Jermaine Paul, the second winner of the U.S. version of “The Voice,” has had his fair share of ups and downs in the music industry. Unlike winners of “American Idol,” who have usually never recorded on a major label or toured before being on “American Idol,” it’s not unusual for the winners and finalists of “The Voice” to have extensive experience in the music industry. Paul was a backup singer, most notably for Alicia Keys, before he auditioned for “The Voice.” Although many people thought that second-place finalist Juliette Simms would win, due to the consistently positive feedback she was getting throughout the competition, it was Paul who won in the end, but only by a very small percentage, according to an announcement made on the show. His mentor on “The Voice” was Blake Shelton.
As part of the grand prize for winning on “The Voice,” R&B singer Paul gets a record deal with Universal Republic Records. But will Paul become a major hit artist? So far, things haven’t worked out that way for Javier Colon, the first winner of “The Voice” U.S., because Colon’s first Universal Republic album (which was released in 2011) was a complete flop. As the second winner of the show, Paul is well aware of the advantages and disadvantages that come with being a winner of a TV talent contest, but he is hoping to beat the odds. He talked about that and more in a telephone conference call with journalists on the day after his victory on “The Voice.”
You got very emotional during the performance show. What has winning on “The Voice” meant to you?
I guess if I could sum it up in words, it has brought things full circle. I’ve been working for 17-plus years on just trying to seal a record deal and possibly get a chance to have an album, put an album out and just the whole dreams of just being an artist. That’s been really my focus since I was about 16 years old, when I signed my first deal.
And unfortunately, life takes you through turns and mountains and valleys and all different types of twists and turns. But it just felt like everything just came full circle. For me it was definitely an emotional time and emotional moment. So it definitely means the world to me. It just means that everything that I’ve done up to this point it wasn’t in vain; it’s only helped me and prepared me.
Do you have any details on when the album will come out or who you’ll be working with on the album?
We’re looking to work with, of course ,Alicia Keys. I put in a request to work with Ryan Tedder with OneRepublic. I’m a big fan of his work. And there are definitely some other folks that we’re going to bring in. But I have a really, really great team over at Universal. And Ron Fair, they brought him to really make sure the project goes sky high. So I’m really excited about the album and the first single.
After being a backup singer how was it to be vulnerable and alone on stage as yourself, rather than in the background?
I’ve been performing trying to do my own thing now for about a year and a half now, still doing background work but also doing gigs and things like that. And before, I did the background singing I was trying to of course be an artist myself. But at that time it was with a group. But I was sort of like the front guy.
But coming out of the back, it’s definitely a change; it’s definitely a big difference. And I think honestly, being in the background has helped me, and it helped me harness my energy and really hold on to my own truth as far as an artist: my own originality and my own feelings and my own vulnerability.
And just being out there it just feels right. It just feels every time I get up to sing and I’m out there, it just feels like I belong there; it feels right. And I don’t mind sharing myself with the world at all.
After being on “The Voice,” how is your message different now as a singer, compared to before your audition for the show?
I think Blake Shelton really helped me kind of find out exactly what I want to say. And this show is so great for a guy like me because I have to deal with so many different opinions and thoughts on what I should do and how I should sound and what I should dress and what I should wear.
And this was 100 percent me; this was me saying this is what I want to do. For so long, I had folks telling me I should sing this kind of song. And I would go in to record it. And at the end of the recording, I would hate the song; I would hate that I even recorded certain songs.
And it would just it would just make me sick on so many different levels. And with this show it definitely gave me the platform to do exactly what I want and say exactly what I want to say to the world and to my kids and my wife.
And it just really brought out the realness of this thing called artistry and called music and called singing in “The Voice.” It brought the realness to it. And that’s all I ever wanted. So the message definitely has changed and it’s definitely hits home. It’s real. It’s not a façade.
You’ve talked a little bit about this already, but how much do you think your past experience and working so hard for so many years is going to help you get adjusted to having a major deal and being in the spotlight and dealing kind of with everything that comes with that?
Being in the background, it’s almost like a trial period. I was able to make some stupid mistakes and fix things, both vocally and personally. All the way around it’s really helped me kind of just better myself all the way across the board. And I had a chance to do that not in the spotlight, not in the face of America or in front of a camera or anything like that. I was able to do that on my own time, which I feel like every person should be allowed that time to get themselves together — and I feel like I’ve been able to do that.
And now it just feels right. And it feels like it feels like I’m supposed to be where I am. And I intend on holding on to the values and the principles that I’ve learned in the background. I intend on holding on to those things and taking them with me through this journey on being a solo artist. I think it’s going to definitely help me sustain and keep it.
Out of all the coaches on “The Voice,” Blake Shelton seems to be the most supportive of his artists after the fact. He took Dia Frampton on tour. Is it nice to know that he’s going to be there for you kind of this whole journey to help you out with what you need?
Definitely. I’ve gotten calls from other contestants on the show, and they let me know that they’ve been in contact with their coaches and things like that. So I’m sure the other coaches are very supportive of the other artists also.
But Blake definitely does have a great track record from last season: taking Dia out on tour and even this season having Gwen Sebastian singing background for him. He’s been such a tremendous support to me throughout this whole process and he’s helped me so much on so many different levels. And I don’t take that for granted at all.
