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Q&A with 'The Voice' standout and Christina Aguilera favorite
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
When Christina Aguilera says your musical talent is amazing, you know you're on the right track to a successful career.
After being cast in "Parenthood" and starring in "Curly Sue," Alisan Porter had a promising acting career before she hit her teenage years. But, deep down, it wasn't the career she wanted.
Alisan fell into addiction in her 20s, but battled back to reclaim her life, start a happy family, and focus squarely on what she said she was born to do: sing.
Today, midway through season 10 of NBC's hit "The Voice," Alisan, 34, has shed the labels of her past and put herself in position to win the Emmy-winning singing competition.
This past week, Alisan won her "Knockout," impressing the coaches with her performance of Joni Mitchell's "River."
Pharrell said, "Alisan, your performance was masterful. You're a seasoned, seasoned artist. And you're so ready for the game. I would give this to Alisan."
Adam Levine said, "Alisan, I do believe you're something special, and we're going to see a lot more of you. Amazing job."
Blake Shelton said, "Alisan came out here and did what she does, which is magic."
He said Alisan sang "incredibly well," and explained, "the pain and heartache song, when it connects, like it did with Alisan, that was so overwhelming. For that reason, Alisan won that round."
Christina Aguilera said, "Alisan, I feel you're just a gift to our show. Every time you come out here, there's just a different element to what you bring to the table, and something new to discover. You know how to use your God-given instrument. And it's amazing what you do."
Following the victory, Christina, Alisan's coach and mentor - and a fellow working mom - said, "Alisan just is amazing. She is special, unique. She's so versatile. Her range is endless."
Alisan, who's been shown after each performance with her husband and small children, found time Thursday to speak with BTS. She shared her thoughts on the journey and teased what she hopes to accomplish once this season has ended.
"The Voice": Singer Alisan Porter competes in the "Battle Rounds." (NBC photo by Tyler Golden)
BTS: How are you juggling motherhood and the show and the press and all of it?
Alisan: It's a lot, but it's amazing. I mean, it's kind of what we signed up for.
The kids are doing awesome. They're with my husband at the moment, and my parents are around the corner, so they are very involved grandparents. And, you know, I'll get to see them here and there, so that's awesome.
The kids are really good. We're FaceTimeing all the time and, you know, just any downtime we get, we're laying in bed talking to you guys, you know?
BTS: Right before the season started, I remember watching a clip on "Today" about a former child star performing on "The Voice." You began the season as "The star of 'Curly Sue.' " Now, you're Alisan Porter, the singer. How does that make you feel?
Alisan: Yes! So good. It's really all I've ever wanted. I obviously love the fact that I was able to do amazing things like star in a movie when I was young. But, when you're 34, and you have a totally new sense of self, and you want to so badly be a part of the music industry and make your mark, to be able to see that happening is absolutely why I made the choice to do "The Voice." And what I prayed that would happen.
To hear you say it out, even, is just, like, "Oh, finally!" You know?
BTS: You've performed exceptionally well. I don't know when you last sang on stage. What was your expectation coming into this? Not knowing when or if you sang for an audience right before this, how far did you think you'd go? Did you think that you'd be a frontrunner?
Alisan: I don't know if I was really thinking about that as much as I was thinking about just keeping my nerves in check. Because I tend to be like a nervous Nelly before I perform - even if I'm just doing a small gig. I'm just always super-nervous. So, that was the main thing for me.
And then I think the other thing was just trying to remember that the most important thing is that I give it every single time like it's the last. Because you just never know on a show like this. Every single time - even blinds - you might not get that chair.
I think my main focus was just performing like it was my last time on that stage. And what mark would I want to leave, if that was the case? I've just kind of continued with that throughout this whole process.
BTS: How much stage singing had you done the months or even the year or two prior to "The Voice"?
Alisan: Right before "The Voice," I was laying pretty low. I mean, I had played a couple of gigs here and there, but really I was just staying home and raising my kids and being a mom.
I've performed on stage my whole life (including Broadway). I've definitely done a lot of work on the stage. But, this is a whole other - it's really a whole different thing.
BTS: Tell me about your bond with Christina. She really has championed you from the beginning.
Alisan: Yeah, she is incredible. Even just the other day in rehearsal with her, I mean every single time we spend time together, more and more I'm just so happy that she turned for me, and that I chose her. (Alisan had a four-chair-turn audition.)
You know, she has so much wisdom. She has so much - it's almost like we don't have to talk. I know what she needs from me, and I can kind of sense exactly where she wants me to go with a song.
We just have this really awesome connection. We bond over motherhood. We bond over being kind of that powerhouse belter, and sort of how to harness that. She's just amazing.
Alisan Porter in her blind audition. (NBC photo by Tyler Golden)
BTS: Interestingly enough, we talk to a lot of singers each season, and not all of them actually want to win. A lot of them are just happy with the platform and the coaching. Assuming you want to win, what will it take for you to win the show this season?
Alisan: You know (laughs). It's such a hard question. I mean, what I think it will take for me is just connecting with an audience and giving that performance of a lifetime every single week. I'm hoping that that's enough.
I mean, I think there's a lot that goes into it. You know, showing your personality and really being open and talking to fans. And I love all of that stuff. So, I hope that all of those things combined help me, if my goal is to win. Which, you know, I think. ... You know, it is an incredible platform. Don't get me wrong. And it's the truth. But, to say you don't want to win. ... I mean, I understand the sentiment, completely. And I feel that way. I don't necessarily wake up every morning and say, "I'm going to win this show." And I would be so thrilled for anybody in the top right now. ...
I think I have to just really apply myself to each week - each performance. I like to take life one day at a time. I'm kind of taking this journey one performance at a time.
BTS: Win or lose, obviously it's a great platform. You're performing in front of 10-15 million people each week. You're charting on iTunes. You've set yourself out there as a star in the making in the music world. When this is over, what kind of musician do you ultimately want to be? What kind of a record would you want to make?
Alisan: You know, I really want to bring that old-school vibe back. You know, that '60s-'70s, Joni Mitchell/Janis Joplin/Stevie Nicks, you know, real, beautiful lyrics. Beautiful ballads. And then kick-ass rock songs. That's kind of where I feel the most comfortable and how I get in my zone. And I think that it hasn't really been done yet, where that's sort of brought into the music of today.
I think Grace Potter is a good example of somebody like that. Or maybe Florence - she's a little bit more indie. But, you know, somewhere along those lines, where you really do feel that influence from the '60s and '70s and bring it into pop music today - to see how that works out.
That's kind of the thing I've always sort of wanted. So, I'm hoping that, through this process and into the next phase of my career, that's really what I can kind of hone in on to figure out.
BTS: You come from a very hard, very fickle industry. You're now entering an even harder, even more fickle industry. You know, once this season is over, viewers will be focused on the next batch of singers on "The Voice." What are your thoughts on building a sustainable music career, and what have the coaches or producers said about that?
Alisan: You know, I think with the success of Jordan Smith (season nine's winner), I think the show is probably really excited to (see that) - because I know that they've been scrutinized before about what happens to the artists after "The Voice." And I'm sure that they're hearing that. And I think with Jordan you can kind of tell that they are maybe a little bit more invested. Also, Jordan is incredible, and sort of stands on his own.
I guess I hope I can do the same. I hope that, throughout this process, I can get to sort of that place where I don't disappear. Because I definitely don't plan to. I just keep manifesting this to continue, because it's been such an honor for me to step into this realm of my career and my life. And I just want to hang on to it.
So, whatever I can do, afterwards, I will do to remain in the zone.
"The Voice" continues at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC.
Watch Alisan perform "River":