The Voice's Amber Carrington on 'Stay,' 'Crazy,' Forgotten Lyrics — 'I'm Glad I Didn't Play It Safe'
Amber Carrington recognizes that her decision to dabble in a variety of genres may have hurt her chances at winning Season 4 of The Voice. Nevertheless, she has no regrets.
“Team Adam was all about taking risks and making a mark on the world,” says the eventual Top 5 finisher. “Every single song that I did was a new challenge for me, and I’m glad I didn’t play it safe.”
In fact, says Carrington, she was more focused on “taking songs and connecting to the lyrics” than she was on staying in her comfortable country wheelhouse. “I put myself into every single song and try to relate it to my life or the lives of people I know,” she explains. “It’s not just about getting up there and singing and walking around the stage with a blank face. It’s about really connecting with the audience.”
TVLine caught up with Carrington to discuss her awesome renditions of “Stay” and “Skyfall,” her Battle Round showdown with Sasha Allen and some botched lyrics that the coaches never caught.
TVLINE | How did you choose Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl” for your Blind Audition?
Those are the songs all the girls my age sing back at the oprys: “Good Girl,” Martina McBride, Faith Hill, all that stuff. And I love Carrie Underwood. Every since she won American Idol, people have compared me to her. Not just on looks, but my voice, too. So I wanted to do a current, upbeat song — because I thought the crowd would like that — and “Good Girl” fit that goal.
TVLINE | You had to face Sasha Allen in the Battle Rounds, and she was already considered a front-runner at that point. We know that you won, and that both of you eventually made it to the Season 4 Top 5, but what was your initial thought when Adam paired you up?
At the beginning, I seriously thought that Adam paired me with Sasha just to get rid of me. I totally looked up to her like she was a queen because she has such a powerful voice. But that Battle is when I had a huge turning point — one that will affect the rest of my career. Getting paired with somebody that’s way better than me, in my eyes, really forced me to work harder than I ever had. And when I won, my confidence shot up. The good thing is Sasha got stolen by Shakira, and we both ended up on the teams where we belonged. Me being on Adam’s team got me out of my comfort zone, and it pushed me so hard, and my confidence grew incredibly. And with Sasha, you looked at her at the Blind Auditions and you’re like, “Oh no, she can’t grow any more.” That’s what I thought. But Shakira helped her with her stage presence, helped her to get away from the Broadway stuff. So we both ended up where we needed to be.
TVLINE | I remember when Carson Daly announced you were singing Rihanna’s “Stay” in the Live Playoffs. It was a shocker coming from someone who presented herself as wanting to be a country crossover artist, and yet it turned out incredibly. Were you hesitant when Adam suggested it?
I was a little nervous about it at first because I thought it was a boring song. It’s so simple, there’s nothing big about it, and I’d been used to doing those huge Carrie Underwood ballads. But ultimately, “Stay” was probably the best choice that I had on the whole show, along with “Skyfall.” I needed to understand the simplicity and the beauty of the song. Plus, the lyrics were so emotional, so you have to portray everything they’re saying. And the other good thing is the song really showed off my tone — and a lot of people have said that’s really what’s so good about my voice.
TVLINE | Your followup, Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway,” was maybe your weakest performance of the season. If you could change anything about it, would you?
That song choice was not very risky. Plus, “Breakaway” isn’t really old enough and it’s not new enough. “Crazy” worked because it’s such a legendary song. “Stay” worked because it’s so current. “Breakaway” was in that middle ground, and it just wasn’t my best song choice. But I got to use the big fan during the performance. You can’t argue with the wind.
TVLINE | You came back the next week with “Skyfall.” Was there a sense that “Breakaway” might have slowed your momentum and you needed to do something to get it back?
Absolutely. “Skyfall” was a very dramatic song, and it was very scary to do that. But in talking it over with Adam, I was like, “We cannot do another song like ‘Breakaway,’ because that did not do very well at all on iTunes; it barely charted.” And I just came from “Stay” and that one did so well. So I was on the top of the world, and then I came back down, and I wanted to be back on top. [Laughs] I kind of became a different person doing “Skyfall.” It was a really cool experience.
TVLINE | I also loved your duet with Holly Tucker on “Does He Love You.” Give me some scoop on that.
