Lion King record! A lot of people don’t expect that from me, but I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks. I also have the Tron soundtrack. “The Grid” I freakin’ love! I feel like I’m in a movie when I’m in the car. I love movie soundtracks. I know that’s kinda weird! (Laughs)
Finally, I’d like to open it up for you to say whatever you would like. The floor is yours:
I just want to say I’m so thankful to have such amazing fans behind me. To get the tweets everyday like “You’re my favorite! I hope you win!” and “#teamRaeLynn” — it’s just like a dream come true that people are on my team and rooting for me.
I just want to say thank you to all of my fans. Thank you to NBC for putting me on the show. Thank you to Blake Shelton. And thank you to Keepin It Country for doing this interview. I’m so thankful to be here and so thankful for all y’all!
Here’s RaeLynn’s “Hell On Heels” blind audition. Try not to smile when Blake first does: