"The Voice" Blind Audition Part 4: Team Christina & Team Cee Lo

By Jamie Ruby

The VoiceMonday marked the beginning of part four of the blind auditions of NBC's The Voice.This week seven new contestants were added to the competition. Christina Aguilera added Jonathas, Ashley De La Rosa, Anthony Evans, and Monique Benabou to her team, and Cee Lo added Jamie Lono, Justin Hopkins, and Tony Vincent to his.

Recently these new members discussed their journey thus far on The Voice to the digital media.

NBC Conference Call
The Voice
Team Christina and Team Cee Lo

Team Christina: Jonathas, Ashley De La Rosa, Anthony Evans, and Monique Benabou
Team Cee Lo: Jamie Lono, Justin Hopkins, and Tony Vincent

February 21, 2012

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could each talk about how you chose your song selection to perform on the show.

Anthony EvansANTHONY EVANS: There are a lot of things that go into song choice on a show this large, especially when there are that many people. The Voice is very interested in who we are as artists, so they ask us, there's a lot of things behind the scenes like clearance and making sure we can do the songs on TV.

So they really ask us who we were as artists and they helped us make the decision to make sure we were doing things legally right, but The Voice just wanted us to be who we are as artists. That's how we decided. We narrowed it down with the producers of the show to make sure that we're putting our best foot forward and representing who we are as artists.

ASHLEY DE LA ROSA: Yes. It was definitely collaboration.

QUESTION: A lot of fans are now coming on board to get to know you guys a little bit better and even some celebrities are now huge fans of The Voice. How does that make you feel? Especially maybe Jamie can talk about his newfound fame, as well as Justin.

JUSTIN HOPKINS: I'm super happy to address that. To have Carson Daly - really to have me back on his show at this level - it's been years since we've worked together. He was such an amazing cheerleader for us when we were on The Band, he always supported us with that. To have him get out there and give us some recognition and love after probably what has been about 300 shows since I left (unintelligible), it feels kind of like a little bit of a rebirth back to 2007.

JAMIE LONO: It's definitely really weird. I'm not on a Jeremy Lynn type of status, but it's definitely really cool and I couldn't ask for more support from my hometown and from the people watching The Voice, it's just really cool. I'm really grateful.

QUESTION: Monique, where do you think Christina can take you musically as a country artist that Blake may not have been able to take you?

MONIQUE BENABOU: Am I listed as a country artist?

QUESTION: No, but let's just say, where do you think Christina can take you musically?

MONIQUE BENABOU: Okay, I've got you. Christina musically could take me - she could open up a lot of different avenues for me. She's worked with some of the best songwriters and producers over her career and really mixed different genres into it. I identify with that kind of nomadic style, but still staying true to a very forceful, powerhouse kind of voice. I think we have that in common as far as the type of voice we have and the fact that we do like to play and experiment with the genres and styles of records that we produce.

QUESTION: Tony, to make it all the way, how will you have to adapt your vocal style to fit The Voice as compared to the stage?

TONY VINCENT: I think I'm fortunate enough to be able to be involved in stage productions that really don't skew towards a standard theatrical type of avenue. It's not like I would ever be cast in a "My Fair Lady" or something a little bit more Rogers and Hammerstein. So you know, being able to sing rock and roll songs like Green Day and Queen on a stage, I think it's going to be a lot easier than people would initially suspect because I feel really blessed to be also involved with Cee-Lo because I think what he does as an artist is also incredibly theatrical. His records are incredibly deep sonically and there are these huge soundscapes that you're impressed every time you hear it. The song - even if it's multiple times - you're hearing something new and interesting.

As an artist, that's what I strive to be. I think it's going to be a real leap from necessarily a stage to this kind of stage situation. I feel really fortunate that I'm with a coach that sees a much more theatrical presentation - something larger than life and quite epic in scope.

QUESTION: shley, congratulations, can you talk about the experience so far and what it means to be on Team Christina?

