Livia Faith of ‘The Voice’ recalls her blind audition and picking her coach
What to do when you’re snow bound? Binge watch stuff on Netflix? Build a snowman? Eat bread? Drink milk?
How about sign your kid sister up to audition for “The Voice”?
The latter was the option Christy Rose chose last winter when she and her family were snow bound for about four days.
“She sent me a picture and said, ‘guess who just registered you to go audition for ‘The Voice,’” Livia Faith said, recalling those snowed-in days at her big sister’s home in Mount Sterling.
Their mother, Dana Powers, said, “It was like three, two, one, and we heard her feet on the stairs — boom, boom, boom, boom, boom — and she said, ‘You did what?!”
It was not that the NBC singing competition wasn’t on Faith’s radar. The 17-year-old from Stanton, whose full name is Olivia Faith Powers, had ambitions to give the show a shot in a few years, when she was in her 20s and her voice and stage presence had matured. But her big sister thought Faith was ready, and just needed a bit of a nudge.
Rose notes that she is 20 years older than Faith, and her other younger sister, Jennifer Rose, is 16 years older than Faith, “so for all practical purposes, she’s had three mothers, growing up.”
And, she observes of her youngest sister, “She loves to sing, and we believe in her, but she sometimes doesn’t believe in herself as much as she should. She is not her biggest cheerleader, but thankfully the Lord gave her three big cheerleaders, and I just knew that she could do it. But I was like, ‘She’s never going to do it herself, so I’ll do it for her.’”
It turned out big sis was right.
That cabin fever registration led to a path that wound through Nashville, Philadelphia and Los Angeles where the nation got to see Faith take the stage Monday night in hopes of being selected by one of the four celebrity coaches to be on their teams in the vocal competition.
In a performance that is approaching 1 million views on YouTube, Faith comes on in a pink blazer singing an initially hushed version of the standard “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” made famous by stars such as Doris Day and the Mamas and the Papas. But, as those of you who watched Monday’s show know, the second she soars into the song’s chorus — “Stars fading, but I linger on dear” — coaches Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton hit the buttons to turn around, indicating they want her on their teams, and coach Alicia Keys soon follows.
As Faith said on the show, her mother introduced her to the song, which she first sang at a family reunion and became very comfortable performing. But this performance was a blur. Faith said a backstage prayer with a voice coach and a compliment from a stage manager helped settle her before the doors opened.
“God will send you the people you need when you need them, and that just calmed my nerves,” Faith said, adding she doesn’t really remember much about the performance. “I could have been singing ‘Wheels on the Bus,’ for all I know. I’m glad I didn’t.”
What followed was an agonizing decision for the teen, who started her audition saying she was hoping Shelton would turn around because they share Southern roots. But Clarkson and Keys put up strong fights for her, at one point singing another classic, “Earth Angel,” in harmony to woo her.
“Alicia Keys started singing to me, and I swear I melted into a puddle where I stood,” Faith said. “I never, ever imagined I’d be standing in front of four celebrities and have two of them start singing in harmony ‘Earth Angel,’ to me, and fight over me and who wants me on their team, but that’s still mind blowing.”
Ultimately, Faith says Keys had the best sales pitch.
“Alicia just fought harder, and she was really passionate,” Faith said. “She’s the best fisherman that I know; she just cast that line out there and just reeled me right in. ... It seemed there was this light over Alicia’s head, and I was like, I can’t not go with her.”
The choice, Faith allows, didn’t go over great with some Blake Shelton fans.
“Some people are really angry over that,” Faith said. “Somebody tweeted at me the other day like, ‘Listen, little girl, next time you say you’re going to pick somebody, and we are all cheering for you to pick this person, you’d better pick them.”
Two subsequent rounds of judging have already been recorded: the battle rounds, which start Monday, and the knockout rounds to follow. Faith and all other competitors are restricted from talking about what happened in those rounds with a directive Faith says is, “If it hasn’t happened on TV, it hasn’t happened.”
Whether or not she makes it to the group that performs on live episodes, where fans get a say in the outcome, Faith was thrilled to be part of the group and make it onto a team, because while she was at blind auditions, she felt out of her league.
“Literally I was like, ‘Mom, I should not be out here, I do not belong here with these people,’” Faith said. “Everywhere you looked, there were people doing these crazy runs, and I was like (gasp!), ‘I shouldn’t be here,’ because the amount of talent that is out there is absolutely ridiculous. You just wanted to cry everywhere you looked because it was like, ‘This is beautiful.’ ... I thought everyone out there was worthy of a chair turn.”
Her chair turn(s) open a new chapter in a musical life that started as soon as Faith could talk.
“I pretty much wore out every Karaoke machine I ever got,” Faith says at her family home in rural Stanton, which is lovely, but also seems about as far from Hollywood as you can get.
She eventually started performing with a group in town called the Melody Makers at events such as the Stanton Corn Festival, then became involved with two Lexington groups that have a track record of moving participants on to careers in entertainment: the University of Kentucky-based Academy for Creative Excellence, which has seen several participants go on to Broadways shows such as “Annie” and “Matilda,” and Images Model & Talent Agency, with which Faith won the teen singing competition and was the runner up for junior female talent of the year at the 2015 International Modeling & Talent Association competition in New York.
“I think Livia can do anything she sets her mind to!” said Mary Joy Nelson, former director of the Academy for Creative Excellence, which recently closed. Nelson has launched the similar Innovation Arts Academy.
“The Voice,” of course, is an entirely new level for Faith, as she found Monday night as her audition aired. “Voice” competitors are advised to turn Facebook and Twitter notifications off before their auditions air, because the surge of messages and new followers will be overwhelming. Faith thought she had, but her notifications started going crazy Monday night, and the phone quickly shut off. Another thrill was watching the recording of her audition rise to No. 48 on the iTunes pop chart.
“I was on the charts with Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson — that was just mind-blowing to me,” Faith said. “I never thought I would be in the Top 50 — people have just shown so much love and support.”
For the high school senior, who has been home schooled since her sophomore year, it is affirmation that she is on the right track with ambitions for a music career, regardless of how “The Voice” competition pans out.
“I didn’t think I’d ever do anything outside the Corn Festival in little ol’ Stanton, Kentucky, and now it’s like an international level I’ve jumped to with the airing of one episode, which is crazy,” Faith says. “I’m just a small-town girl. I never imagined people from, like, Brazil would see me and say, ‘That’s Livia Faith. I’m going to send her a message and tell her she did good on ‘The Voice.’”
Her big sister’s singular act of affirmation just keeps multiplying.
Rich Copley, @copiousnotes
8 p.m. Mon. and Tues. on NBC (WLEX-TV Ch. 18, Spectrum Ch. 8)