The Voice's Kristen Merlin Is Our Kind of Country Singer
The Voice's Kristen Merlin Is Our Kind of Country Singer
Merlin talked to SheWired about being out, last week's mic failure, comparisons to k.d. lang, and whether or not her friends teased her about picking the ridiculously attractive Shakira as her coach.
From the first moment Kristen Merlin appeared on The Voice blind auditions episode she was unabashedly herself, holding her hands with her girlfriend, and thereby doing away with any “Is she, or isn’t she?” questions that might distract the audience from her performance. The soft-spoken but confident blue-eyed country singer with the short blond hair arrived to the show completely out and ready to make a name for herself in a genre of music where she doesn’t quite fit a mold.
But, more important than her appearance, the Massachusetts native proved she had killer vocal chops that earned her chair turns from Coaches Adam Levine and Shakira at the blinds. When both coaches had finished their impassioned pleas, Merlin chose a heartfelt Shakira, who, while not a country artist, has proven to be an excellent fit for Merlin.
But, through no fault of hers, Merlin’s time on the series has had its extra challenges. The powers that be at The Voice failed to include Merlin’s winning battle round performances on those episodes, effectively giving her less screen time and less time for the audience to get to know her than other contestants. Then, during last week’s premiere live show, Merlin’s microphone failed near the end of her nuanced performance of Sugarland’s “Stay.” Still, Merlin could not be deterred, and she sang through the mic debacle so that when a live mic was finally placed in her hand she unwaveringly sang the final note, causing the entire audience to leap to its feet. Her professionalism handily got her voted through to this week’s live shows.
SheWired spoke with Merlin about being out, the mic failure, comparisons to k.d. lang, and whether or not her friends teased her for picking the drop-dead beautiful Shakira as her coach.
SheWired: You really held it together during that microphone debacle last week. How nerve-wracking was that experience?
Kristen Merlin: On the outside maybe, on the inside I think I completely fell apart and was totally freaking out. I was going through so many things in my head. One was I thought it was my earpiece, so I took it out, and then realized that it was my microphone, so I was just hoping it was just a glitch and that it would pop back on. Not until I got the other microphone was I like, “Oh, this is never happening.” For me, it was my one shot, I was live, I couldn’t stop, there was no not doing it so I was going to keep going like nothing was wrong and hope for that best.
How did you feel when you received the standing ovation from the entire audience and all four coaches?
I was moved to tears. That was just so overwhelming. That couldn’t be a better compliment. They had nothing but great things to say to me. Their support was amazing -- as well as when I came off stage to learn of all the crazy, awesome support I had via social media, and all of the press that was talking about it. It was so positive. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
What is your day like now that you are into the hectic schedule of the live shows?
Crazy. Our schedules are jam-packed, whether it’s interviews, or preparation for the coming week, which is going over your song, meeting with your coach, rehearsing with the band, getting your outfits together and ready… There’s so much to goes into it leading up to the nerve-wracking take the stage and try to own it kind of thing.
Right from the start you were holding hands with your girlfriend on the show, so there was no question about your being out. Reality TV often tells a story that they want to tell, and yours was that you were out. How did that decision come to be?
I think it all just fell into place. I’m never one to shy away from all of that ever since I came out when I was 16. I won’t sit there and think about putting it in people’s faces but I am who I am. I’ve never tried to not be that. It’s certainly nothing that I’d want to make anyone uncomfortable with, but for me, I don’t think about it as being different. My mom had a hard time with it and she would always question things and not understand. I was like, “Well, mom, why do you like someone? Why do you love dad?” I’m sure it’s not for anatomy. It’s just the personality. For me, you fall in love with the person no matter who that person is. I think she grasps it a little more as the years go on.
So she’s coming around?
A few weeks ago Shakira mentioned that she enjoyed meeting your girlfriend. What does it mean to have that sort of visible support from your coach?
