The Voice's Bryan Keith on Channeling Amy Winehouse, Dueting With De'Borah and More
His dad may be a Grammy-winning Latin artist, but Bryan Keith was determined to forge his own path in the music business. “For the last few years, I’ve been busting my ass working at a deli and playing at bars and clubs in Manhattan and the Bronx for lame pay,” he explains.
When Bryan decided to go the reality competition route, he says he gravitated to The Voice because there’s a “realness” that comes from the show’s coaches needing to make all their initial decisions on vocals alone.
TVLine caught up with Bryan to dish how he felt about falling short of the Season 3 Top 8, why his Amy Winehouse cover was his favorite moment on the show, and who among his ousted Voice comrades he’s hoping to snag for a duet.
TVLINE | I was a little surprised you got eliminated after Top 10 performance night. You’d been really consistent all season, and I felt like “New York State of Mind” was a really good performance.
It was a surprise to me too, man. I felt that I should have stayed. I did everything right and instead I’m going home, and it kind of doesn’t make sense.
TVLINE | You had something of a split personality, musically speaking, during your run on the show: One half rocker, one half smooth crooner. Could that have hurt you in terms of building a voting base?
It’s kind of lame to expect an artist to be a one-trick pony. People ask me questions about what bands I like, and I respond with the Deftones or Glassjaw or Metallica, and then they hear me do an Amy Winehouse song that I love just as much. It’s all about the passion. I’m glad I got to show more than one side. I don’t think it harmed me at all.
TVLINE | Speaking of showing versatility, you broke out Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” during the Knockout Rounds, which was somewhat unexpected. Ultimately, the judges seemed impressed across the board when you hit that big glory note. Tell me why you chose that ballad, and how you felt it played out.
I grew up listening to that song with my brother, and I just wanted to pull people into that world that may have never given a chance to that genre of music. I wanted to be an advocate for those classic rock ballads, and I’m just happy that it worked out and I was able to hit that note and get very positive feedback from the coaches, you know? A lot of contestants were scared of Christina for example, but she always had something good to say about me and I was surprised because I’m not a clean singer. I have that grit and that gravel, but she was able to feel me.
TVLINE | Was there any week you had to cover a song you weren’t excited about?
For my Blind Audition, Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain” was on a ranked list I’d turned it, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the No. 1 spot. When [the producers] ran the idea past me, I didn’t want to be a pain in the ass, so I kind of was like, “Let me just go with it and see if I can put my twist on it and make it sound like I wrote it.” Thankfully I had enough time with it, and I was able to get four chairs to turn.
TVLINE | Speaking of making something your own, walk us through your big band-esque rendition of “Back to Black,” which has to rank as your big moment on the show.
That was a song I used to sing at karaoke bars, and I always had a laid back approach to it. For [Top 12 week], I was like, “Let me really milk it and put some real oomph into it.” I wanted to stay in her key and push it and make it sound really powerful, while still keeping the integrity of the song. It was my tribute to Amy Winehouse in a way, because she was an artist who left us way too early. It just made sense, man. It felt really good. That was probably my favorite moment on the show.
TVLINE | You didn’t change the pronoun: “You’ll go back to her,” which I found interesting.
I didn’t really get much of a chance to explain to people on the show about my approach to that song. It’s like on most of the verses I was actually picturing talking to her, and then the chorus was her in me, her singing through me, and that’s what made it so powerful for me. It was the most connected I’ve been to a song this whole time.
TVLINE | Obviously the show is called The Voice, but being a reality show, other factors play into it as well. Personality wise, you came across very laid back, and definitely not the type who played to the camera with crazy sound bites or sad stories. Did you have a strategy for how to present yourself on camera during non-singing moments?
Sometimes [the producers] would try to dig for certain things, and it’s not that I had to make anything up, but I just felt like that’s not what I was there for. I know I should have had more participation in those interviews and quirky segments, but I just couldn’t help but be more passionate about going out there and singing my songs. Even right now on the phone with you, we’re just talking. I’m not trying to win over people, you know?
TVLINE | So what’s next for you?
As soon as I get home, I’m going to get my act together and hang out with my family, and then right after hit the studio and continue where I left off making music. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration being out here from all the artists on the show. It’s insane the amount of talent that was here and that’s still here, the number of people who left that never got the opportunity to really show who they are including De’borah and Julio [Cesar Castillo]. I want to link up with a lot of the New Yorkers that got bumped off early on in the competition. I just want to have fun with the music again; I feel like I’m better than ever since leaving the show.
TVLINE | I strongly advocate a De’borah duet. I think you guys would sound amazing together.
Awesome man. I’ll run that by her. That’d be great.