I tried out for “The Voice” and it wasn’t at all what I expected

Things have been going downright swimmingly in my life these days. For the first time ever, I am feeling healthier because of a few diet changes and regular exercise (thanks, Julianne Hough and your crazy-intense but crazy-fun ballroom cardio workouts), I have been kicking butt in my new role at work, my husband and I seem to have finally gotten the hang of this whole marriage thing, I’ve started a couple new hobbies that make me super happy, and a lot of other small, positive changes. What all this fulfillment and positivity ended up leading to, though, was a desire to finally go after that last piece of the puzzle: a music career. I have loved to sing since I could speak (though my grandma says it was even earlier), and I have always thought that the ultimate jackpot in life would be to get to sing for a living.

There are a lot of ways to start working toward that possibility, and I made baby steps – tickling the old ivories and re-learning some of the songs I wrote in my college band, cracking open that dusty copy of “Guitar for Dummies,” attending a couple open mics and karaoke nights – but signing up for an audition seemed like an especially huge, concrete phase in the process. So I did it. I signed up to audition for The Voice. Yes THE Voice.

In the weeks leading up to the auditions in Austin, I searched all over the internet, scouring for hints on what the whole process would look like, and I didn’t find much at all. Which seems weird, because I can’t be the only person with curiosity and WiFi who has ever wanted to audition for The Voice. I am hoping this helps a few singers in my position, just to put them at ease and help them feel more prepared. You are welcome.

1. It is as crowded as you would expect.

Okay, fine. This is the one thing you would guess to be true. There are SO MANY PEOPLE who want to make it on The Voice. The auditions were at 7:00 A.M. so I arrived to the massive Austin Convention Center at 6:30. You would think I had been late! The line of hopefuls wrapped around every corner of the building, spanning four blocks, and it was only getting longer. I strapped in for a long, crappy day of waiting. Luckily, I was mistaken, for the most part.

2. The auditions are run like a well-oiled machine.

Okay, so obviously there was some waiting. It can’t be avoided. There must have been tens of thousands of people there to try out, and especially if the producers want to give each person a fair shot, they can’t just run us through an assembly line. However, they were incredibly efficient. Even as soon as I stepped into the line outside, it started moving, and moved quickly. It was like we were all taking a leisurely stroll around the building. We went from the outside line into a large warehouse section of the convention center, where we were divided into multiple lines. I think I waited in that room for half an hour or more, but I could see the previous groups led out one by one, which helped because I had a general idea of how soon I would be taken in to the next room. Once my group was filed into the next room (another large warehouse), there was more waiting. This wait felt longer, though it actually wasn’t.

People were getting visibly antsy, my feet had started to hurt, there were bathrooms and a food/beverage cart across the room that we were not sure if we could access without losing our spot in line, and the clincher: We were watching groups of people on that side of the room being taken to the actual auditions. This made it feel more real and added just a little tension to the atmosphere. Finally, the lines started moving. I showed my audition pass (note: make sure to sign up ahead and get a pass – don’t just show up) and driver’s license to a friendly, smiling girl with purple hair and proceeded through to the next section, where we were given seats and the freedom to go to the bathroom, get some food, and walk around the room if we so desired. Once my group was taken from that room, we headed upstairs and waited near our audition room. There were several rooms in that hallway alone, and there were other hallways of audition rooms. I’m sure having so many places to audition contributed to how efficiently things were run.

3. There was an overall sense of respect.

Every person I interacted with that was part of The Voice staff was unendingly respectful, even appreciative. They do not take their fans and potential contestants for granted, and made sure to make us feel valued. Before being taken into the second room, a bearded fellow with a sparkle in his eye and a The Voice t-shirt came and spoke to the people around me. He made it clear that the last thing they want is to treat us like cattle. He apologized for the wait, assured us that the whole process from start to finish would not take more than four hours (he was right!), and thanked us for our support of the show. He even said, “none of us would have jobs if it weren’t for all of you.” It made me feel important, and acknowledged.

From what I have heard, and from my experience when I was sixteen and tried out for a different reality show (*cough* American Idol *cough*), many of these talent competition shows have a pretty awful audition process, in which people do feel like cattle being herded. My last experience was thirteen hours waiting in the blistering heat of an L.A. summer, only to be allowed five seconds of singing before I was cut off by a grumpy British man. That day, when I was rejected, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief because it meant my mom and I could finally go home. Everything about that process felt flippant, disrespectful, and almost inhumane. This was not at all the case for The Voice.

4.The audition itself is quick, but civilized.

I think there were ten of us in the room. We were seated in two rows facing each other, with one producer seated at a table at the center front of the room. She greeted us, and explained that she would call us each by name, at which point we would stand in the middle of the rows, facing her, state our song title, and sing. She said we should limit it to one verse and one chorus, and that she would hold her hand up if she wanted us to stop. To my surprise, she only did that once or twice. We each got ample time to sing our pieces – not the “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” feeling of other auditions. After every person had gone, she called one name to stay and dismissed the rest of us.

I’m not going to lie – it felt like a punch in the gut. I had been saying to friends and family ahead of time that I knew I wouldn’t actually get a callback; I just thought it would be a good experience and I had to at least give it a shot. To tell you the truth, though, part of me thought I might make it. Maybe not onto the actual show, but if I could just get a second audition, it would somehow give me validation. It would be tangible proof that I could make it as a professional singer.

5. If you don’t make it onto the show, it doesn’t mean you aren’t good.

It took some processing and a good night’s sleep before I could arrive at this conclusion. On the three-hour drive home, I definitely cried. It’s a hollow feeling, when you have this talent that is the only thing you feel like you are truly good at, and that is your absolute favorite thing to do, and someone rejects it. Not just anyone, but someone whose job it is to identify singers who will make it, someone who is fully involved in the industry and knows what it takes to succeed there. Here’s the thing that weirdly helped me feel better, though.

In line, I bonded with three wonderful people and we became one another’s cheerleaders. Since family and friends are not allowed to come with you, it was good to have each other. Before we were taken back to the auditions, we found a corner of the room and sang our audition songs for each other. We each had completely distinct sounds: Aaron with his perfectly controlled and soulful serenade of “Who’s Loving You,” Kristen with her playful, sexy jazz riffs, Stephen’s rich, raspy Hall and Oates tribute, and me with my high decibel blues-y rock. Each of these voices were ones I could easily hear on the radio, singing Number One hits. These voices were unique, powerful, and a joy to listen to. If they didn’t make it onto the show, then that means that not making it is not an indication of whether or not you are good. It may be an indication of whether or not you are what the producers are looking for right now, or whether or not you were that particular producer’s cup of tea – but I know good, and they were good.

I found out later that Aaron did get a callback, and I was so sure I would be watching him compete and win the show next season, but unfortunately, he did not get on the show. I’m hoping he and Kristen and Stephen will keep it up and we’ll be hearing all of them on the radio soon (if that’s what they want).

As for me, I will always be a singer, and Guitar for Dummies remains open at my kitchen table, inviting me to come strum a few chords whenever I have a few minutes. I will still sing Janis Joplin at karaoke and hopefully bring my guitar to an open mic in the near future, and I even got a gig singing the National Anthem at the local county rodeo this month. But as for The Voice, that was probably my first and last attempt. I’m happy I did it, because I was able to see “behind the curtain” and get some valuable experience, but I’m just as happy to play and sing in my living room for nobody.