Holly and I knew each other before the show a little bit because she lives in Waco and I live in Dallas. Right before the Blind Auditions, we were in the room talking about music, and we started playing that song. So it was crazy when they handed it to us for our duet. We were like, “Shut up, dude!” [Laughs] And it was funny because I was the wife and Holly was the girlfriend, so behind the scenes, we kiddingly tried to get mad at each other so that we could sing the song appropriately. And we couldn’t do it because Holly is so sweet, and we’re just really, really good friends.
TVLINE | OK, so I have to ask you about some botched lyrics during your cover of “I Remember You” — which none of the coaches caught. And also, if you can, tell me about the process of taking this hair metal song and flipping it into country mode
“I Remember You” is one of Adam’s favorite songs, and I thought it was so cool the original way. I loved it. We got together with the band and were like, “We want it to be a little laid back, acoustic, with light drums — make it really country.” As soon as the band did that, I was like “Oh my God, I’m in love.” I heard a banjo and a mandolin in there, and it made me feel like I was home. We took something from Adam’s past and put it in my life too. It was like a mixture of both of us. So that was really fun to figure out.
And yes, I did forget the lyrics at the beginning. I’ve never been to the mosh pit, and having all those people surrounding me was a little overwhelming. I had never heard the song before Adam gave it to me, too, so it’s not like you hear it on the radio and you subconsciously know all the lyrics. That was part of the issue too. I got the first line right. And then the second two lines, I could not think of the words. It was crazy. In my mind, inside, I was like “Oh my God, I’m about to forget all the lyrics and stand here like an idiot on a live TV show, in front of the world.” So words just starting coming out and it wasn’t noticeable unless you really knew the song.” Of course, now everyone knows. [Laughs]
TVLINE | That was also the week you did Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which was at the oppposite end of the spectrum from “I Remember You,” going back to classic, classic country. Even the dress you had on that week played into the vibe, with the flared, retro silhouette. Was that a way for you to tell your fans that you were a country girl at heart?
I mean, that was the first time we actually got to have our own choice since Knockout Rounds, so it was all up to me to choose my song. Actually, Colton Swon is the one that brought up “Crazy,” and I was like, “Oh my God, you’re a genius!” I’ve sung that song my whole life. I was like, “Why haven’t I thought of that?” I wanted to take it back to my roots, because I grew up with old country music thanks to my grandparents, and it was such an honor for me to sing that song. And then the dress! The girls in wardrobe are geniuses themselves. We wanted it to be that classic look — with the red curtain, the mic stand, the band — but we wanted to make it modern as well. So I took the mic off the stand and dragged the mic stand behind me. And then with the dress, I wanted it to be tea-length, but I wanted it to be modern as well. It had all those cool designs with the spiderweb-looking things on it. It was just perfect, awesome, very different.
TVLINE | Your final performance before you got voted off was Maroon 5′s “Sad,” which to me was the performance of the season. Did you feel going in that it was going to be awesome?
I heard it for the first time a couple weeks prior while I was listening to Adam’s album and looking for songs that I could possibly do, and so I texted him about it. I was like, “Dude, I love this song, ‘Sad,’ and the lyrics just are awesome!” But we didn’t really talk about me covering it. And then, for the Semi-Finals, he says, “Amber, I want you to do ‘Sad.’ I trust you with it, and I think it was made for you, actually.”
Adam doesn’t like choreography. He actually hates it. So I really wanted to do this song for him, and have it be very simple, with just the lights and the microphone stand. Just strip it all down because at the end of the day, the show is supposed to be about the voice, and I wanted to show that. Even though obviously it didn’t get me through to the next round, I was really proud of my performance. It was very, very special for me and Adam. We’re the only two on iTunes who have a version of it.
TVLINE | Was it cool to see that go iTunes Top 10? I suppose that’s really the goal at the end of the day, is to be able to be an artist whose music is going to sell to the public.
That was amazing. I was so sick of everyone else getting to the Top 10, and I wasn’t. So I was like, “Adam, we’ve got to get to Top 10 no matter what!” So to see “Sad” make it there was like a dream come true. I wanted it so bad, and I’m glad that I got to go out like that. At least I made it there once with a song that meant so much to me and my coach.
Did you love Amber on The Voice? What was your favorite performance of hers? Sound off in the comments!