The Voice's Caroline Pennell on Tackling Bieber, Rocking 'Royals,' Accepting Cee Lo's Laid-Back Coaching: 'Everyone Else Was Standing Up'
Don’t send out a search party for the nervous teenage girl who started giggling when Cee Lo and Blake Shelton turned around during The Voice‘s Season 5 Blind Auditions. Caroline Pennell says that person is gone forever.
“It’s crazy, the transition from being on that stage and having it seem like such an incredible, unreal thing to having it feel normal,” says Pennell, explaining her inner transformation over the last few months — a transformation that carried her all the way to a Top 8 finish. “That’s my normal now, and it’ll always be normal, and having that newfound confidence is so valuable.”
Pennell says that her experience performing on The Voice — and watching the EP she self-released before entering the competition make it to the iTunes Top 40 — has further motivated her to try to make a go of it in the music biz — not that she’s in a mad rush to map out her exact plan for chart domination.
“Right now, I just want to think about my room and my bed. College will always be there, and I’m fortunate enough that when the time is right, when I feel ready, I can go,” she says. “But I’ve found myself through this whole process; I have a better idea of where I want to head, and I’m just looking forward to assembling a team that has the same vision.”
TVLine caught up with Pennell to talk about the highs and lows of her Voice experience, Cee Lo’s relatively muted on-air feedback and her flawless duet with current Top 5 contestant Tessanne Chin.
TVLINE | What made you choose Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen” for your Blind Audition? And how important was it for you to put your own spin on it?
I love Ellie Goulding, and that’s what I sang the first time I met the show’s casting director. And yeah, I felt like it was important to make every song your own. If I’ve learned anything from being on this show, I just try and sing songs in the way that’s easiest for me to sing them. [Laughs] If that means carrying out a new melody or phrasing — if that makes it unique and different — then that’s the best of both worlds. So, I’m very lucky in that way, that by accommodating my own needs and maybe my laziness, that kind of helped me. [Laughs]
TVLINE | You really identified yourself as a major contender in the Battle Rounds duet with Anthony Paul on Justin Bieber’s “As Long as You Love Me.” Did you have any initial hesitation when Cee Lo gave you that track?
I definitely had a fear, just because there’s always a stigma that comes with pop stars like [Justin] with such a large following. There are so many people who love their songs, and so many people who don’t. But there was an advantage in that it was current, and people like to hear current music, especially a different version of something they know all the words to.
TVLINE | You gave the song an ethereal quality, brought the lyrics to life in a way that made me feel I was hearing it for the first time, but you didn’t abandon the R&B groove, either. It wasn’t like you turned it into Enya.
As artists, all we can do is try to make the song mean something, because if it doesn’t, it’s just noises. [Laughs] When anything is slowed down, it sounds different, especially the contrast of a male singer to a female singer. It definitely worked out in my favor in that scenario, and it’s actually a beautiful song. A lot of the songs on the radio that are backed by that heavy pop beat have good content. It all means something.