The hugely successful vocal competition The Voice is back on NBC for its seventh season, and this time around, music superstars Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams join Adam Levine and Blake Shelton as celebrity musician coaches. With some of the biggest names in music putting together teams of the strongest vocalists from across the country, assembled through the blind audition process, they then bringing in equally recognizable talent to help advise their competitors during the battle rounds. Once they get down to the top 12 artists, it is up to America to pick the ultimate winner.
During a recent conference to promote the new season, new The Voice coaches Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams talked about why they decided to join the show, coaching style, getting competitive, what a great time they’re having working together again, how Gavin Rossdale came to be one of the celebrity advisors, and being the lone female, while returning coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton talked about how quick the chemistry happened among the new line-up, how the show has affected their lives, giving the contestants advice that comes from their own mistakes, team strategy, and having pranks backfire. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
GWEN STEFANI: You know what, I wasn’t motivated. I just literally had had my new little baby boy, and I was sitting at home and the phone rang. My parents were over and my lawyer was visiting me, for the first time, and they were like, “Hey, would you want to do The Voice?” And it was super short. I was like, “My life is weird.” And then, I was like, “What should I do?” And then, it started. It was so quick and spontaneous, and I think that’s what’s been the best part about it. I didn’t know that I was going to be sitting inside of a black and red spaceship for the next three months. It’s really cool.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS: I just instantly looked at it as an opportunity to reach more people. I knew that we would have access to more people than just the contestants that we were working with, who may have some of the same issues or some of the same questions, or that we may give some suggestions or advice that they didn’t even know that they may need. And so, I just instantly looked at it as this enabling, great opportunity to reach more people.
Pharrell, what are you going to bring this season, in terms of coaching style?
WILLIAMS: That’s a really good question. I don’t know what my style is, except for just reading the moment as well as I can. It’s mostly just like an observation. It’s like reading a feeling of everything that’s happening, at that moment, because there’s a lot of variables when someone is performing, and half of it has to do with them. Some of it is the song selection. Some of it is the time of day, and how many days you’ve been doing it. There are so many factors. You just try your best to sift through all of it to get to those essential points and those elements that can actually be helpful, and you try to find some anecdotes in there somewhere. I don’t know what kind of style that is.
WILLIAMS: I don’t think that you set out to be competitive, but if you’re going to fit in this puzzle, you just naturally are, for the sake of helping the people that you’re working with. You tend to become competitive. Blake has a masterful style. Strategy is one thing, but he has stratagems, which is actually a word. His way of competing is awesome because he’s just being so genuine the entire time. It’s literally who he is, on and off the camera. And he has this ability to just peer into an artist and see their best. There’s the thing that you have, and he just spots it. I’m definitely envious of that quality of his. And he’s competitive with it because he’s super funny. And then, Adam is a wordsmith. He’s the guy that’s joking. He’s going to poke fun, and he’s not going to allow you to sit still. He’s going to keep you going. And watching those two, back and forth, all day long, I’d do the show for that alone. Oftentimes, I find myself looking at them saying, “Man, I love this show,” and I genuinely do. And then, you have Gwen, who is the queen of awesome. Her way with artists is just as amazing. There’s no way to put that in words, seriously.
Adam, what were you most afraid of, with Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams joining the show?
ADAM LEVINE: I never like to operate out of fear. I wasn’t scared. I was excited. I was like, “Yeah, awesome! Amazing!” Blake and I have been so lucky. You just never know what the chemistry is going to be like when people come in, but it’s been really great. It’s been amazing, and it didn’t have to be that way, but it was. And then, these guys came in, and it was almost instantaneous. We all just congealed and it was like, “Wow, this is working! Amazing!” The chemistry was so quick with all of us, so I wasn’t afraid of anything. I was really genuinely excited.
STEFANI: I was afraid, and I had a reason to be. It’s time for someone else to win.
LEVINE: No, it’s not. It’s not time for that.
WILLIAMS: That’s the competitive nature, but it’s so awesome because it’s never offensive. He says exactly what he wants, but he’s never offensive.
STEFANI: He’s offensive to me sometimes. He is so inappropriate, and I have been in a band for my whole life, and I know inappropriate. He’s just to another level.