ASHLEY DE LA ROSA: So far the experience has been incredible. Right now I'm actually in school and so they are allowing me to miss class at the moment to take this call. As far as my school and my friends, they are all really supportive, but it's kind of strange with the newfound bands and all of that. I'm very appreciative and grateful for all of this. It's just been an incredible experience, especially being able to work with someone as amazing as Christina Aguilera. I couldn't have asked for anyone better.

QUESTION: And are international relations still your career goal?

Ashley De La RosaASHLEY DE LA ROSA: Well, I've always had a passion for international relations and for traveling, but that's really what I'm trying to figure out right now with The Voice. It's giving me this opportunity at the moment, so I'm going to take it and run with it as far as I can. If I don't make it all the way, then I will definitely go back to international relations. I always find that I give 110% of the thing that I'm doing and I just don't want to spread myself too thin. I don't want to look back and regret that I didn't give my all on the show, so that's where all of my focus is right now.

QUESTION: Monique, I just want to get a feel for when you started singing and how and when you realized that this was going to be what drove you in life.

MONIQUE BENABOU: Wow, okay, cool. I started singing when I was three years old. My parents couldn't really afford any kind of vocal instruction, but they knew I was always singing and I was always loud. They called it kind of from birth because I had lungs on me, they said, so they're like, that girl is going to be a singer. It came true, so when I was young and I was three years old, that's when I started.

I really got into my voice when I hit high school. I dabbled in talent shows and stuff like that in middle school, but it wasn't well received, so I really came into it in high school with musical theatre and stuff like that. By the time I reached my junior year, it was very clear to me that this was the only thing I was ever going to be satisfied doing in my life and it's helping people through music.

I dropped out of high school for other reasons, but because it was clear about what I wanted to do. So I took my GED and went into college and started studying music and moved out to Los Angeles to pursue that about four years ago.

QUESTION: All right. What high school did you go to?

ASHLEY DE LA ROSA: I went to (unintelligible) High School.

QUESTION: My question is for Anthony Evans. What sparked your desire to go on The Voice in the first place? Is this the first time that you've tried on a show like this before?

ANTHONY EVANS: Yes. It is the first time that I've done something like this. What sparked my interest? Well initially, it was a friend of mine in the industry that I'm in right now. His name is (Jeremy Camp). He was sitting at my house and said, "Anthony, there's this new show and you need to go and just try it." At first, I did the whole, "No, no, no." The pride thing - you know, like no, I don't want to do that.

He sparked it initially and then as I started spending time at The Voice, then the spark got lit inside of me because I realized this show is no joke. It's not a gimmick; they are looking for the real thing. They love our stories, but this show isn't primarily about our stories. It's about our voice. That's what I've worked on and that's what I know everybody on this call has worked is their craft, so that's what got me really interested in being a part of something like this.

QUESTION: You spoke earlier on the call about the process of picking out the right song to perform. You did have a great song, but I think it's safe to say it's kind of a slow build which - correct me if I'm wrong - isn't that kind of risky in the blind audition?

ANTHONY EVANS: Yes. Yes. Yes. I felt that risk on the inside. Before I went on the stage - well again, you're dealing with a lot of people, so you can't pull out the artist card and sit down with everybody and talk for hours. You've got to keep it moving. There's a lot of people that you've got to consider, so I knew in my head that if I get picked, it's probably going to be during the last ten seconds of the song, before I walked on the stage. I had that anxiety before going on because it's Marvin Gaye. You're stuck. You can't change him up too much because it's Marvin Gaye. I feel the anxiety right now as I'm talking to you. I'm getting like ugh, because I felt that. Yes, it was risky, but I'm glad that Christina heard and me kind of getting to hear it again on TV last night. The things that she was saying, I know that her ears listen for specific things. I'm glad she heard the nuances of what I've worked on for so long, even though it wasn't a flashy song.

QUESTION: All right. Cool. One last thing - what's the ultimate end goal for you with this show? You're hoping that it'll be catapult you into mainstream pop, right?

