NBC's The Voice has a simple goal: Focus on the contestants' singing capabilities rather than their appearance. From blind auditions to the finale, about 400 contestants have been a part of the show in the nine seasons since it debuted back in 2011. But the results of the show's talent-scouting have been mixed at best: While each season premieres to about 12 million viewers, The Voice has yet to churn out a major superstar the way that its competitor, American Idol, has done with the likes of Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood.
So what happens after the show? What is pursuing music like after you're voted off one of the biggest reality shows on TV right now? And does it do your career any good? Dallas-Fort Worth has put forward a plethora of contestants over the course of the show's nine seasons, so we tracked some of them down to find out.
It’s a quiet night in downtown Fort Worth. Luke Wade is set to perform to a sold-out audience in Scat Jazz Lounge. He’s played markets all over the country, but tonight he's back home.
Since the end of 2014, when season 7 of The Voice ended, Wade has seen the highs and lows of coming off a hugely successful singing competition television show.
About a year prior, The Voice producers asked Wade to audition for the show. Skipping past the preliminary auditions, Wade auditioned with “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and received a four-chair turnaround — the best a potential contestant can do during the blind auditions. Wade ultimately chose Pharrell Williams as his coach, a thought-out decision on Wade’s part because of Williams' work ethic, credentials and the fact he didn’t have any former relationships with past contestants to get in the way of Wade’s relationship with him.
Wade made it to the quarter-finals, but lost The Voice trophy to fellow Texas-native Craig Wayne Boyd. Immediately after being dismissed from the show, Wade got on a plane and flew back to Texas and played a major festival in town, KVIL’s Not So Silent Night alongside Train, Blue October and Ingrid Michaelson.
But as soon as The Voice cranks out one success story, a completely new batch rotates in for their chance in the spotlight. A new season of the NBC show airs every six months, meaning America falls out of love with contestants just as quickly as they fell in. Wade experienced that firsthand.
“The bubble bursts relatively quickly and really hard,” Wade says. “So around April, there were shows where 15, 20 people showed up in different parts of the country. And there were weird nights and something else was going on across town, but I started to see that it wasn’t sell-out after sell-out.”
One of his lowest moments came when he went to play a show in Phoenix and six people showed up. That summer while on tour, he says he was losing $1,000 a day. However, Wade was a touring musician before The Voice was ever a part of his life. He had experienced that kind of failure and hardship before. But after performing on a successful TV show, his perception shifted.
“Let’s say I got in front of 50 million people (on The Voice)," he says. "You do that, you have that opportunity and then you find yourself driving however many thousands of miles to play for six people, and you’re like, ‘How am I ever going to do better than this? Ever. If I had this opportunity and this is the best I can do, I should just quit.’ And I was thinking that.”
“Before the show, people at a venue are like, ‘Oh, you have to see Luke. He’s great and no one knows who he is, so we have to support him,’" he continues. "And your mom and your aunt and your cousin say, ‘We have to go. If we don’t go, no one will go. We have to go.’ And whenever you’re on TV, people are going to go if they want to go. And so it’s just kind of a different environment.”
Those few months were tough for Wade. After considering not heading out on his follow-up tour because of poor attendance, he did anyway because he decided he wasn't afraid of failing. He says people still recognize him from the show and he still keeps in touch with production people who work behind the scenes. However, he isn’t too concerned about The Voice pigeonholing him.
“Once you’re in front of however many people and you go and announce you’re playing somewhere and six people show up, your fear of getting [The Voice] behind you is no longer an issue. It isn’t,” he says.
Like Wade, Anthony Evans was asked by the show’s producers to audition. Once he made it to the blind auditions in front of the four coaches, Christina Aguilera turned around and asked the Dallas native to be on her team.
However, Evans had made a name for himself in the Christian music market before the show was ever a part of his life. He had six Christian albums out and was playing about 80 to 100 shows per year.
But he reached a point where he wanted to try something different, thus leading him to audition. Once on the show, he worked with Aguilera and Jewel, who served as his team’s adviser. He says they both taught him how to perform to people outside of church.
“The show overall was a confidence booster, but it also gave me a lot of insight into a different aspect of performance. I’m a church guy. I grew up in church and you’re almost encouraged not to perform in church because you’re pointing people towards God,” he says.
Evans was cut during the battle rounds and says that afterward he received quite a bit of recognition from people.
“The appearance opportunities for me to go out and be in front of people, that skyrocketed for quite some time and still goes strong because of that,” Evans adds. “Everything spiked because of the show. But what the show also teaches you is that it’s not just about having a glorified moment and then everything being easy, you know. You have to work at it.”
