Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy gets to shine through on “The Voice” this season.
Kinesiology alumna of 2014 Lyndsey Elm has moved through the blind audition stage with apparent ease, winning all four of the judges over with “Lips are Movin” by Meghan Trainor.
Before she returns to the stage in upcoming weeks to sing for Gwen Stefani’s team, Elm talked to Mustang News about her journey so far.
The following is a Q&A with Elm, which has been edited down for space and clarity.
MN: When did you first start singing and playing guitar?
LE: I think I started singing around 2 years old. I was really into the National Anthem (“The Star Spangled Banner”) for some reason … But I didn’t really have the confidence to start singing until probably high school, when I got the opportunity to sing the National Anthem on the field.
I got my guitar as my high school graduation present. It opened up my eyes to just a whole new world of being able to take a song and put my spin on it.
MN: Do you play any other instruments?
LE: I also dabble around in the piano, the kahone — which is a percussion instrument that I have at home — and I have a ukulele as well. And I like to incorporate a loop pedal into my guitar playing as well. It’s like having a one-man band.
MN: Did you ever sing publicly while you were at Cal Poly?
LE: Not really. It was mostly just through Cru. I would sing at worship night, and it was really that group of girls who inspired me to pursue music. Little by little, I started singing in front of my friends, then in front of my Bible study and then at events. I just slowly gained my confidence. Just singing in front of my roommates, who would just push me and get me out of my academic bubble for a bit, all of that changed me and made me who I am.
MN: What motivated you to try out for the show?
LE: During the back half of college, toward the end of senior year when everyone’s trying to decide what the next step is, and a lot of people go to grad school or go into their career, I started getting this pull from music. I got encouragement from my Bible group. I told my parents I wanted to pursue music. I told my parents that if I don’t take (the chance) now I was going to regret it. And they totally supported me.
One of my aunts bugged me to look into the show, and I had been a fan since season one. Plus there’s always that feeling of like, “What would it be like to be on that stage?”
I didn’t think anything would come of it, but it was an amazing opportunity. The ball started rolling and I got to audition.
It’s funny, because I was so academic and athletic, like I graduated Summa Cum Laude, and the obvious step would be to go to grad school. This year has been such a whirlwind because it’s not what I’m used to.
MN: How was performing on TV, in front of such famous singers?
LE: That day was such a whirlwind and such a blur, but it was the best moment of my life so far, and I don’t know if anything will be able to top it.
I started the song, so there was a little extra pressure. But I took a deep breath and went, “OK, pray a little bit. Here we go.”
Then I started the song and the crowd was super into it. The coaches started to turn around and I was just beside myself. I was just elated. All that hard work and all that preparation and it paid off. Performing on national television was such a cool experience and to see the response afterward was just the icing on the cake.
I just want to be able to inspire people — no matter where you are in life, you can always follow your dream.
MN: What made you pick Stefani?
LE: They all said such great things, and I was just blown away that all four turned. But I just felt that immediate connection to Gwen — and she was the first one to turn around.
They all complimented me on the version, and said they had never thought of doing that song that way.
(Stefani) said she wanted to download her career to me, and she’s a mother and she just wants to nurture people. She told me on the show, “You sing cover songs, and songs you didn’t write, but I want you to take cover songs and use them to tell your story.”
I let myself be in the moment and listen to everything they had to say. I mean, Gwen Stefani, she’s just a class act, and she’s never taken a no for an answer in her career. It’s been an honor to be able to work with her. It was an easy decision.
MN: What has it been like to work with her?
LE: Gwen is amazing, she just exudes confidence, and you can tell that she’s been doing this for a long time. She’s confident, but she’s not cocky. She wants what’s best for people and she gives good feedback. She’s beautiful inside and out.
MN: What are you most excited about for the show?
LE: I think, I’m most excited for people to not only be able to see what I do and the performances, but for people to resonate with the other artists as well. I’ve grown so close to them, they’re like my family now. I know each and every one of these people. To see them shine on stage as well is so cool — and to see people pick their favorites and stand behind the artist that they love and really go all they way with them and follow their story and their journey throughout the rest of their career.
MN: What are you most worried about?
LE: At some point, there’s — probably just whenever you expose yourself on national television and put yourself out there — there’s going to be people who badmouth you.
You can’t worry about what people think, and you have to be confident in who you are.
But it’s been nothing but a positive experience for me so far, and I’ve gotten so much love and support. It’s important to stick with the people who care about you the most.
MN: What songs would you most like to sing on the show?
I am a huge soul fan. My genre is pop soul, with kind of an acoustic feel to it because I play guitar.
I’d like to play “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green or “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. And I kind of put my own spin on some pop songs, something like “Latch” by Sam Smith and Disclosure, put my own take on it. But I like indie music as well. So “Hold Back the River” by James Bay would be fun. And “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw.
I kind of like to jazz it up and put a funky spin on it. I think it would be fun to do those songs. It would represent me.
MN: Say you win, what do you plan to do after that?
LE: I’d take the platform and take the exposure, take what I’ve learned and what I’ve gained throughout the show and put out my own album.
It’d be fun to collaborate with other artists — not only with artists from this season but with artists from other seasons.
It’d be fun to take what I’ve learned and see where I can go. Kind of use it as a launching pad and go on for a successful career.
MN: Was there anything else you wanted to say?
LE: Thank you to the Cal Poly community for reaching out in so many different ways and giving me so much love and support. It was the place that molded me and shaped me for four years, gave me the confidence to step out. Thank you to the kinesiology department for letting me step out and Learn by Doing.
And I love that that’s Cal Poly’s motto, because you really don’t learn until you step out and do it. I just feel like I can’t say thank you enough. Huge thanks to Cal Poly as a university and the types of people who go there.