ANTHONY EVANS: I'm hoping the show will broaden what I do. I think from the career perspective, I'm wanting it to broaden what I do. I don't want to leave behind the industry I've been in at all, but I want to move forward. As a person, I want to grow and taking risks like this help you grow.

QUESTION: I see that you're scheduled to sing at Oak Cliff Fellowship on March 4th. The show won't get in the way of you doing something like that, right?

ANTHONY EVANS: No. I mean we have to make sure it doesn't conflict with scheduling and stuff like that, but that's my Dad's church. I'm going to be there whether I'm on the show or not, you know what I'm saying? You just happened to pick the one where I'm always going to be there. Yes.

QUESTION: Tony, at this point during your career you've released a few solo albums already and definitely had success on stage. Why did you decide to go and audition for a big network reality singing competition like The Voice?

Tony VincentTONY VINCENT: One of the reasons I moved to New York in the first place was to continue my recording career. That's what I did right out of college and I had signed a deal with EMI and I got an opportunity to audition for Rent and that sort of sent me on this rock focus theatre trajectory.

You know, for the last five years or so, I've just had this desire to be back in the studio, be back to solely focusing on my own music again. Broadway has been a blessing and I'm sure there will be a point in my career where I choose to come back.

I figure with the exposure that a vehicle like The Voice gives and with a really highbrow and specifically talent-focused show like this, there would be no downside, so it would give me a shot at returning to my music career.

QUESTION: Are you pleased with getting picked for Cee-Lo then?

TONY VINCENT: Absolutely. Like I had mentioned on a prior call, Cee-Lo Green is just - as a producer and an artist, his scope is incredibly epic. It's very out of the box. It's the kind of artist and producer that I want to work with and to be chosen with him being my coach, it seems like the best possible fit that I can have. I have a lot of respect for him and I feel like we could do some really amazingly cool stuff.

QUESTION: And your wife has a baby on the way, too. Is this just a crazy time in general for you guys?

TONY VINCENT: It's absolutely nuts, but you know, you might as well have it all happen at once. Sometimes as you [compartmentalize] it a little bit too much, you stick a needle at it and then it becomes overwhelming, so you just kind of roll with it at this point.

QUESTION: I saw already that your Twitter page is blowing up. Have you heard a lot from any of your friends in the Broadway community since your audition?

TONY VINCENT: I have, from Lea Michele to Neil Patrick Harris, whom I went to high school with, and some other pretty high profile Broadway people. It's really encouraging that I'm getting that endorsement because I have a mutual respect for them as artists and characters they've played and the vocal talent that they have. So it's a serious, humbling experience.

QUESTION: Okay and last question real quick. You definitely have this rock background and a lot of it isn't traditional music theatre background, but I don't know if you had seen in recent weeks that Randy Jackson from American Idol got in a little Twitter debate with Betty Buckley about whether Broadway actors could make that transition. Did you see that at all?

TONY VINCENT: Well, I think I can. I also think - and I say that in a very respectful way because I came from a rock background before I entered theatre - I think one of the biggest struggles for theatre actors is if they've focused on this since they were really young. There's a certain style of singing that Broadway and theatre has.

Once you've learned a way of singing, it's very difficult to change that up. It's not just about changing a style of song, but it's just the way you deliver a song and I think that's probably been the biggest struggle for people in the Broadway world to actually translate their voice to a pop scene or rock scene because it's a very different style of singing. And I've again, just been really fortunate to work with band-driven projects that still keep me within the pop/rock world. So I definitely think I have an opportunity here.

QUESTION: So what I'm curious about, Tony, is you've had a lot of experience with Broadway already and being on stage, so what was it like for you going on stage on The Voice? Are there nerves or does that sort of thing kind of start building up in your head?