LEVINE: I set new bars for inappropriate.
LEVINE: When I met with Mark [Burnett] in his office, four years ago, I didn’t want to do this at all, and I needed to be convinced. I could never have imagined that the result of deciding to do this was going to be this amazing. I wasn’t planning on it. It wasn’t deliberate. It just happened. I’m still adjusting to it. It’s crazy, and I never could have predicted that. Mark was amazing in getting me to understand what this show was going to be about, and I could have never told you that all those amazing things would happen. I can’t tell you they are still going to happen tomorrow, but I’m certainly going to enjoy them while they do, and go with it.
How often do you find yourself giving advice that you realize you should be taking more often?
LEVINE: If I had a nickel. I think that the advice that we give usually comes from having made tons of mistakes. So, in essence, it’s more about how we’ve handled the mistakes we’ve made and being able to give back, and maybe warning some of these guys about those pitfalls. So, it’s more like the mistakes are made first, and then we learn from them, hopefully, and share those stories with people. I feel like it works backwards. And hopefully, if we’re able to give that advice, it’s because we have been able to overcome those hurdles, so we’re not still making those mistakes. But, nobody is perfect.
STEFANI: For me, it’s been surreal and magical. I never thought that, when I was like, “Yeah, let’s work with The Neptunes,” that it would be so cool that we would have this relationship, after all this time. We hadn’t really seen each other in a few years. I had just had the baby, literally four-and-a-half or five weeks prior, and my kids are obsessed with him, like the whole world is. It’s so weird. One day, King came home from school and was getting on my computer. He was like, “I’m going to play this song,” and he put on the “Happy” video. He was really mad at me for not being in the video, and I was like, “You just can’t be in any video you decide on YouTube. That’s not how it works.” But, I told him that I know Pharrell, and that we used to do stuff together. I showed him some pictures on the internet, and he was like, “Was he your boyfriend?” And I said, “No.” You could just see his brain going, “Wow, it’s so weird. My mom is in pictures with my idol. That’s so crazy!” And then, I said, “Why don’t we make a video and I can send it to Pharrell because I’m his friend.” We did it in the kitchen. The boys did their own version of the 24-hour video and I sent it to him, and then he asked me to do Coachella. I had just popped out this baby, but I got a tour bus because I wanted to show off for my kids. So, I got the boys on the bus, and we drove to Palm Springs. The first time I left the house after having a baby was walking out on stage to do “Hollaback Girl.” And then, I did it on the show. The next day, that fricken song went back on the chart. It was like, “What?! This is the craziest show!” So, it’s been explosive and magical. Being around someone like Pharrell is a gift. He just has such a big heart. He gives away so much of himself. He’s perfect for the show, and he’s perfect for these kids because he’s very nurturing. He’s very, very generous with himself, and I just like being around that energy. It’s been magic for me, being here.
WILLIAMS: Well, I have to say that it’s been amazing to work with Gwen. We had that first opportunity to work with No Doubt back with “Hella Good.” That was an amazing song to do with them. But if you would have tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Okay, so 10 or 12 years from now, you’re going to be on a TV show with Gwen,” I just wouldn’t have believed tha. Our journey has had so many incredible touch points. I still can’t believe it, and I really appreciate the opportunity because this is great. I knew Adam before, but I didn’t know him in this way that I know him. I knew he was a good person, but an amazing person is how I would define him now. And Blake is the same way. It’s been great. I don’t want to call it a “job.” You just can’t ask for a better opportunity, seriously.
BLAKE SHELTON: For Season 4, I purposely set out with a strategy of trying to put together a bunch of country artists. There’s no way to do all country artists because you still have to hit your button and fill your team up with people you believe in, but I definitely was a little more lenient towards country artists that season, just because I wanted to find a country artist and win. I did that with Danielle Bradbery, but I couldn’t do it again. That was just lucky. I don’t think there’s any way to really do that and be honest because you have to react to these people that are singing behind you, just like you do when you react to your radio in your car. If you hear something you like, you turn it up. And if you hear something you don’t like, you change the station. That’s how it is, sitting in the chair, except that you’ve got to not hurt their feelings.
