Behind the Beat: Chatting With Contestants of The Voice Season 16

Season 16 of The Voice was revolutionary, to say the least. From the addition of the live Cross Battles round to the inauguration of Coach John Legend, the bar was set higher than ever before—and the contestants certainly did not disappoint. This season’s top 13 featured country, pop, and even rap singers that bared their souls on the stage each week. Below, in honor of this week’s season finale, multiple fan favorites take readers behind-the-scenes of their life-changing experience.

Why did you decide to audition for The Voice?

Maelyn Jarmon: Someone from The Voice actually reached out to me on Instagram! I had a private audition in Dallas.

Andrew Sevener: I decided to audition on a whim. I was in a rut with my music career where I was not seeing any changes. I was playing the same places and wearing myself out by working during the day and playing almost every night. I felt like I needed a change and trying out for the Voice would be a good way to mix it up a bit!

Gyth Rigdon: I felt it was the next step in my career in order to broaden my fan base across America.

Dexter Roberts: God gave me this gift and ability, and I felt like The Voice was the best way to share it with the world!

Rod Stokes: I wanted to see if I could get the attention of a record label or producer.

Carter Lloyd Horne: I just always had this dream of performing on The Voice stage, so when I heard they were coming to Georgia, I had to give it a shot.

Kim Cherry: I was at a restaurant at a movie theater waiting for the film to start and The Voice was on the TV. It was the first time I had ever seen the blind auditions and the woman singing reminded me a little of myself. I thought I could probably be up there doing that, so I made an artist account on their website right then. I went to an open call in Chicago and in Boston the next year with no success! The Voice contacted me a few months later about the blind auditions!

Mari: I had just finished cosmetology school and was working in a salon. I love the beauty industry, but it was definitely more of a plan B for me until I could figure out how to be successful in music. I was reaching a point where I knew that what I needed to do to be happy was to perform and write music. So I decided to take a leap of faith and try out for The Voice!

Jej Vinson: One of the members of the casting crew saw me sing background vocals at my friend's show. She emailed me that same week asking for more videos of me singing. I thought it would be a cool opportunity to give it a try.

Oliv Blu: Auditioning for The Voice was a huge leap of faith. I was very skeptical at first because I was invited to audition by one of the casting producers via email. I literally did not think it was real and that someone was trying to scam me. After doing some research and confirming that it was a real invitation, I went for it because I had nothing to lose. I had never done anything on that large of a scale yet, so auditioning was a big step for me in my career.

How did you decide which coach you were going to choose?

Lloyd Horne: You go in with an idea of who you want and who you’re going to choose, but it was an in-the-moment decision for me. There was just something about the way Blake [Shelton] spoke to me on stage that confirmed he would be the best coach for me.

Jarmon: I always knew I wanted John Legend. He’s a musical genius and storyteller. I knew we’d be a great fit!

Mari: I’ve been a fan of Maroon 5 since I was really young, and after watching the show for quite a while, I knew that I loved Adam [Levine]’s coaching style. I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, and I don’t want to fit into any particular box, which Adam has been able to accomplish with Maroon 5. I wanted to be guided by him because he is taking the exact path that I hope to follow!

Vinson: I stuck with my gut. All of the coaches are fantastic, but I initially wanted to work with John Legend, because who doesn't want to? Kelly Clarkson won my heart after my audition though, because I could tell how passionate she was about working with me. I did not regret making that decision.

Blu: John Legend was the only coach that turned, so my decision was made for me. Going into the competition, I had my eyes set on John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. John Legend is the obvious pick because he is a living legend in my genre, but Kelly Clarkson was someone who I wanted to work with to challenge myself. She is known for hitting strong high notes and that’s something that I only have just started to develop with my voice. There was a lot to be learned from her, but I wouldn't change a thing about how things panned out for me.

Roberts: I knew I was going with Blake before I even stepped on stage.

Cherry: I thought I had a better chance of standing out on Blake’s team versus Kelly’s team, so I just chose Blake on a whim! Blake was really pushing me to do something different, and I’m all about that!

Rigdon: Before I stepped on stage, I knew I was stuck between Blake and Kelly. I ultimately went with Blake because I felt like we would be able to get along on a personal level since we like the same things such as hunting, fishing, and the outdoors.