TONY VINCENT: Well, sure there are nerves, again because this feels like that vehicle that could actually spread my career back into the recording industry and finally perform my own music on stage. It was sort of a combination of anxiety and freedom at the same time. I knew when I hit that stage I didn't have to be a character. I could just be myself and sing how I would want to sing without telling a story apart from what the lyric was and the song. It was actually nerve racking and freeing at the same time, if those two feelings can co-exist.

QUESTION: Yes, definitely. All right, my second question here is for Jamie. Your blues were just a great cover of Johnny Cash. How did you come up with that sort of a rendition [of] the song?

Jamie LonoJAMIE LONO: Well I mean, the way I go about music is like, there's only one kind of music and that's good music. Whenever I sing a song that I like, no matter what kind of (unintelligible) they are or where I hear it, I try to take it in and try to understand it and I get to know the song. I really just make it my own rendition. Anna was just such a great song; it's hard not to make it even better.

QUESTION: Monique, what do you see your experience being on The Voice doing for you?

MONIQUE BENABOU: Looking back at it, I was so nervous and so timid. I think it's going to really help my confidence in performing just to drown out the nerves which really, really got to me in that performance and have gotten to me in past performances. I think I'm going to gain a lot of insight on performing from my coach. I'm really excited to see the advice that she has to offer me in regard to that.

QUESTION: Tony, I'm a big fan of yours. When your experience continues on The Voice, what should we expect from you performance-wise? What do you feel like you need to do to continue to step your game up?

TONY VINCENT: I think there are a couple of things so it doesn't come off as just this kind of - what you saw last night was a very big song and a very vocally out there piece of music. Trying to cover Feddy Mercury is a big step forward. I think as I move forward in this process, it's going to be very important to show different levels of who I am as an artist. There's got to be an intimate moment where it could be just me playing guitar and that sort of vulnerable take to be seen. There's going to have to be levels that are shown. That's kind of apparent, I think, with any artist.

If you're an artist, you've got to be a creator of a certain style, but there's got to be the telling of a really great story. There's got to be really great highs and there's got to be some really serious lows. When I say low, I don't mean negative. I just mean some real intimacy drawn in kind of performances. I think that, like I had mentioned with another journalist, that I feel really at home with Cee-Lo being my coach. I think we can both establish that there will be many levels delivered by each performance.

QUESTION: My question is for Anthony. You mentioned that more people are going to be watching you on television than the sum total of the people that had seen you perform live. As you know, there are a lot of really talented singers in Christian music. Why do you suppose there are so few that really are successful at crossing over and reaching that mainstream audience?

ANTHONY EVANS: You know, that's a very interesting question. I've been asked that and that's even been bouncing around in my head. I don't know why it's so hard for a Christian artist to be "successful" in the industry. I honestly just cannot answer that question because I've watched people do it and I've watched it - it kind of worked with some going to back, like Amy Grant and how she crossed over and how that's been great or Joy Williams, now with the Civil Wars. She was a young Christian pop act, you know, earlier one when she was like 14. So it's worked for some and for others, it just doesn't.

I guess it's just an issue of an audience being able to smell a rat. Not being derogatory to anybody who it's not worked with, but I feel like if you're being disingenuous, whether you're doing Christian music or pop music, whatever kind of music, if you're being disingenuous, then people ultimately don't connect with that. That's why I'm really trying to stick to who I am and not trying to change me.

I love that Christina is not trying to change me either. She's not like, Hey Anthony, let's sing bionic and dirty. Let's change who you are." She's not trying to do that. She's allowing me to be myself. I believe that's what translates, is you being authentic and to who you really are, so I'm hoping that will help this scenario work. You just never know, but it's worth trying and I'm excited about the fact that I get to try on a platform this large.

QUESTION: Great, and what have you learned from people like Jeremy Camp and Kirk Franklin?

ANTHONY EVANS: Oh, man. We'd have to talk for a long time about that. There are so many different things. The main thing I've learned from them is that we spend about an hour to two a night on the stage when we're on tour or whatever, but there's so much more life. There's 22 other hours off the stage and it's about holding it together on those 22 hours. You know what I'm saying?

