BOOM BOOM HOW
He’s The Voice’s new sensation, resident computer geek, and brilliant musical professor. HOLLY BYRNES meets Will.i.am
Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am’s formula to find The Voice
ASK self-confessed computer geek Will.i.am if there’s a formula to winning The
Voice, or a code making it big in the music business, and his analytical brain almost audibly whirrs into action.
Eyes darting, his hands folded together, he plots his answer carefully.
Picking winners, like penning hit songs, is all about “pattern matching”, the Black Eyed Peas singer says.
“I like analysing what works and what doesn’t work. The reason why the Peas have been successful and why I’ve had success outside the Peas is that analytical mind. Seeing what works in this country versus what works in another country. Finding the commonality or the void in culture and either filling it or pattern matching.”
His scientific approach to this year’s series has already made the new US recruit fascinating to watch.
If Ricky Martin was the matador last year, then this year’s Voice fans have warmed to Professor Will.i.am, the mad scientist, who bubbles like a chemistry experiment every time a contestant excites him enough to turn his chair.
Never was this more infectious than in his childlike reaction to Emily Rex’s performance of the Willy Wonka theme song, Pure
Imagination, last Monday night. The Professor was fizzing as he enthused it is “my favourite song in the whole entire freaking world”.
When that connection between coach and artist fails, the Professor breaks down what went wrong in a way which will be an education to not only the singer but also the audience.
In filming breaks, his hyper-activity continues, absorbed in the multiple gadgets he totes around with him on stage in an astronomic backpack.
While he might not win plaudits for his own voice, it’s Will.i.am’s musical genius and ability to crack the code of what works – and what doesn’t – which should continue to earn him respect.
He knows that’s his strength, playing up his producing credentials which include Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and his Peas cohort, Fergie.
“All the other coaches get produced. No disrespect or taking away from the other coaches, but when I sit there and have my back turned that’s exactly what it’s like when I’m producing people,” he says.
“When I’m in the booth with them, I’m just listening to find what’s missing to find the magic in the song.”
The appeal of joining the UK and Australian Voice, “in my opinion, is a microcosm of the music industry. That’s exactly how it works, so the coach is kind of like your A&R (artist and repertoire) ... and
The Voice is a great fishing pond, if you will, to find artists”, he says.
In response to the show’s hit-and-miss track record for sustaining music careers, he adds: “If you can work around the politics and get out of that little web, maybe these contenders have a shot at a career.”
He has stood by his Team Will charge from last year’s UK series, Leah McFall, introducing her to heavyhitters on the Grammy committee and connecting her with key songwriters.
Without the right tracks after the show, winning The
Voice “is like giving somebody that has no money a big ass house and they have no ability to pay that freaking tax. That’s like the worst thing. The things you need are songs. I took Leah on tour with me in the UK and Europe, connected her with all the Grammy folks then I set up sessions with all the top writers. I want to do the same for somebody else here.”
How does the Professor rate the singers here so far? “The fricking singers here are mental banana, yes, yes, yes.com.”