On Monday, a good portion of the world had the opportunity to meet rock artist Tony Vincent courtesy of his time on “The Voice” — and the show also gave us a brief taste at what the singer, writer, and Broadway performer has accomplished over the course of his career. Thanks to his recording history and past roles on such productions as “Rent” and “American Idiot,” he is one of the reasons that we love NBC’s talent competition as a way to take great established talent to the next level. Plus, the guy can seriously sing.
Lucky for us, we had the opportunity to sit down with Tony following his blind audition this week to find out more about his past, some of his celebrity connections, and how he feels that his brand of music could work both on “The Voice” in addition to once the final curtain drops on the competition this season.
CarterMatt.com: First things first, how have the past couple of days been since the audition?
Tony Vincent: Once the episode aired, it was like the emotional high was so massive, and the comedown was so dramatic. My wife and I sat reading [on Twitter] a bunch of very encouraging and very complimentary comments. We did that until like 3:00 a.m. and then crashed. I’m a big morning person, so sleeping until 9:00 a.m. — or even going to bed at 3:00 a.m. — is plenty weird for me.
[The day after] was pretty rough. It was like an emotional exhale just because we’re still in the throws of this. Getting over that first hump — we can sort of check that box off now. We can now go ahead and look at performing instead of looking at the continual audition sort of [experience].
Did you realize that you were a trending topic worldwide on Twitter after your audition?
My wife told me that. It’s incredibly exciting … I’ve been pretty proud of some of the things that I’ve done in my career, and that’s pretty exciting. It just shows you the power of television.
Before we get into the show, I want to touch on your background. You spend most of the nineties writing in Nashville, correct?
I was. I went to a college called Belmont University in the fall of 1991. My intent was to be an artist — that’s why I moved there. When I was looking at colleges, I was looking [mostly] at New York and L.A. — but I had heard of this school that had a music business degree, which was pretty out of the box at that time since I could satisfy my parents wanting me to have a legitimate career — or at least a legitimate degree — and move ahead with a desire to be a singer / songwriter. I started a record company out of my dorm room my freshman year of college, put out an EP that got the attention of EMI, and ended up signing a record deal the second year I was in college. That kept me in Nashville doing two records [‘Tony Vincent‘ and ‘One Deed‘]. I think I stayed in Nashville for almost seven years before I moved to New York City.
[Did you move to] pursue a career in Broadway?
No, I actually moved to New York to pursue a rock deal — I wanted to do something more progressive. I wanted to do something a little more cutting edge. Since most of my musical influences come from Europe, I thought that the closer I could get to Europe [the better] — and I already had a love for New York.
After moving here, three weeks later in a really short amount of time I ended up booking a gig with the show of ‘Rent’ — and that ended up setting me off on this theater journey. My intent when I moved to New York was not to do theater, but it ended up being this massive blessing as I was on this journey of getting back to being a songwriter.
One of the things I really love about the show is that they find somebody like you who has always been on the cusp and has accomplished so much. I’m a huge ‘American Idiot’ fan and…
So am I! (Laughs.)
I have to believe you would be.
I really am. It is just a great show. The record is unbelievable, and that show and that moment I had a chance to be involved with it is definitely one of the career highlights of my life.
So when it comes to being on ‘The Voice,’ was there anything that drew you to it? Did you watch the first season and see that they were getting artists with a strong musical background?
Actually, I didn’t watch the first year at all. I didn’t watch any episodes from the first season until I knew I had been chosen to be one of the last 200 contestants. What did intrigue me is that someone told me about the coaches making decisions with their backs turned to the artist on stage, and that their choices to build their teams were based solely on vocal quality and something within their vocal quality. That’s what made me [want on] … it’s a very highbrow way and a very positive way of looking at talent. That and the TV medium. I didn’t feel that there were any downsides to giving it a shot.
All of the coaches obviously have their own style, and they’ve all had their own collection of experiences that they are bringing to the show musically. Going into this, were you hoping for Cee Lo [Green] to be your coach based on some of his eclectic background, or were you just hoping to end up with any of them?
It was actually him and Adam [Levine] [that were in the forefront] when I first started the process. I’m a huge fan of the first Maroon 5 record [‘Songs About Jane’], and I’m a really big fan of their drummer. It’s just the way the sonic characteristic of that record came across.
However, I looked at people’s careers, what they were involved with not just as artists individually, but what they have done outside of being artists in the role of being a producer. Cee Lo was the guy I ultimately wanted to go with and I feel incredibly blessed that he is the single chair that turned.
