Meet Emma Caroline, UA Graduate and ‘The Voice’ S20 Contestant
Alabama has a new state sweetheart, and she had judges on NBC’s “The Voice” spinning their chairs before she could get through a single verse last week.
Emma Caroline Warren, a 25-year-old singing sensation from Tuscaloosa, made her hometown proud this week when her blind audition on the singing competition show earned her a spot on “Team Blake.” If she wins, the show will award her $100,000 and a recording contract with Republic Records.
After wowing the judges with her rendition of Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn," Warren made her Tuscaloosa roots apparent with an iconic “Roll Tide.”
“You have to say that when you’re from Tuscaloosa,” said John Legend, an award-winning singer-songwriter and judge on this season of The Voice.
Country star Blake Shelton scooped her up for his team, which has won seven of The Voice's 19 seasons – the most of any mentor.
SMALL TOWN ROOTS
Warren grew up in Tuscaloosa her whole life and, like most locals, loves Alabama football and the “small town” atmosphere for which Tuscaloosa is very well-known.
“Getting to go to the Quad, experiencing tailgating and the community that comes with the football team is amazing,” Warren said. “The town rallying behind me while I perform has made me feel so supported.”
Warren graduated from Tuscaloosa Academy in 2013 and loved growing up in the Druid City so much that she decided to stay for college. During her time at the University of Alabama, she joined the Delta Delta Delta Sorority, majored in public health and graduated with her bachelor's degree in 2017.
Her singing career began just before her time as a UA student.
“I grew up singing in church and then me and a friend formed a group in high school,” Warren said. “We started playing at a coffee shop and I just knew from a young age that singing was what I wanted to do.”
Warren also became involved with Calvary Baptist Church, a church in Tuscaloosa with a well-known youth group, where she sang with a campus ministry group once a week. During her summers, Warren began attending camp at JH Ranch, a church retreat located in northern California, where she led worship services.
“Worship was such a big part of my life and still is,” Warren said.
Her experience at JH Ranch led her to record “Pursue,” a debut worship EP, in Nashville.
MAKING IT IN MUSIC
After college, Warren knew she had to move to the country music hub of the world to seriously follow a future in music. Since the release of her EP, Warren has done a ton of writing and collaboration with other artists in Nashville.
“I am really excited to show people what I can do musically,” Warren said. “With my next EP, I really want to showcase where I can go with my music.”
While one of her favorite genres to sing is country, Warren is always open to experimenting creatively with her musical talents.
“I don’t think I am ever going to write just country,” Warren said. “I just write whatever comes up. Usually, it is more country, but I also love singer-songwriter, folk styles.”
Warren said her cover of Musgraves’ “Slow Burn” is what secured her spot on Shelton’s team. The contemporary country artist has always been an inspiration to Warren and her singing style, she added.
“I knew I wanted to sing a Kacey Musgraves song,” Warren said. “It was important to me to establish that I love country music. That song was perfect for what I wanted to do.”
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
This is not the first time Warren has attempted to be on The Voice. After being sent home in 2014 during the early rounds for her original audition, she knew it was not yet her time.
This time, however, The Voice reached out to Warren and asked her if she wanted to audition a second time. Warren was thrilled but never expected it to go anywhere.
“The pandemic was hitting and music was really slow in Nashville,” Warren said. “I sent in some videos and when I heard back that I had got an audition, I couldn’t believe it was real.”
Warren flew out to California as soon as she heard the good news and began to prepare for the process of auditioning. During her audition rounds, Warren learned a lot about herself and “stepping out of her comfort zone.”
The blind audition is the first televised performance where contestants can showcase their talents to an array of celebrity judges. Warren, who had never made it to this round before, stepped out on stage to perform.
“My goal when I went out on that stage was to feel good about my performance and show the coaches what I had,” Warren said. “I prayed for a chair turn. I was just going to be happy if I felt like I sang well. When I got chair turns...I truly couldn’t believe it was happening. I felt like my dream was happening right in front of me. I almost forgot my words because I was so excited. It’s still hard to believe.”
As the chairs turned and each judge sang words of praise about Warren’s performance, she was faced with the decision of a lifetime. She had two judges turn in her favor: Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton.
“They are obviously both great,” Warren said. “I didn’t even expect to have a choice.”
After a chorus of "Roll Tides" from the judges, it was decision time. Shelton was able to snag Warren as a member of his team by establishing a mutual love for Nashville.
Legend, along with fellow Voice judge Nick Jonas, joked that picking Shelton was the "obvious" choice, given his ties to the country music industry.
“Blake started talking to me about the music scene in Nashville and how it’s all about relationships with who you know,” Warren said. “He said, ‘I’m ready to start a relationship with you right now.’ That really got to me because I know he knows exactly what goes on in Nashville and can really help me in my career after The Voice.”
Shelton, who described Warren’s voice as “mountain-sounding,” was clearly enamored with her talent.
“When Blake said I had a 'mountain voice,' I thought it was such a compliment because mountain voices tend to be so unique,” Warren said. “I think it has to do with my twang that I bring when I sing and how I pronounce some words. I think mountain voices tend to sound more raw and pure.”
As Warren’s performance ended and she faced the four judges, she couldn’t believe where she was standing.
“I Just wanted to stand there and take it all in,” She said. “It gave me so much confidence in myself. This is the first big thing I’ve really done, Standing there listening to Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson compliment my voice…. I knew it was truly where I was supposed to be.”
"ONLY GROW FROM HERE"
Since her first televised audition, Warren already has some ideas on how she can improve.
“I know I need to work on my stage presence and coming out of my shell,” she said. “Everyone is nervous for their first audition so I think I can only grow from here.”
As a girl coming from a small town, Warren had key advice for other young aspiring singers.
“I think it it’s important that if you love something, to just do it," she said. “I’ve gotten told 'no' and I didn’t know how to get this music thing started, but I started singing in church and from there, the opportunities just came. If you love something, it is so important to continuously work at it. When the timing is right, it will happen.”
While Warren moves through the rounds of The Voice, she said she is so immensely grateful to everyone, especially her fans in Tuscaloosa, who are supporting her through her journey.
We will follow Warren's Voice run until the very end, so stay tuned here for updates on her performances. To support Warren, watch NBC’s The Voice on Mondays at 7 p.m. CST.
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