The other day on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” you told Ellen that you expected your name was going to be called fourth and then you were going to be third and you were kind of surprised. How was your confidence level changed over the course of the whole season? How did you feel about your chances of winning the whole thing?
When you first do a competition like this, if anyone ever has done something like this, they’ll probably tell you the same thing. You don’t go in with this crazy, crazy over-zealous confidence at all. You really you try to go with a humble spirit, and you go in hoping to just get through that first whatever it is. In this case, it was the blind audition.
When I auditioned … my mind could only fathom possibly getting the chair to turn around and I was more or less thinking about how many chairs would turn around or if the chair would turn around. It’s so amazing to do something like this because it’s [done in] stages. You never look at the big overall picture in the middle of the battle, in the middle of the competition. You’re always just thinking about the task at hand.
And at the end there, I felt like I left everything on the stage. But then at the same time I also knew amongst the contestants that we also knew that Juliette [Simms] had some really great breakthrough performances throughout the whole competition. And it definitely made us all like kind of nervous.
You’ve talked a little bit about who you might like to record with for your first album since winning on “The Voice.” an you tell us what kind of an album you’d like to make?
I just want to bring that good music songs with a message — songs that definitely speak to the heart of America. And when I say that, I mean folks that are like me and my wife and just trying to make it during these tough times. We’ve been through so much just holding onto each other and holding onto our love. And that’s what I want to do. I want to do an album that definitely speaks about that kind of love.
When you chose Blake Shelton as your coach, you had to choose between him and Cee Lo Green. And it would seem like given your style Cee Lo was maybe a little bit more of a stylistic fit. What made you ultimately choose Blake and how much did that decision result in you winning?
Yeah, at that moment I definitely knew the questions that I was going to ask whoever turned around. And Blake really challenged me. He really made me feel like he was going to be the type of coach that would definitely push me to be my best. The wheels were definitely spinning.
I’m a huge fan of Cee Lo’s music and Cee Lo. And I was going to pick him. But I was really looking for a connection and it’s something as simple as the shades that Cee Lo was wearing; he had a pair of dark shades on and I just really wanted to feel a genuine connection.
And I just couldn’t really grab a hold of that with his shades on. And I looked at him and then I looked at Blake and Blake was just there. He was just like simple. It wasn’t too much to kind of go against the moment with Blake. It was just “what you see is what you get.” And that’s the kind of guy that I want to be. That’s the kind of person that I am. And it just made sense.
You and Blake Shelton did a great job on your duet of “Soul Man.” Would you be doing – interested in doing something with Blake on your album?
Of course. There’s definitely a song that I have in mind. It’s a ballad though. We had fun with “Soul Man,” but there’s a ballad that I would like … [There are] two songs that I think would be cool, and I would definitely let him pick which one he thinks would be more fitting.
One of the your best performances on “The Voice” was your version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Did you get any feedback from Bon Jovi?
I haven’t, no I have not. That would be friggin’ cool though.
What was running through your mind through the entire competition?
We were very, very careful on the songs that we chose. And the song had to really, really portray the moment. And I had to really be able to connect to them. So “Livin’ on a Prayer” was definitely a great song choice. And I think the words fit on so many different levels, not just living on a prayer in the competition but I could definitely relate to that whole concept of Tommy and Gina.
We saw that a lot of emotions from you on “The Voice,” and it was very endearing and great to see someone so engaged. Was that something that you talked with your Blake Shelton about: letting your emotions show and not being afraid to do that?
No, we never really discussed it. I think what we did, more or less, we discussed the right songs that would I guess possibly evoke that. It’s so important to do songs, especially in this competition, that I could relate to and I could emotionally connect to. There were seriously times during the sound check that I couldn’t even get through the songs because they just definitely evoked so much emotion and so much real true honest feeling.
And I’m not one to get crazy emotional. Actually, I don’t like getting emotional at all. The best way for me to sing a song is to be able to relate to it and feel it.
Did having your family in the audience make it more of an emotional experience for you?
Definitely. When my mom walks in the front lounge, that was just a lot; that was lot for me to take on. My mom — I guess, like every mom in the world — has a way of just making you feel like a 12-year old kid who fell in the park and needs a Band-Aid.
You’re a family guy; you’ve worked really hard. To what extent do you think your personal story helped America vote for you?
I think I think at the end of the day, you are who you are. And it’s one thing that I wanted to make sure when I came into this competition that certain things wouldn’t overshadow my voice. And I feel like this show did a great job of that; making sure that the voice was the number-one priority, the number-one thing that America got a chance to hear and experience. And of course, there are stories attached to every person. But I believe that the voice was definitely the main focus throughout this whole process.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add that we didn’t ask?
No, I mean, I just want to say thank you to everyone that voted me here. And thank you guys for making sure the word gets out about the album to come. And I hope that the support just continues throughout this whole process and the whole album and the singles and all the music that’s to come. I hope that we just continue the support. And, yes, thank you . Thank you in a big way.
For more info: “The Voice” website
RELATED LINKS ON ovalpike.com:
“The Voice” interviews
“The Voice” news and reviews