Viewers were graced with South Seattle indie soul singer Payge Turner’s talent on NBC’s “The Voice” last season. This year, Seattle-area fans can cheer on not one, but two local contestants.
Singer-songwriters Halley Greg, 29, who lives in Seattle and is from Kennewick, and Savanna Woods, 26, from Stanwood, both impressed coach Kelly Clarkson with their auditions and will be on her team. We chatted with them about their musical backgrounds, audition experiences and what they hope to take away from the show. (The next round of competition — the battle rounds, in which coaches pit two of their own team members against each other — starts 8 p.m. Monday, March 29.)
Greg got involved with music at a young age, doing musical theater at 5 with her older sister at the Tri-Cities’ Academy of Children’s Theatre.
While in college at the University of Washington, she joined a choir where she said her abilities as a vocalist expanded and she fell in love with composition. However, for most of her life, she had no intention of pursuing music as a career. She wanted to follow a more practical career path, so she became a teacher, but she left her teaching job once her music career started to take off.
“Not in a million years did I ever think I would audition for a show like ‘The Voice,’ ” she laughed.
But when she joined a band as a backup singer for fellow local artist Kelsey Sprague, it inspired her to start writing her own music.
“Once that happened, I was filled with this new kind of life,” she said. “It energized me and I realized how much I loved writing songs and performing.”
She said another reason she never considered auditioning for a vocal-competition show is because she suffered from intense stage fright for a long time.
“It was weird because I didn’t have stage fright when I was doing musical theater when I was young because I was performing as someone else,” Greg said. “But anytime I tried to sing as myself, that’s when I would get nervous.”
She overcame that, she said, by singing in choirs and performing in the band — where she wasn’t the sole focus. She got used to being onstage and slowly worked her way up to performing on her own.
Despite this, Greg said she was still incredibly nervous during the blind auditions for “The Voice” because it had been some time since she had performed live. However, she got the attention of Clarkson, who turned her chair around less than 30 seconds into her audition.
Clarkson even stood up near the end of Greg’s performance of “I’m Like A Bird,” by Nelly Furtado, with a very impressed look when she gracefully nailed a run in a high register saying, “That was cool!”
“I was really happy that she turned for me,” Greg said.
Regardless of the outcome of her run on the show, Greg said her experience so far has already been a confidence booster, and an exercise in knowing her worth and the unique things she can bring to the table.
“I can’t try to be anybody else,” she said. “I can only just be myself and be myself as powerfully as possible.”
Woods comes from a musical family, singing with her sisters from a young age.
“There wasn’t really a time where I wasn’t singing or wasn’t writing or somehow involved with music,” she said.
Woods had auditioned for “The Voice” once before when she was 18 but didn’t make it past the initial audition. She said it was before she knew who she was as an artist and hadn’t honed her style yet.
She saw an opportunity to try again when she found out about virtual auditions for the show, and decided to go for it since she wasn’t performing due to the pandemic.
“I grew up watching ‘The Voice’ with my family so it was always sort of a dream to be on a show like that,” Woods said. “I just needed time to really discover myself as an artist.”
She wasn’t nervous for the blind audition; rather, she was excited and got a huge rush of energy before going on.
“I always joke that they should put a punching bag offstage because I get really amped up,” Woods said.
Her performance of “Zombie,” by The Cranberries, made Judge Nick Jonas turn around early on, with Clarkson buzzing in near the end just before she finished. Jonas said he was disappointed when he realized Clarkson turned around and he had competition.
“It was [difficult to choose] in the moment because I had in my mind that I wanted to be on Kelly’s team,” she said. “But then when Nick was giving his feedback and trying to get me on his team, he made a really good argument.”
She ultimately went with Clarkson, who called Woods “cool as hell.” She also remarked that Woods’ performance felt like a combination of folk singer Patty Griffin and local grunge legends Nirvana.
Woods said there’s so much she can learn from someone like Clarkson. She hopes Clarkson can help her get better at what she’s doing and learn more about the industry.
During her time on the show, Woods said she wants people to take away that she’s authentic and true to herself and would like them to know they can feel like that, too.
“I’m not curating things to be a certain style or to be a certain way,” Woods said. “I sing through my feelings. I just kind of follow my heart wherever it goes.”