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Lily Elise Of NBC's "The Voice" Talks New Single And Music Career

Greg Asciutto |
October 16, 2011 | 8:53 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Elise's Lock & Key cover (Emma Scheffer)
Elise's Lock & Key cover (Emma Scheffer)
Lily Elise, starlet of last summer’s breakout reality talent show "The Voice," sat down with Neon Tommy reporters to discuss her solo project and life as a reality-television contestant. In the course of the past six months, the Bay Area native has jumped from the Popular Music Program at the University of Southern California to NBC’s "The Voice," where she became a favorite of coach Christina Aguilera. The power-vocalist, who has been touted as a member of the next generation of R&B’s emerging divas, just released her first single, "Lock & Key" (Highlight Productions) last week. 

How did you get involved with NBC and "The Voice?"

I actually heard about the audition through a friend of mine that I knew at SC, and because the show was brand new, I had no idea what it was but figured I might as well try out for it. What I liked most about the show, the reason why I auditioned, was because of its blind-audition concept, something I think is such a breath of fresh air for the industry and the reality-show world. The show is based off of talent and not off of looks; for me, I was always seen as a little white girl, so when I was working with producers, they would try to put me in a box of country or straight-up pop. My voice is R&B quality, and the type of music that I’ve always loved to sing is R&B and soul, so when I heard that "The Voice" was going to be blind, I felt like it would be an opportunity. No pre-judgments, just to be heard as an artist rather than seen as an artist. 

Do you still keep in contact with your team (Team Christina) from the show?

I keep in contact with most of them, and most of the people from the show in general. One of the best parts of being involved in the show was being able to meet other artists who have so much to offer, people who are going to be huge in this industry. The nature of me is not to be competitive, and I always think it’s so important, when around other artists, to learn from them and grow from them. I feel like this industry can be a destructive place when everyone’s trying to step on each other and get on top. Music isn’t made to be competitive, music is to feel something and to get through to someone. 

For clarification, when did your run on the show end?

First live show, top sixteen. June 7th was the show that I sang on, June 14th was when I got kicked off. 

With the experience behind you, what type of advice would you offer to young artists trying to break into the industry through a reality show?

I think it depends on the reality show, every one is different. What I loved about "The Voice" is that they let us be more of ourselves compared to other shows I’ve seen. They promote the positive side of the individual. All in all, if you’re looking to go through any reality show, it’s about being grounded and knowing who you are as an artist before you go into it. You can’t be pushed around by whoever, executives or whatever. You have to stay who you are no matter what. At the end of the day, it’s such an amazing experience to be able to go through it; when you’re put in a pressure-cooker situation like that, it forces you to come to terms with yourself and you learn how you’re going to react in that type of environment. 

Since you’ve now moved on from USC, describe the transition from being a full-time student to solely focussing upon your music career. 

For me personally, school was never a motivation. Being at USC was amazing, because I got to network with these great musicians and I still get to play with them. But I was given the opportunity to branch out into what I wanted to do, to be a solo artist through "The Voice," and I feel like I needed this time now to pursue it rather than stay in school. I wanted to have the time to put my all into my music career. 

You just released your first single, "Lock & Key" last week. How does it feel to see yourself on the charts as a solo artist?

It’s definitely rewarding; it’s a lot of hard work finally coming to fruition. I’ve been writing my whole life, but I had a weird emotional block about performing my own material. I think I was scared of putting myself out there, because songwriting makes you so vulnerable. It’s like reading my diary to a crowd full of people.

You say it’s like reading your diary; what was the writing process like for "Lock and Key?"

With "Lock & Key," I wrote it last winter. It was just how I was feeling at that point in my life, basically sitting on my bed. Both the verses and chorus just flowed out. I was sitting on the song for about six months and didn’t really know where to go with it. Since the song is so personal to me and what I was going through, I didn’t want to just put something out. I got together with Rob Nagelhout, who I’ve been playing with for two years in The Beat Advocate (Elise’s former band). We just hashed out the chords and wrote the bridge together, and I was so happy with it... I knew it was the first song I had written that I really wanted to put out to show people who I am as an artist.  

Tell us about the song, what it’s about.

So "Lock & Key" is a pop song with an R&B twist; for me, it’s about the fears that hold us back from living up to our full potential as a person, in our relationships, in our careers... for me it’s kind of all of the above. 

So what is next for Lily Elise?

I have a five-song EP in the works, we’re about 50 percent done and hoping to get it out early-2012. I’m just really excited getting it out there, I feel like it will open a lot of doors. I’ll finally have something in my hands that I’ll be able to show for myself, something that says “Hey, here I am.” 

For more information about Lily Elise, checkout her official website; "Lock & Key" now available on iTunes.

Reach reporter Greg Asciutto here.


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