That's what I've learned from them is making sure that I've got myself together off the stage. So when I get on stage, people are getting my best, but also, I don't live in this false world where the stage is reality. I want to give everybody a great show, but the other 22 hours; I want to hold myself together so I don't lose me in all of the hype. That's what I've learned from those two.

QUESTION: Hey, thanks guys. My question is for Justin. Congrats, man. You said just before your performance that you had wanted to be on Cee-Lo's team and of course, that's the team that you're on now. What is it about him that drew you to him as a musical coach?

JUSTIN HOPKINS: Cee Lo has so many different levels and for me musically, I have never really been able to grasp what it is exactly that I wanted to accomplish. My hope was that working with Cee-Lo we could maybe divulge some of those parts in myself from my influence of hip and R and B in my early years into my music. That was one of many fantasies that I had about working with Cee-Lo.

QUESTION: He had said on the show that he wants to help you grow as a performer and help you polish your sound, I think is the phrase he used. Where do you see yourself going as a musician with collaborating with Cee-Lo?

Justin HopkinsJUSTIN HOPKINS: Well, the possibilities are endless. My goal is just to learn and be a sponge in this process. I've always been kind of a wild wheel and it's really nice to have something to really be able to focus and somebody to learn from versus doing everything on your own at your own reckless abandon.

QUESTION: My question is for Jamie. First of all, awesome, awesome version of Folsom Prison Blues.

JAMIE LONO: Oh, thank you.

QUESTION: I really enjoyed your unique take on it. You had asked the judges why they turned around. After hearing their explanations, why did you go with Cee-Lo over Adam when Adam was the first responder, so to speak?

JAMIE LONO: Cee-Lo just said the right things and I felt like I would connect with him really well on a personal level. He's a very laid back guy and very real and very honest. I mean, you're thankful for anyone to turn around, so when two people turn around, it's pretty unreal.

QUESTION: Just a quick thing for Tony, following up on something you'd said a little earlier about going to high school. Did you say you went to high school with Neil Patrick Harris?

TONY VINCENT: Yes, I did. We actually graduated in 1991 together.

QUESTION: Have you guys kept in touch? I'm curious if you've kept in touch and if he's played any role in being the support for you, advice for you...

TONY VINCENT: Yes. We've never lost contact, actually. In high school, we actually were in "The Odd Couple" together. It's kind of funny - the Barney character that he is on his show is the character that he played in "The Odd Couple" when we were in high school.

QUESTION: And were you guys Felix and Oscar together or what?

TONY VINCENT: I don't know, it's just been a great privilege. We had a lot of great, fun opportunities. We were in the same theatre class growing up. I applaud his success. He's had time on Broadway as well, so it's kind of just a mutual respect and you know, it's never really been one of those advising sort of situations or friendships because it just started so young.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you know if he watched you last night?

TONY VINCENT: I do know that he watched me last night, yes.

QUESTION: Did he send you a comment or anything?

TONY VINCENT: No, I just knew that he was going to. I haven't heard from him this morning yet.

QUESTION: What has been the most difficult part of the auditioning process so far and being on The Voice so far?

JonathasJONATHAS: You know what; I honestly have a great time with it. This is everything I've ever wanted. When it comes down to makeup, hair, wardrobe, or whatever the case might be, rehearsing on stage before - honestly, I just love everything we do. I guess I would say just the anxiousness of getting up there and doing it. You kind of have to take baby steps instead of just doing a big show, but I'd say waiting to get up there and doing what you love to do most.

QUESTION: Okay and what about you, Ashley?

ASHLEY DE LA ROSA: I think for me, it was more the nerves just because when you look around, you realize how incredible everyone is. Everyone that auditions for the show is an amazing singer and an amazing performer, so it's just really a humbling experience and I'm eternally grateful for it. I would definitely say that the nerves, they almost got the best of me and also, just singing in front of four incredible performers and singing to their back and trying to get them to turn around, it's pretty nerve racking for anyone.