Gwen and Pharrell, do you guys see yourself teaming up together and strategizing against Adam and Blake?
WILLIAMS: I don’t think that would be possible. Those guys are masters at this. The only thing that I think we can do is be super pure towards what it is we gravitate toward, and get out of the way. These guys are great.
SHELTON: I love you.
STEFANI: Well, we have already filmed it, so it’s done. I have to tell you that I went back and forth about having Gavin on because we have only collaborated on babies before. They turned out really cute. He breeds well. I think that I was really nervous about just coming on the show and doing something so different, and I didn’t know what it was going to be. The mentor comes on right away, so there’s no time to really get settled in, and I was really overwhelmed that Gavin was actually going to be on with me. We got in a little fight about it, the night before, because I was like, “I don’t know if I can handle this. It’s just too much.” Then, I slept on it in and, in the morning, I said, “Let’s do this. It’s going to spice things up. Let’s do something collaborative. Why not?” And it was awesome. The first couple people that came through, I was so nervous. And I wasn’t nervous because of being on the show or anything. I was nervous because I was sitting next to him because he’s smart. He’s so musical. You play different roles for different people, in your life, and I’m his wife, so it was weird, but it was awesome. It was really, really fun to do that with him. The whole process is just so inspiring for me. I have never been in this position to be a coach. For both of us to look back at everything we’ve done in our careers, and to sit there together and be on the same page, as far as giving advice to these people for who this is everything, at this moment, I’m just getting so much out of it. It’s great.
STEFANI: I’m used to it. I’m used to being the only girl. I paid for Harajuku girls to hang out with me, at one point in my life, because no girls would hang out with me. I always was surrounded by boys, and I don’t know how that happens because I’m such a girl. I love getting dressed up. I love hair and make-up. I played Barbies. If I had all girls, I would still be playing Barbies, but I don’t get to because, if I would get Barbies at my house, they would just take all the clothes off and go, “Oh, they’re naked,” and then I would have to get rid of them because that’s inappropriate. But, I love being with these guys. Adam has raised the bar for me. He has gone places that my band hasn’t gone.
LEVINE: She’s talking about how perverted and disgusting I am.
STEFANI: Yeah, he’s bad. Whatever version of this show you see at home on TV, I get the X-rated version, and it’s hilarious. These guys are off the chart. It’s so funny. But, it’s fine. I love it. I was nervous because it’s one thing to be in the boys’ club with guys you have known since you’re 16 years old, but to walk onto this platform with these guys that have been doing it already and not knowing them, I was freaked out a little bit. And I know Pharrell, but I don’t know Pharrell in this context. We would go in the studio, and I would be like, “Oh, my god, Pharrell is so rad!” It was these short little sessions, and we would write songs, and then I wouldn’t see him until maybe see at an award show or something. But, this is different. I was nervous about that, too, but it’s been so great and so fun, and I feel so lucky. There’s only one girl chair, and I got to sit in it. I can’t believe it.
Blake, you so famously released Adam Levine’s number last season, and you’re the king of pranks. Did you have anything in your mind that you wanted to do with the new judges? Have there been pranks, this season?
SHELTON: Their home addressed have crossed my mind. No. I don’t think I am a good prankster. Even my own wife texted me that night and said, “Did you really give Adam’s phone number? That’s such a dick thing to do.” And I caught that from everybody in my life.
LEVINE: The funny thing about it is they thought it was real, too. They thought it was really my phone number, and it was so clearly not the case.
SHELTON: That crap will never happen again. I thought it would be like, “Hey, we’re going to give out Adam’s phone number,” and then I thought people might call this number, and it was going to be like, “Hey, you’ve reached The Voice hotline. You can win a fucking hat.” And then, people dialed the number and it was busy, and my wife thinks I’m an asshole. That was the prank. The joke’s on me. But then, Adam went and dumped manure on my truck.
LEVINE: Yes, that was another fabricated stunt, and it wasn’t even really very funny. I think we were more confused. It wasn’t anger as much as it was just general confusion.
The Voice returns to NBC on September 22nd.