The Top 8 finisher on Season 4 of The Voice says she’s still marveling at the back-and-forth she has on Twitter with her newfound fans. “As much as they think I bless them, they bless me back sevenfold with their words of support and love and encouragement,” marvels Simmons. “The things that they say have brought me to tears, have made me laugh. You log on and see someone’s Tweeted ‘Puppies love you!’ That’s awesome.”
Simmons is planning a move to California in July, and hopes to start work on an album soon after. “I’m going to try to give them as much as I can of myself and my music, to always be myself and to never allow myself to be put in a box,” she says. “You can make it without selling out to money, fame and fortune. You can make it to the top without settling on a certain genre just because it makes more money. And I feel like it’s always important to follow your dreams, because you don’t want to be singing a song at the age of 50 that became really popular, and you’re not even in love with it!”
TVLine caught up with Simmons to dish how she had a movie-like reaction to her iTunes sales statistics, why she was stressed by her Knockout Round matchup and which Russell Crowe film has served as a source of musical inspiration.
TVLINE | You became an instant front-runner based on your Blind Audition to Joan Osborne’s “One of Us.” Did you have any notion that you’d get such a tremendous response?
You’re only allowed to sing for like 90 seconds, so there’s this pressure to show your whole self as much as you can in that brief time. I worked really hard on the dynamics of the song, and it worked out well. But yeah, hearing that I was a front-runner after that first performance, I knew that I had to work my butt off as hard as I could — especially because I was surrounded by such incredible people and incredible artists, you know? Each performance throughout the season, I felt like I did really well, and I charted pretty good. When I got to No. 1 on [iTunes’] rock charts, I felt like I was in that movie That Thing You Do, the whole, “Oh my gosh, my song’s playing on the radio!” I was so excited. It was a dream come true.
TVLINE | I found your Knockout Round bout to be particularly frustrating, because both you and Warren Stone really deserved a spot on the live shows. What’s that like being in that kind of competitive situation?
Gosh. Oh, man. I actually got to talk to Warren yesterday. I love that man. He’s such a big brother. Battles and Knockouts and Steals and all that kind of stuff, it’s just the most nerve-wracking thing ever. You’re all together 24/7, and you become like family. That was a really tough round because I listened to Warren, and I was just like, “God, he’s so amazing.” You want everyone to win. You seriously do. But in the end, people do have to go home, and yet even so, it’s like they’ve already won, too. Because if you can connect to just one person, then you’re already a winner. So we all keep reminding each other that this is also a TV show, and we have to keep our minds in good places, and not forget that this is just the beginning.
TVLINE | You got to choose your own song for the Knockout Round and went with the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Had you sung it previously?
I love the Rolling Stones so much, and I’ve had that love of them ever since I was a little girl. I’d covered “Wild Horses” a couple of time before, and it was just an incredible experience to sing that song on the show. Every week I got to collaborate with Adam Levine on song choices. I always tried to think about what I’d want to sing if it was my last time performing on the show. The last song I did, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” that was Adam’s choice. At first, he actually wanted to have me sing Adele’s “Skyfall,” and he was going to have Amber [Carrington] sing Gotye, but then we switched, because I’ve done a lot of Adele covers in the past, and I love a challenge. Adam kept telling me to trust him, and he felt pretty bad after [I was eliminated], but I told him not to. I’ve never worked so hard on a song in my life. As simple as that the Gotye song sounds, the phrasing is crazy, and you have to really bring your emotion to the table, be really vulnerable with America. That’s challenging in a beautiful way, and I told him it stretched me. He was still upset, but I told him thank you for that. I definitely grew from it. And in the end, The Voice is a TV show, but it’s not the end of us as artists. It’s not the answer to everything.
TVLINE | Tell me a little bit about your vocal technique, the way your voice transforms from an ethereal place to a gritty place, sometimes in sudden and unexpected ways. Is that something that you’ve had to work on or were you born with it?
It’s just something that I was born with. I grew up listening to all kinds of music. My grandparents helped raise me. I listened to things like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, old Turner Classic sounds, you know? My dad, though, listened to groovy stuff like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, all these incredible artists. And then my mom helped me grow up on soft music like Sarah McLachlan and artists like that. I loved it all, and music became such a release for my spirit and my soul. I started writing music when I was 13, had my first guitar when I was 15, and I just experimented with all kinds of music. I definitely would say it came naturally. But everything that is worth something, you always have to work at it till the day you die.
TVLINE | Did The Voice give you a sense of where you want to head musically?
I definitely want to make a CD that’s rock and roll, blues and soulful sounds, but I also really want to make a CD of ethereal, eclectic sounds as well. And my other dream is to make music for movies. One of my favorite composers is Hans Zimmer, who did the music for Gladiator and all kinds of incredible movies with incredible scores. It would be a dream to work with him. I’m a big fan of an artist that he worked with, Lisa Gerrard, who’s just an incredible singer. And then there’s Eddie Vedder, and how he made music for Into the Wild. I’m so inspired when someone can make music to a story. It just sounds like an incredible blast.
Were you a Sarah Simmons fan during Season 4? Shocked she didn’t make the finale? Sound off in the comments!