Chris Mann is one of the most successful Voice alums, but like many Voice hopefuls, the Season 2 Team Xtina finalist was an industry veteran when he went on the show, with many setbacks behind him, including an aborted Sony record deal. That disappointment literally drove him to drink, but as he recently revealed to Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks, a drunken, random New York City encounter set him back on the right path – a path that led him to a second chance on The Voice and, eventually, to the titular role in this year’s touring production of Phantom of the Opera.
“I was showcasing at iTunes in San Francisco; it was me, Imogen Heap, Howie Day, and Cage the Elephant,” Chris recalled during a pre-Sunday-matinee chat in his Phantom dressing room at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre. (The same Sunday, it should be noted, that the Kardashian/Jenner clan showed up and caused a media frenzy.) “And I found out that day that I’d been dropped and my record wasn’t coming out. They had fired all the [Sony] executives, my A&R, the president, everybody. So it was very confusing to be at an event promoting my record and then learn that the record wasn’t going to come out! So I came back to New York and entered the ‘72 hours of darkness,’ as I like to call it – aka, a three-day bender of depression and just devastation, honestly.”
Chris was well into his third day of binge-drinking in Central Park when he ran out of alcohol and went on a liquor store run, only to end up bumping into an old mentor.
“I physically ran into Clive Davis on the street,” Chris said with a laugh. “He was like, 'Hey Chris, what’s new? Why don’t you come up to my office?’ So I went to his office and played him some of my songs, and he sort of gave me some encouragement. It was a total life universe intervention at the time, because I was completely down-and-out and devastated. And then to run into the biggest, most famous record executive ever on the street in that moment, I think that wasn’t an accident. I think it was a total kick in the pants to sort of get back on my feet – which you have to do all the time in this business.”
Now that Chris has established himself as one of The Voice’s few real success stories, he has some advice as the series enters its ninth season in four years. “The Voice is such an amazing institution, and I owe a lot to that show, but that show could do a lot better at curating their success stories, which are plenty,” he said, citing two contestants from his own season alone, Team Blake country ingénue RaeLynn and Team Adam’s Nicolle Galyon, who’s gone on to write for Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum, and Florida Georgia Line. “That would be my one recommendation: If you [Voice producers] are wishing you had more public success stories, then reinvest in your talent, because it’s there… That’s what Idol does well.”
Watch Chris’s full interview above for more talk about his transition from the Voice stage to the Phantom stage, his reissued pop single “L.O.V.E.” (which was actually featured on a Kardashian TV show back in the day), and his new crowd-sourced music to come.