Carson Daly had his doubts about The Voice. Before he watched an episode of the original Dutch show that his program is based upon, the late-night host wasn’t sure he was up for hosting a singing competition. “God bless The Singing Bee, America’s Got Talent, and all the other shows out there, I just don’t think those types of shows are really what I want to do,” he recalls thinking during his first meeting with NBC. But it turns out, it was exactly what he wanted to do.
After viewing the first episode, the former host of MTV’s TRL, saw the potential and a chance to, as he says, once again act as “a pop-culture traffic cop.” “With the chairs, I thought it was a little cheesy at first. Then I took the whole season home and I watched it. And I thought it was great, [especially] the different chapters of the show, like the blind auditions, and the battle round, and the ring, and the live shows. I thought, ‘Wow. This is really good.'”
Last night’s episode marked the conclusion of the blind auditions, and the four coaches (Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Cee Lo Green) now have their teams of 8 set. Next week, viewers will watch as the teams are cut to just four people per coach. “You start to see the relationship between these superstar artists and their artists. That’s a new, fun, chemistry to see. It’s Christina sitting at a piano, giving a 17-year-old a free song lesson.” But not to worry, he says jokingly, “there’s still some verbal assaults” among the judges.
In an exclusive chat, Daly talks with EW about what you’ve seen so far, and what’s next.
On whether there are people who didn’t make it through who would have made it if the judges could have seen them: “Probably. I think we’re all human, and I think some people have great stage presence. I can’t speak for Christina, Cee Lo, Blake or Adam, but if you just shut your eyes and play along with The Voice, there’s people who don’t have great stage presence … I think it works both ways. I think there are people who they would have pressed their button on if they had the benefit of seeing them, and there’s probably some that, you know…”
On whether you make stage presence: “There’s a real transformation that takes place now that we enter the battle rounds and the mentoring starts. Some of these people really step up to the plate, and really want to make it. They get really good, and they were already good to begin with. A couple of the coaches went in on people who were like, ‘I don’t know if their voices are that good, but I know you were nervous. I know you were pitchy.’ There was one girl, I think it was Emily Valentine — the blond with all the tattoos — who went back to her family and was like, ‘I wasn’t that nervous, but my voice was nervous.’ She talked about it like her voice wasn’t a part of her. And I think the artists can relate to people and to nerves. It’s exciting.”
On watching with families in the Family and Friends Room: “There are two parts to The Voice. There’s a marriage between the stage show — the chairs, the performances — and then there’s the reality portion, which are, for the first couple of weeks, me and the families. They’re interwoven together. You have these human storylines. I feel more comfortable, almost, in the reality part because it’s interacting with regular people. Like Tje Austin and his family — the love that they have for him and most of those parents, it’s real sacrifice for these young people. Or Javier Colon and his wife; I watched that audition with them, and Javier — who just turned 34 on Friday — said, ‘I can’t just keep chasing this music dream. I’m a father now. It’s either now on The Voice, or I go get a job.’ Even Nakia’s boyfriend — I remember last night, there was a big, romantic gay kiss that didn’t air last night. But I was in the room, and this guy supports Nakia. He brings home the bacon, basically, to let Nakia chase his dream. It’s so much fun to be around all of that.
On the Coaches’ surprising tastes: “I’m as shocked as any of you. I put them all in their stereotypes. I didn’t know who they would choose. I figured Christina would be looking for songstresses, girls with big voices. And everybody who came with country thought they had Blake, but that’s not what happened. Curtis Grimes was last night, and he’s a kid who Cee Lo picked. And there was a guy who was a window washer [Justin Grennan] who Christina went in on as her first guy…. I think that’s why the show is clicking with people, though. I didn’t know much about Blake Shelton, and I think he might be the standout coach on the show at this point. The guy’s hilarious. So there’s a sense of discovery from all these people.”
On Cee Lo: “People don’t realize he’s a record producer. Think about him getting together with Danger Mouse to form Gnarles Barkley. That’s a very progressive move for an R&B singer from Atlanta.”
On Blake: “He’s got a weak spot for the earthy girls. He must have grown up on Stevie Nicks or Edie Brickell records, I don’t know. But he’s got a soft spot for females who sing ‘earthy,’ as he puts it, which isn’t necessarily twangy country.
On Adam: “Adam might arguable have the best team on paper. I think his pickiness might prove to pay off. We’ll see.”
On Christina: “She is the premiere vocalist of the group. She’s such a great singer, I think she’s got strong pipes on her team. She’s going to have to look at someone like Frenchie and Tarralyn and put them against each other, which will make for great battle rounds because it’s going to be these giant voices going at each other.”
On last night’s second opportunity twist: “That shows you how authentic the show is. It’s the first season of The Voice, so it was an unprecedented moment. What you saw last night was exactly how it happened. We all huddled up and tried to figure out how we were going to do this. They all unanimously agreed on a few people and put them back in the pot. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. But it’s because Adam was so picky. [Laughs]”