How does it feel to be back?
Great. I love doing it. I love doing The Voice. I love the whole thing from start to finish. Right from the Blinds which is exciting because you haven’t heard anybody yet and I love the anticipation of sitting there and listening. That’s great. After that of course you’ve got the Battles, you’ve got to pair them up and you know that you’re going to lose half of your team. You’ve got to try to pick the best of them which is difficult sometimes but it’s part of it. Then you’ve got the knockouts where they sing songs that they’ve picked themselves that they feel are the best way to go so that’s part of it. And then you try to…picking songs all the time, finding songs for the singers, finding out what they’re capable of and how far you can take them. Then of course you’ve got the duet. With Ruti, she loved that song ‘What a Wonderful World’ and she’s someone who got better and better all the way. Sometimes with the blind auditions that’s as good as they get. That’s they’re shining moment, they’ve got the right song and they’ve come on and that’s it. But others – like Ruti, for instance. She got better. In the battle I thought Saskia was going to win it because she grasped the song earlier but once Ruti worked on the song it was like night and day.
She was scared of it to begin with, you see. She thought she sounded too much like Florence. You know, it was a Florence and The Machine song. Once she got it I thought my god. So that’s another exciting thing. You don’t know what can happen throughout the series, that’s the exciting thing. There’s so many things that can go wrong. Sometimes they get stronger and sometimes they crumble and all of that is exciting – to work with them and give them more confidence. And make them as best as you think they can be. Sometimes they don’t even know it themselves.
Do you have a favourite stage of the competition?
I like all of it. Right from the beginning to the end. Before you start of course you’re thinking wow what are they going to be like this year. I wonder if that person will come with me once you finally press the button. All those things.
What are you listening out for?
Honesty is the first thing. They’ve got to be honest. Sometimes you can tell that they’re singing a certain way because they’ve heard other people doing it or they’re copying the record they’ve heard so they sing it too much like the original. There’s no point in that. So I’m looking out for originality. The honesty of the singer has got to come through so you think, I can hear THAT person. Whoever he or she is, I can hear them in there but some people you can’t. And you think I wonder what that person is like because I’m not getting anything from it.
Even though they’re singing all the right notes sometimes but you think well, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re in tune and doing a very good job but there’s no spark there. And I think we all feel that way, all four of us. Some of us feel you hear things that somebody else doesn’t agree with. That’s another thing that’s unpredictable – who is listening to what.
Is it harder to make that connection if you’re listening to a duo and new to this year a trio?
Oh yes. Because sometimes you can get three average singers but when they come together with their harmonies they become something else which is great but you’re not getting sometimes the individual singer. If you’ve got a trio and they like working like that you don’t need to be an individual singer. To blend you can’t stick out like a sore thumb. That’s another thing, if you’re a duo or a trio you can’t say ‘well I’m going to shine here’ because you’ll throw the whole thing off. You’ve got to blend with the other singers.
What makes the perfect trio or is there a trio that you can think of that you think well that’s the blueprint?
For me, it’s family members. Like the Pointer Sisters. They seemed to breathe the same. And The Staves – they’re the same. When they sing you know they’ve been singing together since they were kids because they’ve been blending and singing together. I think that that blood connection with three or two. Like the Everley Brothers, they were a duo. They were breathing the same. They took the breath in the same place because they’re joined at the hip you know.
What advice would you give to people auditioning?
Be honest. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
What’s the most surprising song choice you’ve heard so far this year?
Song choice is very important. If they pick the wrong song it’s difficult. When I start working with singers sometimes they don’t think it’s right for them. All big voices like to sing Whitney Houston songs. Sometimes they don’t even know themselves and that’s a thing with coaching that’s important. Something they wouldn’t have even thought of for themselves.
And it’s an incredible opportunity that coaching. Just the journey alone, wherever you come in the competition…
It’s a tremendous thing to have professional singers, I think, giving you advice.
When you were first starting out if there had been a similar show around…
Oh I’d have been on it in a minute!
If you could pick anybody from anywhere in history to be your mentor or coach…
Well, early rock and roll singers – Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry.
Those people that I loved… But then again there’s other people – you’ve got Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davies. The swing singers and big bands – they had they’re own thing as well. But being a teenager in the 50s I was always gravitating to rock n roll. Early rock n roll.
How do you think your teams shaping up?
I’ve got a great mixture. There’s no two people alike in it which is great.
Do you think about the Battles when you’re at the Blinds stage? Do you think about who might be a Battle pairing?
Oh yeah. The thing is when you’ve got a certain kind of singer you don’t want too many people like that. If there’s two that are too much alike you really have to think about who’s that song going to work for. You can’t have too many singers too much alike, otherwise it’s hard to make distinctive song choices that are right for each person or act.
How is it being back with the coaches?
I don’t think you could get four better coaches as we are. Because we’re different to one another but we’re all musical and listening to a wide variety of stuff. We have different tastes and criteria and know potential but we all agree on the same thing – got to be honest, got to be real. Someone came on just yesterday and I had turned but Jennifer hadn’t yet, I said to her “hit your button, you’ve got to hit your button.” Then I thought why did I do that because now I’ve got competition. He could go with her!
What can you tell us about the coaches’ performance?
Sweet Dreams – I’ve always loved the record. The Eurythmics made great records. It’s a great message – ‘sweet dreams are made of this.’ It’s all perfect for this competition.