Maggie Pehanick: What about you, Monique?

MONIQUE BENABOU: Sure. It's been the pressure and the nerves were a direct reason of that pressure that I was feeling. I put it on myself; it was never put there by anyone else, but I felt like so much was riding on the outcome of that performance and that audition. I didn't want to let my parents down, you know? Also, there was a little bit of a selfish desire to have that "who's laughing now" moment because I was hated on so much in high school for doing what I love to do.


MONIQUE BENABOU: Absolutely. That was one of the reasons why I did drop out of high school, because I couldn't deal with it anymore. I wasn't happy and it was very depressing to show up every day to school and just be brought down because I was different.

I grew up in middle school with these kids always making fun of me and I was held back a year because I took a year off in school to take care of my mom while my dad worked 15-hour days to pay her bills. When I got to high school and was reunited with my original class, they didn't like that this underdog who they tortured all throughout middle school was now starting to get popular and starting to get praise for doing what I love to do. I wanted to just go, "See. I told you."

I don't know, there was something there, but most of it was definitely not letting my parents down. They've sacrificed a lot for me and financially, emotionally, I've been away from my family for four years. They kind of guilt me about it all the time, so I just wanted to make it worth it for them and show them that I've been working really hard. I want to take care of my family and this was a start for me to pave the way for that and pave a career to be able to retire my mom and dad and take care of them. That was it.

QUESTION: Thanks. And then just a quick question for Team Cee Lo or really Jamie - after viewing the episode, who would you say is your biggest competition so far?

JAMIE LONO: Oh, man. That's a tough question because everybody on this show is pretty good. You were asking other people about what the most nerve-wracking part of the audition is and I think the most nerve-wracking part is that you see all of these people and you see how great all of the artists are that you're with and it gets in your head. Everybody has a little bit of self-doubt where you're like, "Man, these people are really great." So I think to pick one person and say that they're the biggest competition is so hard because everybody on this show is really awesome.

QUESTION: Monique, what's it like making friends with everyone on the show? You're going to have to compete against them eventually, though.

Monique BenabouMONIQUE BENABOU: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's funny because I didn't have many friends growing up and then I came to The Voice and I met all of these amazing people who just knocked me off my feet with personality, talent, everything at heart. I connected with so many of them and it was so filling to finally be in a group where I was understood. I mean I've made lifelong friends from this show.

How I go into this is that this was not about a competition for me. I'm not competing with anybody. I'm competing with myself. I have to please myself. I'm not there to take anyone's thunder or any of that. It's not about the competition for me. It's about proving something to myself, to my family. We're all in this for the same reason - for the love of what we do for ourselves, for performing, for singing, for songwriting and making a difference in the world through music. It was never about a competition for me.

QUESTION: Some of you are just blowing up already on iTunes and getting a lot of attention from the media. How does that make you feel? Maybe Ashley can talk about how she's suddenly becoming quite well known.

ASHLEY DE LA ROSA: It is kind of unexpected. I really wanted my episode to air and I just really wanted to see it. When it happened, within a few seconds of it - as I was getting ready for bed last night, that was really weird seeing it. I look at Facebook and there are 84 friend requests from people that I've never met before.

The most difficult part of this is trying to stay true and genuine to the people who really love what I do and really care about my voice. At the end of the day, a performer is really nothing without su?pports and without people who love them and care about them, so I'm just going to try and stay true and genuine to people who are appreciative of my voice.

QUESTION: And Tony, could you talk about how you celebrated seeing yourself on The Voice? Did you have a viewing party or have something special to see the event?

TONY VINCENT: Yes. Actually I was surprised because my wife invited about six really close friends over last night and it was just great. I have a real second passion of wine and we had several bottles of wine that were open and it was just a really great intimate and really true party where friends who were artists and not artists just came together and celebrated my triumph initial stage of this. It was really an awesome evening.

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