Think of it as The First Supper. One night before taping the initial audition episodes of his new NBC show The Voice, exec producer Mark Burnett wanted the music competition series' four coaches — Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine — to bond. So, after handing over his personal credit card, he sent them off to L.A.'s trendy Soho House for dinner. Shelton was the first to get there, with Levine and Green not far behind. The three performers then took bets on whether Aguilera would show up. "When I arrived, they had shocked looks on their faces," she recalls with a laugh. "They didn't think I was going to make it."
As the evening rolled on, and one bottle of champagne turned into several, the singers realized how much they believed in each other and the show's mission: discovering new musical talents by first hearing, and not seeing, them. Not only did the coaches connect with each other that night, but the chemistry they've created has hooked viewers as well. The Voice has averaged 12 million viewers in its first four weeks. The show has survived all "the initial views from skeptics who wanted to see whether or not we'd be a train wreck," says Green.
And as for Burnett, he's convinced his dinner plan was worth the price he paid. There's just one problem: He still doesn't know what that price is. "They called the next day and said, 'You're going to regret giving your credit card to us.' I haven't even looked at the bill yet. I don't want to look. I'm just extremely relieved that their natural chemistry is coming through."
As the coaches prepare for the first live shows beginning June 7, when viewers will begin voting on which singers stay or go, they tell TV Guide Magazine — in their own voices — about their connection with one another, their coaching styles and which one is known as the Dirty Uncle (take a wild guess).
The reaction to the show has been a lot more than I expected. I've always been a country artist struggling to get on television, but now that I am, it's a completely different world. Now I'm "that guy from that show," which is fine. I'm happy with anything that can help people focus on what I do, which is make music.
That's my strength as a coach. I've made tons of mistakes along the way, and I love to share that with my team, not just for this show but for the journey beyond for them. There are things I've done in my shows that I wish I hadn't — bad song selection, showing too much nerves or attitude — and a couple of girls on my team get really nervous. Clearly I don't have a problem coming out of my shell, but that wasn't always the case. Who knows? I might take them to make asses of themselves at karaoke and get it all out of their system.
One thing I'm not doing is coaching them on how to sing. They know how to do that. I'm mostly trying to figure out what the right songs are for them. We're communicating through email because the network wants us to have a little distance from them. I'm getting more emails than I've ever seen in my life!
I have no idea what the other coaches are doing or how into it they are with their teams. I just want to keep it light and fun for mine. The only part I don't like about working with them is I have to be the one who whittles down 50 percent of the team. The fun stuff I'd like to do with [them] won't happen till the live shows start. That's when we dig in, and it's more about what America thinks. That's when I'm out of the equation and I can be the parent at the baseball game in the stands.
Doing The Voice has given me a whole new perspective on music. It's really humbled me. I've spent so many years working my ass off and doing my thing with my band and I'm really happy and satisfied, but it's been a life-changing experience being a mentor. I think of myself as a child and never realized I'd turn around and have something to offer someone else who was starting out.
Critiquing my team is not as important to me. My whole angle is that we've heard people say brutal truths on these kinds of shows, but I don't know that's what viewers are interested in. I'm more about the overall feeling I get when I hear somebody sing. I think the singers being on the show at all is a success. You're exposed to a huge number of people who see you sing, so you're happy. Even if you go home tomorrow, you're happy. This is the spark that could ignite a career. I'm pretty confident that whatever happens, this isn't the end for them.
It's also a new experience for us as coaches. We're in foreign territory. Everyone's having fun and doing something different. We get a chance to talk and show our personalities, something we never get to do. Not to take away from the artists, but if there's no chemistry between the four of us, there's no show. As for what I bring to the group, I like to defuse things by making light of the situation and having fun. The other coaches make up crap about me, but it's all in good fun. That's what it's all about at the end of the day. I've found three friends in all of this.
For more on The Voice from coaches Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, May 26!
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