Between 2003 runner-up Clay Aiken and 2011 winner Scotty McCreery, singers from the Triangle have scaled the highest heights of “American Idol.” The Triangle has yet to attain a comparable peak on “The Voice,” NBC’s singing-competition show, but that might be changing.
Kat Robichaud, a freelance graphic designer from Raleigh, has risen through a field of 48 finalists to be among the last 10 singers left in the show’s fifth season (which airs Monday and Tuesday nights). She is one of two members left on CeeLo Green’s “Team CeeLo,” coached by the quirky rhythm and blues singer behind the 2006 Gnarls Barkley megahit “Crazy.”
Being away from home for much of the fall has had its downside. Robichaud was disappointed to miss the North Carolina State Fair, as well as the Triangle’s recent snow flurries. But it might be worth the sacrifice. The grand prize on “The Voice” is a major-label recording contract, which seemed like an impossible dream during Robichaud’s musical life in the past, singing in local rock bands including The Design (Sugar the Band).
“Standing at the door and counting how many people are coming or not coming, I know what that’s like,” Robichaud said. “It just got too hard with the band – wanting to do original music. We kept rotating members until I finally decided, ‘This is not working, I have to move on.’ Almost as soon as I made that decision, I got this opportunity. I feel very fortunate. I don’t know what will happen after this, but I do know I’ll keep playing music.”
One of Robichaud’s friends from the Raleigh music scene is Chris Malarkey, who first heard her singing in a cover band at 42nd Street Oyster Bar.
“I got dragged to that show, but she blew me away,” said Malarkey, who went on to book Robichaud at Pour House and Lincoln Theatre. “She had a killer voice and a vintage SG guitar she could actually play. Certain people do music because it’s all they can do and they have to. She’s definitely one of those. Music is part of her, and I think she has the talent.”
Robichaud’s journey to “The Voice” began over a year ago, not long before The Design broke up. The group opened a show at Durham’s Motorco Music Hall for JJAMZ, a side band of Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine; Maroon 5’s frontman is Adam Levine, a judge on the show. So at the urging of Valentine and other industry friends, Robichaud auditioned in January.
She has since moved steadily through the ranks on her way to the top 10, covering songs including Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” and the Aerosmith power ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” As this season’s “rocker girl,” she’s done some unusual things for the show, including stage-diving.
“I’m excited that I’ll get to play piano this week,” she said. “If I make it to the next round, maybe I’ll play guitar. Maybe I’ll smash one, which would be another ‘Voice’ first. I wonder if they’d allow me to go to Guitar Center and buy a cheap, crappy guitar to smash?”
Robichaud hasn’t had an entirely smooth ride on the show, which uses public voting to decide who moves on to the next round. One week, it took an “Instant Save” text vote by fans to keep her in the field, and she’s been one of the bottom-three vote-getters the past two weeks.
“Right now, so many incredible people are in this competition, there’s no way to predict (the outcome), and I would not be sore at all about losing,” Robichaud said. “I feel very humble and grateful to share the stage. But I do get upset about being in the bottom three two weeks in a row because I want to be here so badly. I’m loving the experience, and I’m not ready to go home.”
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