She’s awesome. She’s supported me from day one vocally and now personally. It’s just really cool to hear such great things come from her, whether it be supporting me musically or supporting me in my own life. It’s something I don’t walk into rehearsal expecting but when I come out of there with that it’s just something I smile about afterwards.
What would you say is the most important advice you’ve gleaned from Shakira since you began this journey?
I think the most important advice so far, and each time I go in it’s the same thing, she just really emphasizes the fact that I have to connect with the song. And I totally agree. If I don’t connect with the song then I’m not going to connect with the audience. With every song I get that’s something I focus on -- really taking on the song and making it my own so that when I present it on stage it really comes across with emotion. I feel like that’s what draws people in.
Can you see a change in your performance and vocal style prior to The Voice to now?
Oh definitely. I feel that vocally I’m stronger with all the coaching and with all of the vocal lessons that I’ve had. I’d never had vocal lessons, so that was a huge thing coming into the show that I’ve received. It was a challenge for me at first because I’m not used to warming up before taking a stage. I’m not used to being able to focus on nuances I didn’t even recognize I had.
As a viewer it was tough to see Dani Moz go last week. How was that for you as her teammate?
It’s hard when you lose anyone here. We become such a close-knit family. It’s been tough going from 48 to now 10. The cool thing is you keep in touch with so many of those people, and being on such a great platform, it’s not really the end of the road. It’s the end of them for the show, but after that there are so many doors that have opened up for a lot of my friends who are no longer here, but it’s tough. I battled my best friend Emily B. It was hard to see her go home, and my doing.
Yeah, that was the worst for me. When Patrick was no longer on my team -- that was another blow. He was one of my closest people. And Dani, we were roommates, so that was even harder. I was like, “Gah, Everyone is dropping like flies.”
But I’m pumped for myself and for everyone else to be continuing on, but it’s emotional. It’s hard.
I have to ask you about the elephant in the room. Shakira… is so hot for so many reasons. Even my mom is obsessed with Shakira. Did your lesbian friends and guy friends tease you when you picked her as your coach?
(Laughs) Oh, tons of people teased me about that. They were like, “How do you concentrate?” But she is beautiful. She is a beautiful person inside and out. For me, I’m not the one that’s kind of drooling in the corner. I just think she’s an amazing person and she’s beautiful, but it hasn’t distracted me thus far.
You mentioned your battle rounds… It was disappointing for your fans because they did a montage of you for both battle rounds and we didn’t get to see your full performance. Any thought as to what that was about?
That was tough. Editing wise certain things kind of have to happen and perhaps I just kind of drew the short straw in the whole stack, but it was hard, and then I kind of just giggled when the whole mic thing happened. Yet again, I’m the only one it happens to. But everything happens for a reason and I’m still here. For me it’s just about overcoming everything and never giving up. It’s awesome to know that I have that great support even though I didn’t have a lot of face time on air -- that people were still behind me or that they knew of me or wanted to support me and get behind me and keep me going. That to me is more meaningful than that five minutes of airtime that I didn’t get.
There has been a fair amount of attention paid to the fact that you don’t look like a typical country singer. Shakira mentioned that last week. However, there was k.d. lang. What do you think of her breaking down those barriers 25 years ago?
I really respect her as a person and an artist. A lot of people have made that comparison for me to k.d. lang. That’s pretty awesome, and it’s a huge compliment because she’s done such great things. In a way I want to make sure I can make my own stamp and not always be marked as the k.d. lang. And people are also referencing me to Ellen (DeGeneres), and I’m like, “I’m Kristen!”
I think the Ellen is just because of the blond hair and blue eyes. Otherwise, that makes no sense.
But it’s a huge compliment to even get that recognition. That people are paying attention to me gives me that opportunity to try to kick down those doors again and to try to hopefully make my mark, hopefully stand my ground and create a career from this.
With or without making it to the end of The Voice – and we hope you do -- what’s next for you?
Never giving up. I’m going to keep on trucking. Hopefully this has opened up doors for me.