Adam Levine: If I joined The Voice, I'd win because...
Judge Adam Levine says he'd win if he took part not because he's the best singer, but because of his one special quality
It was a hot and sunny day in late August in Southern California and a panel of select journalists was gearing up for the "intimate" roundtable interviews with judges-coaches Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams, who are back to front US reality TV singing series The Voice.
The session was held ahead of the ninth season, which premieres on AXN (StarHub TV Ch 511) on Sept 22 at 7.55pm, and to make it more festive and relaxed, it had a New England clam bake theme, with lobster decorations scattered throughout and lobster rolls and tacos from the famed Cousins Maine Lobster for guests.
The cast, some of whom wore quirky lobster ears, even went outside to pose with a giant inflatable lobster.
Perhaps to defuse the thick air of anticipation that filled the area? Or was that the elephant in the room?
Because No Doubt frontman and rock chick Stefani and country star Shelton had both just got divorced - Stefani, 45, from rocker Gavin Rossdale last month and Shelton, 39, from country music artist Miranda Lambert in July - and warnings were given beforehand that "personal questions" were off limits, but we were all secretly hoping someone would drop a juicy tidbit in their answers.
When we were finally inside the actual set of The Voice and sitting in front of the talent (including 42-year-old US host Carson Daly), we were disappointed that they were split into two groups, with Stefani and Shelton placed apart so as to better deflect any uncomfortable divorce questions that should arise.
For hip-hop singer-producer Williams, 42, and Maroon 5 frontman Levine, 36, it was business as usual, shooting for the small screen in between jetting off to a bigger stage.
Actually, now we get the whole molluscan motif. Don't expect any of these music stars to come out of their shell too much when the memo was to, well, clam up.
Gwen, you are back to take over Christina Aguilera's seat this season. The last time you were on Season 7, you said that this was like mothering. These are awfully big kids. As a mother of three young boys, do you still feel like that?
Stefani: I have a woman on my team whom I'm definitely not mothering. I'm just learning from her. She's just so amazing. I think obviously it just depends who's on your team.
I do have a young boy who just turned 15. I feel quite motherly towards him. It is like that because as a coach, and as a parent, you're rooting, you're cheering them on, you're trying to give them all the advice you can give, and you've got their best interest in mind. So, yeah, it does feel like that.
I was telling Adam this, I think I said it, like, 45 times today so far, but I think that it's one of my favourite things I've ever done, being on the show. It's so fun. Just being around music in a new way and getting to hear people's stories and be so inspired and see people improve and see yourself have an impact. It's so rewarding.
If you were to audition for The Voice, how far do you think you would make it in the competition?
Stefani: I would never have got through the first rounds. Literally... because I don't think (I have) the kind of voice that would make it through a blind audition.
Levine: I'll tell you why I think that I would win The Voice and it's not because I'm the best singer. I'm a competitive person and I'll never forget when I had to do cross-country and I hated cross-country, but I was a pretty decent runner. I was okay, but I really wanted to win the races and so I had to almost be in the hospital, because I would run so fast and do these courses so quickly that I would actually win all the races, but I would have respiratory failure and almost die.
That's why I would win The Voice because I'd be, like, "I want to win The Voice so badly that I'm just going to do it and then it could kill me, but I'm still going to try really hard''.
But it wouldn't be because of my talent, I can assure you that. There are plenty of singers out there who are better than I am.
Have you worked with any contestants and then specifically got inspired by them?
Levine: Being on the show has definitely made me kind of want to be a better singer. You're around really amazing singers all the time and you're also giving them tips on how to become better singers, so you start to think to yourself, "Wow, I better be good at this if I'm going to be saying all this to these people''.
So how attached do you get to your team members?
Shelton: The ones I've had a connection with, I feel a responsibility towards them. Just on a friendship level. I'm lucky enough to be in a position to help them. I'm sure I'm at least going to try.
And so that's why you see me recording with Gwen Sebastian and bringing people on tour with me like Dia Frampton, who's opening for me.
She's the furthest thing from a country artist on the planet, but she needed a tour, I had a tour, she's my friend and I brought her out.
Williams: Ah yeah, it's draining. In a lovely way and in a kind of "hurts you somehow" way because you're emotionally connected. You would think it's just television, but the show is based on emotion.
Some of the best athletes in the world need a coach. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan, but he also has Bo Jackson. And that's the role we play. And in order to give somebody the best guidance, you've actually got to care.
Blake, is there any formula for victory, since you've been the winning coach four times over eight seasons?
Shelton: No. And to prove that, I gave up (Season 7 winner) Craig Wayne Boyd. When he won, luckily I was able to get him back again. But it shows you just never know who it's gonna be and why it's gonna be them.
There's always that moment that will happen every season that will change everything for somebody and it will shake up the whole competition. And it's almost always somebody that you didn't expect. Except for (Season 8 winner) Sawyer (Fredericks), we all knew that he was special from the beginning.