Last month Richmonder Evan McKeel didn’t hesitate when judge Pharrell Williams asked him to sing a second song on the spot during his blind audition with The Voice. The 20-year-old, who got a four-chair turn for his rendition of “Typical,” broke into “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder at Pharrell’s request and received a standing ovation from the judges. He even brought judge Gwen Stefani to tears.
“I absolutely was not prepared. It was out of the blue,” McKeel said of singing the Stevie Wonder song. He credits his spontaneity to years of performing in musical theater at his church, West End Assembly of God in Richmond. He’s been involved in stage performance for about eighteen years.
“Part of stage performance and acting is that something can come out of left field and surprise you,” he said.
He also credits his performance to the fact that he had been singing “Overjoyed” for a couple of months prior to his audition. “It was like God put that song in my head,” he said. “It was stuck in my head.”
After a few seconds of deliberation, McKeel chose Pharrell as his coach, noting that he feels the singer/producer/musician understands him as an artist. “There’s so much I want to learn from him,” he said. “I want to produce and arrange music. To me he’s the number one artist when I think of those things.”
And yes, it did help that Pharrell is also a Virginia native. Pharrell talked to McKeel about the music scene in Virginia and how it influenced him. “He understands the music and the culture I come from,” McKeel said, adding that the experience is “really amazing. I see the way God is working.”
Click to watch Voice blind audition on YouTube.
Look for Evan tonight on NBC’s The Voice in a battle with Pharrell teammate Riley Biederer.
Thanks to RFM’s special correspondent Joan Tupponce