Sevener: Blake was the only coach that had turned for me in the blinds. So really, he chose me more than anything, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it! He’s an awesome guy!

Stokes: My first choice didn’t turn for me, so I went with the obvious coach that shares the love for country music as me--Blake.

What was your favorite part of being on the show and why?

Blu: I can’t choose between getting glammed up with the wardrobe and glam team on show days and spending time with my fellow contestants. I loved the wardrobe team because I gave them a style sheet with clothes that I like, and they took it to another level. They were all looks that I loved, I just never knew how to put them together. Once hair and makeup came in, you couldn't tell me anything! I always felt so pretty because I don't usually do my makeup, and I was amazed by what they were able to do with my face. Outside of having fun with wardrobe, the bond that the contestants shared was indescribable. The cameras don’t capture our relationship behind the scenes, and it truly is one huge family. Everyone comes from across the country and for this season, overseas from South Africa. You get a taste of how people from different states and countries act and what’s normal to them versus what’s normal to you. Being on The Voice was unlike anything most of us have ever done, and sharing that experience was what made us so close.

Roberts: Meeting all of the other contestants because we’re like a family now. I’ve also loved working with Blake!

Cherry: I love performing on that stage so much, but forming relationships with fellow artists is the best part! These people are so cool, talented, and fun to be around. I had no idea I would find forever friends in this process.

Jarmon: Meeting all the other contestants and making lifelong friends was a huge highlight! But obviously, the best moments were being on stage and connecting with the audience. The fans were absolutely amazing and John was a dream to work with.

Stokes: Meeting all of the other contestants! I’ve made a ton of lifelong friendships from all over the country!

Vinson: Working with people. It's truly a once in a lifetime experience to get to work with people that are huge in the industry. I'm also forever grateful for the friendships I made with the contestants while I was on the show.

Sevener: Meeting the other artists and seeing myself grow as an artist and performer. I’ve gained a second family on the show and spread out across the nation. I know I can call a few of the fellow artists if I ever need anything and they’d have my back, no matter what. The bond is amazing to me! Also, looking back on my gigs from home compared to now, I’ve seen everything Blake has taught me come into play. I feel like my artistry and my performance has increased tenfold.

Rigdon: Working alongside Blake and hearing the feedback from the other coaches. It is such a vote of confidence to hear compliments and constructive criticism from some of the top artists in the music industry.

Mari: Definitely the friendships I’ve made. We’ve become such a tight-knit family, and I’ve made so many friends that I know I’ll have for life.

Lloyd Horne: The other artists and the fans. I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime on this show, and all the fans are so lovely.

What was the most challenging part of being a contestant?

Sevener: Staying healthy. It gets very tough between rehearsals with the bands, stage blocking, run-throughs, vocal lessons, and more. However, I feel like I have a leg up compared to others because I am used to not sleeping much and living a busy life.

Stokes: Being away from my wife for so long. It was rough!

Lloyd Horne: There were a lot of long days, and being away from my friends and family was always tough.

Jarmon: The schedule was extremely busy. On TV, you only see a small part of what we do. We have multiple rehearsals, B-roll, commercials, voice lessons, and interviews. It was hectic but so fun.

Rigdon: It was difficult coming on the show as an artist that plays for a living and tours. When you perform live at a show, you can stumble, fall, and maybe hit a false note and it can be covered up. On The Voice, you have to be 100% at all times because you're on live television and there is no room for errors. It makes you work harder to be your best when you perform.

Vinson: Maintaining self-confidence while people on the internet tried to bring me down. We always encourage each other to not read anything on social media, but we are just humans, and sometimes we simply slip. I think most of all, this show has taught me to have thick skin, and I've learned to accept that not everyone's gonna like what I do.

Cherry: It was tough to manage the thought of wanting to make it to the next round each week yourself, but also wanting the people you love to move on as well. Each victory was bittersweet because I felt like everyone deserved to be there.

Mari: It was a pretty demanding schedule! It was all very fun and exciting, but there was a lot that went into preparation for the show, so getting rest and staying healthy was a huge deal.

Roberts: Singing against all of the amazing, talented artists! You had to bring your A game every week!

