The Season 15 champion, nicknamed “My country Tinkerbell” by her coach, Kelly Clarkson, is none other than New Mexico native Chevel Shepherd, 16.
LOS ANGELES – TV viewers enjoyed a great view of Tuesday’s finale of “The Voice,” but there’s a whole different perspective from a seat in the studio audience — and a whirlwind of action that takes place before the show, during commercial breaks and after a new champ is crowned.
Here’s a peek at what you missed amid a torrent of performers (both live and pre-taped) and the coronation of New Mexico teen Chevel Shepherd in the final moments of the Season 15 finale.
The show must go on even before the TV show goes on. Nearly an hour before the 9 p.m. EST live broadcast, fans packed into the bleachers and up-close standing-room areas of the NBC soundstage get a treat: a taping of “O Holy Night” by singing stars and “Voice” coaches Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson that will be played back during the broadcast.
They sound great to the fans, but Clarkson, who’s hoarse from a mild illness, asks for a retake, a luxury not available during the live show. She apparently forgets her microphone is on, as she utters a mild expletive. The sweet and straightforward singer instantly realizes her gaffe and says politely, “Oh, sorry.”
Later, during a press conference with 16-year-old Shepherd, Clarkson explains how she tried to disguise her “raspy” voice. “Jennifer was trying to help me. I was like, ‘Sing a big note when I do, so they won’t know.’”
The calm before the live storm. Ten minutes before “The Voice” goes live to most of the country, five crew members are standing on the stage chatting. No one seems nervous; they’ve done this before. A few minutes later, host Carson Daly arrives. An announcer warns it’s 30 seconds until the show goes live, and Daly punches the air a few times to rev up the crowd. It’s showtime!
Everybody goes to Blake’s. The commercial breaks bring a swirl of activity, as producers, makeup artists and hair stylists swarm around the coaches’ iconic chairs. Coach Adam Levine, who doesn’t have a finalist in this season’s hunt, is out and about, doing a little dance move in front of the chairs. He and Clarkson frequently stop by Blake Shelton’s chair on the left. Later, he’s glimpsed standing next to Clarkson’s chair to watch a taped piece in which he plays Santa Claus.
Hugs for everyone. The coaches are an affectionate bunch. Shelton greets and hugs Rascal Flatts members after the group’s performance, while Levine and Clarkson go up on the stage to hug eliminated “Voice” contestants Abby Cates, Reagan Strange and Sarah Grace after they sing Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons.”
Is it live? Performances are introduced seamlessly on the live TV show, but many were taped in advance and play for the studio audience on two large screens. The crowd powers up for live performances, including finalist-star collaborations with Kennedy Holmes and Kelly Rowland; Chris Kroeze and the Doobie Brothers; and Kirk Jay and Rascal Flatts. Dierks Bentley adds energy venturing into the fan pit and before getting a royal welcome from the coaches during the commercial break.
Tension, anyone? After Holmes and Jay are eliminated, remaining finalists Shepherd and Kroeze stand on stage waiting to learn who won during what must seem an interminable commercial break. Minutes later, Daly ends the suspense, announcing Shepherd’s triumph. Forecast: a confetti blizzard!
Meet the press. Moments after Shepherd’s coronation, the champ enters another building on the NBC lot for a short press conference, as an ebullient Clarkson leads the way. She struts in, cooing, “I am so happy!” Later, she tries to energize the gathered reporters: “Alright, who wants to ask (Chevel) something? First of all, she just won ‘The Voice!’ Come on!”
Meet USA TODAY. After the press conference, USA TODAY gets the first one-on-one with new champ Shepherd and Clarkson, who heaps praise on the young singer for her performance of “Broken Hearts,” a song she had once considered singing.
Asked if a rights issue stopped her from performing the song, the delightfully straightforward mother of two responds, “Oh, no. I got knocked up, sir. I got knocked up for a second time. It was bad timing because I was trying to make a country record.” But good timing for her family.
The pair clearly enjoy a rapport, as Clarkson suggests song styles for Shepherd’s upcoming album. “I could see you doing something like ‘Before He Cheats,’ Carrie (Underwood) kind of stuff,” she suggests.
“That’s the first Carrie Underwood song I learned,” Shepherd replies, in a conversation about one “American Idol” with the first “Idol” winner.
“Oh, really?” Clarkson says, revealing her inner fan. “That’s my favorite Carrie Underwood song.”
And, after congratulations and a goodbye, the dynamic duo is off to the next of many happy interviews.
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