After the show, Evans released an album titled Real Life Real Worship, an idea he came up with while Jewel was advising him on the show. She urged him to relate to audience members who weren’t typical church people.
“So I thought in that moment, I named the record in my head Real Life Real Worship," he recalls. There were songs on there that were just about my experience as a man, but obviously as a man of faith, and that happened because of Christina and Jewel and I’m very grateful for them and the excellence in which I approached the album. The way it sounded, the singers I used, the videos I used — all of that stuff came because I was on The Voice and I met people who are the best at the craft but wanted to invest in me."
Evans says he does not still keep in touch with Aguilera, but he does keep in touch with her people.
Before The Voice, Arlington native Brandon Chase was a regular performer at Cowboys Dancehall, while also regularly traveling to Nashville to write and work on demos. Like Wade and Evans, The Voice’s producers reached out to Chase and asked him to audition. Pursuing a career in country music, Chase chose country artist Blake Shelton as his coach.
Chase was on the show for three weeks (TV time, that is). Once he lost during the knockout rounds, he went back home to Arlington for about six months and then moved to Nashville and began writing songs and recording. He released a song immediately after the show, but has yet to release a full album in America.
“I just tried to expose myself as much as possible in that window of six months after The Voice to try and capitalize on the exposure we got from the show,” he says.
He was aware of the short amount of time he had to make an impression on people before the next season began. But even with the release of the song, he says he still lost some fans just because of the nature of it. Fans of the show began following him, then they move on to the next artist during the newest season.
“And then they eventually stop following you on Twitter and that kind of thing and it’s a little bit disappointing and discouraging but at the same time, still building new fans, which is great,” Chase says. “What’s really cool is being able to go out and play shows and basically having that grassroots marketing and whatnot through playing shows.”
Chase is still working on his first full-length country album. However, he is doing it without the help of Shelton.
“No, I wish I could (keep in touch with him). I wish I had the ability," he admits. "They just have so many people that come in and out. It’s tough. They’re busy. I know if I were in their shoes, it would be super tough, so I don’t blame anybody.”
Amber Carrington, a Rockwall native, was working in a clothing boutique when she decided to audition for The Voice. Fresh out of high school and with few expectations, coach Adam Levine picked her to take his last spot on his team.
Carrington earned her way to the top four. Throughout her time on the show, she worked closely with Levine and the show’s vocal coach, Trelawny Rose, to help enhance her vocals and her presence on stage. Her standout performance came when she performed Adele’s “Skyfall.”
Carrington was sent home right before the finals. From there, she began visiting Nashville every few weeks and linked up with Lady Antebellum’s manager. She was supposed to release a five-song EP, but her manager ultimately pulled the plug. While Carrington says it’s her biggest regret, she also says she’s grateful she didn’t release the album. The songs weren’t as great as they could have been, she says, and they would have forever branded her as an artist.
Because of its high level of competitiveness, Carrington moved from Nashville to take a break from pursuing music professionally. She is now living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and working as a waitress. She is still writing and playing music, but not like before.
“Nashville is just so competitive and there’s a lot of things that happened in the past five years and I just am breathing right now in my life,” she says. “I’m just trying to take a little rest and it doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep doing music — I just need a little tiny break.”
The short amount of time Carrington had to release music before the new batch of contestants came through was something she was aware of, but not necessarily prepared for, she says.
“Advice I would tell somebody who is trying out for The Voice is to already have songs to release, have a CD ready, have your brand ready, stick to who you are. It’s not about the show, it’s about what you’re going to make of yourself after the show. I didn’t really prepare because I didn’t realize I was going to make it so far.”
Escaping being a contestant on The Voice is something that plagues her now more than ever, she says.
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“I just started waitressing at this place here when I moved and everyone started adding me on Facebook and Instagram and they’re like, ‘Oh, my god. Why do you have so many followers? How are you Instagram famous?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, god. Here it goes.’ And then I have to bring it up. And not that I’m embarrassed of it, it’s just awkward.”
Advancing so far in the competition, Carrington says she wanted to win. Not only to make her hometown proud, but also so she wouldn’t have to return to her life back home.
There’s a misconception out there for people coming off the high of reality television, Carrington says. The last they saw of her, she was performing in front of millions of people.
“I always hate when people come up to me and are like, ‘So, what are you doing in Nashville?’" she says. "They think my life is completely different than what it really is. The last thing they saw of me was glamorous, it was that and they haven’t really heard much from me since then. So in their minds back home, they’re still stuck on that.”