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.