Wednesday night was a “roller coaster” of emotion for Evan McKeel as he stood on the stage waiting to hear his fate on the show. “It was very emotional,” he says, taking a quick break from his hectic schedule in Los Angeles. “I was relieved to get through and also heartbroken over our friends [who are now headed home]. You don’t know what to say. You give them a hug and then you have to move on.”
In what was the Elimination Round for many artists, Evan performed “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder. He sang a snippet of the song for his blind audition and Pharrell wanted him to perform the entire number. The song, one of Evan’s favorites, allows him to be both expressive and emotional. It’s also a very technical song that is “vocally hard,” he says.
When he stepped on stage for his first performance on the live playoffs there was a different vibe in the theater. “Everybody in the audience has seen you sing. They are there to see you perform. There’s electricity in the room. That adds another element, more energy,” he says.
Did that raise his stress level? Not as much as one would think. “We are in the groove now,” he says. “I felt like it was a lot easier. Being on the stage is the easiest place for me to be myself.”
Evan’s twin sister, Shannon and her husband, Thomas, were in the audience and that was comforting for Evan. “I knew exactly where she and Thomas were,” he says.
While the performance may have been easier, Evan admits last night’s elimination was much more drastic than the Battle Rounds or Knockout Rounds. “It was nerve-wracking,” he says. “Our team went from six to three. Even though you’re voted through you watch three friends on your team go away and the same on the other teams.”
Before going on stage for the elimination, Evan turned to prayer, thanking God for whatever the Almighty has in store for the young singer. “I am going to be happy whatever happens,” Evan says.
Back in Richmond, Evan’s dad, Rick, was sitting at home dealing with his own round of nerves. When Evan’s name was called he says his phone “exploded. It blew up. We were up until two-thirty returning texts and calls.”
One of the calls he fielded was from Shannon who says she had an “absolute blast” watching the show. “One of the questions I asked her was what was the tension like in the room and with the people on stage. She said there was a lot of tension,” Rick says. “We had a lot of people rooting for Evan and there was a lot of anxiety. Shannon said it was just like that at the show.”
Evan and three of his fellow contestants – Amy Vachal (Team Adam), Jordan Smith (Team Adam) and Korin Bukowski (Team Gwen) – the #weirdsquad have become close friends, his dad says. “These are people that folks have looked at in the past and said ‘you are not mainstream.’ Maybe they weren’t popular in school.” Now it’s their time, he continues. “It’s fun to watch people grow up and get to the place where they are blossoming.”
After the show Evan and the other eleven contestants were whisked away. “They immediately talked with their coaches and got their songs for Monday,” Rick says. “Evan was on his way to the studio at 7:30 a.m. today.”
Evan confirms that things are turning around a lot faster now – all twelve have to perform again on Monday. The song Evan will be performing (he’s not allowed to reveal the title) is a new song for him. “I’m spending the whole day today working on that song,” he says. His next few days will be filled with rehearsals, wardrobe, hair and makeup and oh yes, interviews.
Evan’s mom and dad are getting ready to head out to Los Angeles so they can watch their son perform on Monday. “We will be in the audience next week,” Rick says. “I’m sure the tension will be palpable.”
Christy is carrying Evan one of his favorite treats – vanilla Tootsie Rolls. “It just takes little things to make him happy,” she says, noting that even with all the recent attention Evan is still Evan – very level headed.
Evan is extremely grateful for the support he has had from friends, family and viewers. “It’s amazing to feel such tremendous support,” he says. “On a team like mine that has so much talent you have to have a lot of people behind you. I am hoping that everyone keeps voting and supporting me. I was just blown away to get America’s vote.”
Thanks to Joan Tupponce, RFM’s special entertainment correspondent. Follow her on Twitter @JoanWrites.