DFW brought home a win on the season 15 finale of NBC’s The Voice. OK, technically Farmington, New Mexico, did when 16-year-old contestant Chevel Shepherd won, but North Texas native Kelly Clarkson was her coach. Surely that counts for something.
While no one actually competing from DFW collected the chrome, V-shaped trophy this season, four North Texas artists did secure their spots for the chance to be coached by Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Jennifer Hudson and Adam Levine.
Win or lose, the journey doesn’t end when the Hollywood lights are turned off, and the music doesn’t stop because NBC cuts off the mic.
Among North Texans going furthest on the show this season was Fort Worth’s Michael Lee, who rolled his standout blues growl all the way to the live playoffs phase of the competition.
To end what seems like a full-circle journey, Lee performed fellow Fort Worth native Delbert McClinton’s “Everytime I Roll The Dice” for what would be his final performance on The Voice stage.
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“I knew going into that live spot that I had already done some performances that I felt justified me as an artist and let the world know who I was as an artist,” Lee tells us. “So I already felt like I kind of won for that.”
Given that Lee decided to audition for the show at the last minute after he and his wife spent their anniversary weekend in Houston, he never expected to be among the final 24 artists.
“I didn’t expect anything. I didn’t expect anyone to turn around at all,” he says. “So everything that happened was just a blessing.”
One thing Lee surely could not have expected was B.B. King’s band contacting him after he performed “Thrill is Gone” for his blind audition, ultimately landing him on Shelton’s team.
“It’s a crazy, crazy experience and something that I never thought would happen,” Lee says. “It’s an honor and a privilege.”
Aside from touring with The B.B. King Band in 2019, Lee will have his hands full as he finishes up a five-song EP he started before he even auditioned for The Voice, set to be released in February.
Until then, fans can catch his next show Jan. 10 at The Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth.
North of Michael Lee is Denton-based electro-pop singer/songwriter Katrina Cain, who wowed judges early on with her audition, where she performed the Fleetwood Mac classic "Rhiannon."
Almost immediately after introducing herself to the judges, Cain was met with comparisons to country music — something she admits she can’t seem to escape — before ultimately choosing to join Shelton’s team.
Despite her at times country-adjacent sound, Cain’s priority during her time on the show was to remain true to herself and true to the music she loves.
“After I was cut, a lot of people tweeted at me, ‘You should have done country,’” Cain tells us. “[But] it would feel like selling myself out. So I was like, I’m just going to be myself, and if I go home early, at least I was myself.”
While it might not have pushed her past The Voice finish line, staying true to her artistry did catch the attention of Levine.
“I really felt like Adam saw me more as an artist and not just a contestant on a TV show,” Cain says.
In what would be Cain’s most disappointing moment from her time on the show — getting the cut from Shelton in the "knockout round" — it was Levine’s words of encouragement that not only kept her going but inspired the next chapter in her life: the beginning of her solo career. (Before, she played in a band called TOMKAT.)
“Adam came up to me when I walked off stage and was like, ‘Promise me you won’t ever give up and promise me you’ll keep doing this,'” Cain recalls. “I will never forget that.”
In her first official single both post-reality show and as a solo artist, Cain sings of finding resilience in the face of a “Slow Tragedy.”
“I didn’t mean that not going as far on The Voice caused me some sort of super intense emotional pain or sense of failure,” Cain says, "it’s just kind of about trying to fail forward instead.”
Cain’s next steps look far from failure. Her band TOMKAT has been selected to return for the 2019 SXSW Music Festival and is putting together a West Coast tour.
For 17-year-old Claire DeJean, competing on a reality TV show with Clarkson as a coach during the summer before DeJean's senior year of high school wasn’t exactly the average vacation.
No stranger to the stage, the Highland Park native has been involved in musical theater for most of her life.
But looking back at her time on the show, DeJean remains most grateful for the opportunity it provided her at such a young age.
“I’m lucky for the time this came in my life, because I have my whole life ahead of me and my whole career is so fresh and budding,” she tells us.
DeJean left coach Clarkson literally jumping at the opportunity to snag her for her team after flowing through Noah Kahan and Julia Michaels’ “Hurt Somebody” in her blind audition. DeJean was the only DFW-based artist who didn’t end up on Shelton’s team this season.
Although the folk-pop singer/songwriter fought through the battle round, it was the knockout round that ended her time on The Voice stage.
“I think the stars aligned and that everything ended up the way it’s supposed to be,” she says. “And as much as I wish I could go back and change some things, I know that if [they] wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t know what I know now.”
With newfound fans and her sights set on a possible summer tour, all while writing new music and trying to keep a high enough grade in her physics class to be exempt from her exam, DeJean hasn’t lost sight of who she is.
“I’m a human being, not a Barbie doll,” she says. “I just like to connect with people. That’s why I make music. Not to be on TV.”
Hailing from just south of Fort Worth in Crowley, Americana/rock musician Joey Green came full force with his take on The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” in his blind audition.
However, it was a matchup against fellow Fort Worth native Michael Lee in the battle round that left Green with a premature exit from the competition when coach Shelton chose to keep Lee on his team.
“Me and Michael really went into it more as not a battle round, but, ‘Hey, let’s make sure both of us stick around,’” Green says.
Though Green says it was never a matter of feeling like a failure or a winner, for him, the most disappointing part of the process was not being able to showcase his full repertoire. He jokes that because of this, he hopes people remember him for rocking a bolo tie.
“I don’t think I really got to show who I am as an artist,” he says. “I got to show that I can sing the songs [they] asked me to.”
With the short time viewers got to see Green as a performer, he finds fulfillment in knowing he stayed true to who he is.
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“The biggest lesson I learned from all of it is be 110 percent yourself,” he says. “You can’t control the outcome; you can only control being you.”
Green isn’t too worried about how early the mic dropped for him. In fact, he still considers it a win.
“Every little victory, you know, is just a step to the Super Bowl,” he says.
A couple of episodes seem to be all Green needed, as his band just booked tours in Australia and the United Kingdom for 2019. Green’s next live performance is this month at The ChopShop Live in Roanoke.