Blu: Getting used to the busy work schedule we had. After getting to the weekly live shows, we had to learn songs very quickly. In the midst of learning, we still had to do interviews, wardrobe fittings, and film B-roll throughout the day. Sometimes you could only have a few hours to learn your song before going into your first rehearsal. I think we all surprised ourselves though because we always managed to get everything done. Personally, it showed me that I could do anything as long as I was dedicated and committed to it.

What is one thing people may not know about working with your coach?

Jarmon: [John] really, truly cares. He’s invested and he wants his team to feel comfortable and confident in their songs. He also has Frozen stickers on his laptop, which he claims are from his daughter.

Vinson: Kelly is so invested in working with her artists. Every song choice was very carefully thought out, and she made me feel at home during rehearsals. She's incredibly hard-working, and it was reflected in how she interacted with me. On top of that, she really tries to bond with her artists whenever she can.

Mari: How real Adam is! The first time I ever went into a rehearsal with him, I knew I had made the perfect choice. He does a great job at making you feel at ease, encouraging you to be confident, and helping you not be afraid to make mistakes.

Blu: One thing people may not know about working with Blake Shelton [the coach that stole me during the Battles] is that he is very, very tall. You literally can't imagine how tall he is until you see him in person with open arms coming to give you a hug. I didn't know his height before I met him, so it took me by surprise. Besides his height, Blake is a very chill person. Although we were working, it didn't really feel like work, and that’s cause he made it feel like home. He never wanted to change who I was, and I really appreciated that. For John Legend, it was no surprise that he is a musical perfectionist. I only got to work with him for the battle round, when I sang with my girl, Kayslin Victoria, but I learned a lot about why he's so successful during that rehearsal. He is hands-on in his approach to coaching and knows exactly what he wants. He gave us the vision and let us interpret it in our own artistic way.

Rigdon: I think people already know that Blake is funny and very outgoing, but they may not know that he is a genuine and down-to-earth guy. He respects music, each of his artists’ crafts, and what they want to bring to the stage, and he helps them achieve their goals.

Cherry: It was honestly just like hanging out with a buddy! Blake is so warm and welcoming that sometimes I forgot I was working with a superstar!

Lloyd Horne: Blake is the exact same on camera as he is off camera. He’s one of the funniest people I have ever met.

Sevener: Blake is fantastic! He’s a regular Joe that’s just super tall and can sing! He’s a great human being, and he’s extremely fun to be around.

Roberts: Blake is a really down-to-earth and humble guy.

Stokes: Working with Kelly was amazing! She’s one of the most down to earth people that I have ever met. She is truly genuine, compassionate, and cares about her artists’ futures in music.

What was it like working with the wardrobe team?

Sevener: The wardrobe team at The Voice is made up of some of the nicest, hard-working, and understanding individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. They take your personality into account when helping you get your style down. They don’t just throw you in a random outfit and push you out the door. They work so hard to make sure all of the artists look their best. At the end of the show days, I saw some of them worn out from fixing things last minute and making sure everything fit. I was just so happy to have been able to work with this team!

Rigdon: The best part about working with wardrobe was how they allowed me to be myself and stick to the style I chose as an artist. They are awesome people and they worked so hard to make us all look great for the show.

Cherry: The wardrobe team is composed of a bunch of geniuses! I dress so casual in my everyday life, and I have also fluctuate weight a lot, so I don’t really know how to dress my body properly. They did! They have honestly changed my life and helped me strengthen my self-love. They made me feel like a fierce queen.

Mari: Working with wardrobe was one of my favorite parts of the experience. I love fashion and being able to express myself through what I wear, so collaborating with such talented stylists was a dream for me.

Stokes: The wardrobe team is incredible and world class! [My favorite outfit was] a military style jacket with python boots.

Blu: I love the wardrobe team! They are all so sweet, and they got my style down so well. There were some things that they showed me that I was a little skeptical about at first, but after seeing it on me, I was surprised at how well the pieces came together. They definitely know what they're doing, and I really appreciated everything they did for us. They worked very hard behind the scenes, and they deserve much more credit than they receive. My favorite outfit was one of my results looks. It was the look I was wearing when I found out I was in the top 13.

Jarmon: The Voice Wardrobe is amazing! My stylist, Hachy, rocked it! My favorite outfit was the one I wore for my performance of “The Scientist.” It was originally pants and a long shirt, but Hachy, the tailors, and I put our brains together and decided the top should be a bodysuit with a V cutout along with a belt. It came together beautifully.

