Growing up in Utah, “The Voice” contestant James Violet felt like he didn’t fit in. “It was definitely, definitely tough,” he said. “... But, at least in my case, I wouldn’t be here today if I fit in. That’s what made me, me.”
Today, he’s a member Team Gwen Stefani on the NBC singing competition after delivering an impressive rendition of Harry Styles’ “Sweet Creature.” Judges/coaches Stefani, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton all wanted Violet, and Stefani and Clarkson nearly came to (comic) blows over him. At one point, they were each trying to prove they love Utah more to convince him to come their way.
“That was unbelievable,” he said.
Violet is a big booster of Utah, even though he readily acknowledges he’s not exactly in the state’s mainstream. He’s not a member of the state’s predominant religion. He was more interested in music and performing than anything else when he was at Syracuse High School. And he has “longer hair than my girlfriend,” Violet said with a laugh.
“I’m out of the ordinary in my home state, but then again, I want people here and everywhere else to feel comfortable being their own self and being out of the ordinary. And just being unapologetically you.”
Violet (whose real name is Jake Waller) was born in Arizona, but his family moved to Utah when he was just a year old. He’s been here ever since — except for the time when, two weeks after graduating from Syracuse High, he moved to California to try to launch a music career. But he quickly discovered how expensive it is to live in Los Angeles.
By day, he worked as a clerk in a hotel gift shop. “And then I’d go home, grab my guitar and my amp and head back to the [Santa Monica] pier,” Violet said. “And I would play there until super late at night.”
He was busking for donations “to pay some bills.” It was “nerve-wracking, but if you want to make this your career, you’ve got to get over that. I kind of forced myself the first couple of times. But once I got going, man, it was so much fun. And that’s when I realized I love performing.”
He didn’t love living in Los Angeles, so he returned to Utah. When he’s not competing on “The Voice,” he’s studying business marketing at Weber State University — a backup plan, but he’s determined to make a go of a music career, with Utah as his home base.
“It’s definitely my dream to be a recording artist,” Violet said. “I kind of want to open up the floodgates for our state, because there’s so many people here that have such potential. And I think we just need to open the gate for people to express themselves and we could make the state a powerhouse.”
First, though, there’s the little matter of “The Voice.” Violet and the other contestants who made it through the blind auditions compete head-to-head in the battle rounds beginning Monday at 7 p.m. on Ch. 5. (We don’t know yet when the Utahn will be up next.)
And Violet is still being asked why he chose to be on Team Gwen instead of Team Kelly. After all, Clarkson quickly turned her chair around to signal her interest in him, and Stefani waited until the last second. Clarkson knew the song Violet was singing, and Stefani did not. And Violet himself admits that his style of music more closely aligns with Clarkson’s.
“I love Kelly Clarkson, first and foremost. I just want to make that clear,” he said. “She is super, super genuine and she’s just totally awesome.
“But I wanted to kind of throw people a curveball and make myself grow more as an artist. And I knew that putting myself kind of out of the ordinary on Gwen’s team is the right place.”
We’ll find out if that’s true, as competition continues on “The Voice.”