When you performed ‘We Are the Champions,’ was that in any way a strategic move on your part? You obviously know the song very well [courtesy of your time on the ‘We Will Rock You’ production].
It was actually a big blessing, because when we started the competition we were given a list of about 176 songs that we rank in preference of what we go on to sing in the blind auditions … I was actually gifted that song. They got clearance, and I didn’t know I was going to be doing it until quite later in the game. It was kind of a surprise that I got to perform that song since it was not on the list that we had the ability to choose what we wanted to audition to.
I don’t know how much you can tell me on this, but what has been your experience working with Cee Lo since the audition? Have you been starting to prepare for the Battle Rounds?
Yeah. We haven’t had a lot of dialogue, it was just a kind of assembling between him and the 12 of us that he put together.
Obviously, when we go back and get ready to do the battles, I’m sure that there is going to be a lot more hands-on that takes place. Also, there’s a lot more hands-on with the vocal coaches that are our not our esteemed leaders (laughs) — more of vocal coaches that deal with coaching artists in the industry as their job. So we’ll be doing a lot of that, we’ll be doing some individual movement rehearsals to prepare for whatever we need to have happen for the battle itself.
Now … has Cee Lo introduced you guys to that creepy white cat that he pets during [little breaks in the singing]?
(Laughs.) You know, what’s funny is that his cat ‘Purrfect’ and my cat ‘Miss Kate’ have become Twitter friends. So they’re kind of flirting with each other right now. (Note: check it out!)
So I got the impression from Neil Patrick Harris’ Twitter that you guys went to the same high school…
Correct. It’s shocking talking about the talent that has come out of my high school — we had Freddie Prinze Jr., Neil Patrick Harris. We’ve had Olympic gold-medal winners. It’s pretty shocking that this little town of Albuquerque, New Mexico has sort of spawned this lineage of really successful artists and athletes.
I know Lea Michele’s also been someone who has been supporting you a good bit online. Did you guys ever work together, or is that just a product of being within the Broadway community together?
Exactly. It was totally a Broadway community thing. We had really close friends through ‘American Idiot’ and Lea became friends with my wife — so that’s how we built a friendship. It’s great to have these two individuals’ support.
So in looking past ‘The Voice’ for a minute, have you started to think about what sort of music you could put out into the modern landscape? I think it was Dave Grohl who said at this year’s Grammys that there is still great rock music, even if it is harder to find.
I’m really glad that they were showcased in such an amazing place. As articulate as Grohl is, what he said on that stage was my heart. There is still life to music. Though computers definitely are utilized a lot in the way that I write as a songwriter, rock n’ roll is alive and well, even if you do have to search for it. Thank God there are bands like Coldplay and Radiohead and Foo Fighters that are still killing it and selling out arenas.
I’m not too concerned that when you’re dealing with real, authentic music for an artist that it won’t connect with an audience. I actually do have a project that I am in the middle of working on right now that I can’t wait for it to transpire through ‘The Voice’ and I really get a chance to show where I see this production going. It will be very sort of Beatles and Tears for Fears-influenced, but there will be moments of Oasis and The Cure mixed in, as well. I’m really excited about it.
One of my [last questions] is really based on something that I have heard a good bit about from other singer / songwriters that have appeared on these sort of competitions in the past — that they actually have a really difficult time trying to cover other artists’ songs since they are so connected to their own music.
Is this something that you are worried about at all, or are you thinking you’ll be comfortable shifting any song to your own style?
I actually do think it’s going to be a big challenge for me, especially if it’s not a specific genre for me that I feel really comfortable with. That will be a big hurdle for me, and something that I’m going to have to be very open to doing — especially when it’s not always a collaborative choice. Like I mentioned, I was sort of gifted to do ‘Champions’ at the blind auditions. I don’t know how exactly to move forward and what that will be like. It’s going to be a difficult thing! I’m a very big Brit pop / Brit rock fan — to have that sort of juxtaposition of melancholy heartstrings being torn and feeling of loss or feeling of trying to beat the odds and trying to win — like a ‘Champions’ lyric. If a lyric is much more middle of the road and is not very poetic, that’s going to be a struggle for me. It’s going to be hard to connect.
But … I’m in this to win it.
Thanks again to Tony for sitting down to do this interview — the blind auditions are continuing Monday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, and the battle rounds are set to kick off in early March.