Vinson: Working with the wardrobe team is an absolute dream. It's not every day that you get styled by the best of the best and get to wear awesome clothes. My favorite outfit was my top 24 outfit. I love the jacket they gave me, and it just gave me a really "swaggy" look overall.

Lloyd Horne: The wardrobe team is so fantastic and accommodating. I particularly loved the outfit I wore for my top 24 performance, mainly because of the boots.

Roberts: Working with the wardrobe team was a cool experience. They had all of the country boys looking fresh.

What is your main takeaway as a contestant?

Rigdon: That I have to be ready to perform and give it my all at all times. Prior to the show, I was a live performer, not someone who performed on TV. I have always been focused on giving a great show even if my vocals were at 90% instead of 100% because I liked engaging with the fans at my shows. However, on The Voice, the viewers and coaches can hear every note, so I had to make sure my vocals are at 100% in order to deliver an amazing performance.

Lloyd Horne: I’ve always struggled with believing I was good enough to really pursue music as a career, but being on The Voice showed me that I do have what it takes.

Mari: Regardless of how everything ended, we all won in some way. The exposure, the platform, and the ability to work with and learn from such influential artists in the industry is invaluable.

Cherry: That I’m worthy just the way I am! I’m so pleased that I can be my true self on and off stage and easily form strong relationships and reach people with my performances.

Sevener: I’ve learned how to be myself on stage and just have fun! I now know how the music business works and I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned.

Jarmon: To trust myself and the fact that I’m enough. I never thought I would make it so far in a competition like this. I was always extremely true to who I am. I did not try to be impressive, I tried to leave an impression.

Vinson: To appreciate every single thing that's happening in my life. What goes in the show is absolutely amazing, and I want to absorb every single thing and live in every single moment as much as possible.

Blu: Confidence. Never ever underestimate your ability. If you told me a year ago that I would be singing live on national television, I would've thought you were crazy. The first few times were probably the scariest, but after that, it became so much fun. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and you can only gain from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. My prayer before each show was always for God's light to shine through me, and that alone brought me so far.

Roberts: I am super blessed and God is so good!

Stokes: To always work hard! If it’s easy, then you really aren't learning much.

What can fans expect from you in the future?

Blu: In the future, fans can expect new music and performances across the country. Eventually, I want to travel overseas and perform in various countries. I don’t have any official release dates as of now but stay on the lookout. In the long run, I plan to host and speak at conventions for young girls who struggle to embrace their hair as I did in the past. My natural hair texture is very kinky and curly, and historically it hasn’t been seen as “beautiful.” It’s not often seen on TV and advertising because people with my hair type are told that it’s only pretty when it’s straight. Because of that, there is also a lack of information on how to take care of it, so I’d like to help dispel the hair beauty standard.

Roberts: One heck of a show!

Cherry: Tons of live party shows and 90s music! Although Boston is my home, I would love to play shows everywhere!

Sevener: More shows, new music, and fun! I plan to work hard and play as much as I can, wherever I can, and have a blast with everyone who shows up!

Rigdon: Expect different sides of me you haven't seen before. I will be singing different genres of music with different styles. Fans can also expect me to come to their hometowns to sing for them. I am currently planning a tour to play in as many different states and towns as I can.

Vinson: Lots and lots of original music. I'm glad I get to show my fans a little bit of who I am as an artist by switching up songs that are given to me to make it fit my style more.

Mari: Lots of music! I’m always trying to work on and perfect the sound that I want. I want to be able to bring something to the fans that's different and hopefully inspire others.

Jarmon: Music! I have original music waiting to be recorded. I want to release it and hopefully tour.

Stokes: More and more! I’m going to open up vocally, and the fans will love it!

Lloyd Horne: More fun outfits, exciting performances, and a lot of good songs!

Follow the Contestants on Instagram:

Maelyn Jarmon: @maelynmusic

Gyth Rigdon: @gythrigdon

Andrew Sevener: @andrew7ermusic

Dexter Roberts: @dexterrobertsmusic

Rod Stokes: @rodstokesmusic

Carter Lloyd Horne: @carterlhorne

Kim Cherry: @kimcherrysings

Mari Jones: @marijonesofficial

Jej Vinson: @jejvinson

Oliv Blu: @olivblu