Many budding singers can only dream of having several superstars of the music industry battling for a chance to mentor them, but for one local performer that dream became a reality when he auditioned for the BBCs new talent show ‘The Voice’.
Twenty-two-years-old Ben Kelly from Culmore found himself in the enviable position of having to choose between more than one celebrity coach when auditioning for the TV series, which has already been a massive success in both the USA and Ireland.
The singer/songwriter said it was “without a doubt the best moment of my life” - and viewers can tune in tomorrow night to see him audition for Tom Jones, Jessie J, Will.I.Am and The Script frontman Danny O’Donoghue in a bid to be chosen for their teams and move on to the next step of the competition.
Where The Voice differs from The X-Factor is that these auditions are ‘blind’. The judges know nothing about the contestants’ background - there are no sob stories to sway the vote - and as the auditionees sing they judge must face away from them.
Ben explained: “It really is all about the voice,” he said. “The show is about finding great singers. There are no people there to be made fun of - it is filled with incredibly talented singers.
“The blind auditions were very daunting. I didn’t see the set up at all until the moment I walked onto the stage to see these four chairs facing away from me.” As the auditionees sing they must try and keep control of their nerves as they wait to see if any of the four coaches will turn around and offer to mentor them.
“It was quite horrible,” Ben, a former pupil of Lumen Christi College said. “You have to go out and give perhaps the best vocal performance of your life and hope that one of these incredible titans of music turns around.”
Ben chose Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ as his audition piece - but stressed that ‘The Voice’ is no karaoke competition. “I put my own spin on it,” he said.
“That is what the coaches were looking for - people who could take something and make it their own. I chose the piece very carefully - and because I play the piano as well I see myself as that kind of performer.”
Ben, who has already proven to be very popular on YouTube, said he was stunned when more than one coach turned around wanting him on his team. Although viewers will have to wait until tomorrow night to see who turned around to want him on their team - he said it was very “surreal” to have more than one megastar fight to win his favour.
“Even to have one coach turn around - that was amazing. It did bolster me to keep going - to keep singing. It was if I was receiving validation for everything I have done up until this point - all the hard work I’ve put in. To have the seal of approval from those big names...it was brilliant.”
The coaches, he said, did indeed “put up a fight” to win his favour and he has now chosen a coach he feels will best lead him through the next few rounds of the series.
Following the blind auditions - where each coach chooses 10 contestants to mentor - Ben will face the Battle Rounds - where he will be pitched against another singer from his own group.
The coaches must then whittle down their contestants eventually taking just five each through the live shows and the public vote.
“I am so proud to have got this far. And prouder still to come from Derry - I will be flying the flag for the City of Culture!”
The Voice debuts on BBC tomorrow night at 7pm.