I’ve got good news. For those suffering from the Idol Burnout Blues (assuming it’s not just me), help is on the way. If the first two episodes are any indication, NBC’s The Voice is gonna be poppin’ this season. And given his show-stopping rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” on last week’s episode of The Voice, it’s safe to say we can expect big things from contender Tje Austin. (That is, we hope.) The 27-year-old Texan already scored two fans in judges Adam Levine and and Cee-Lo Green — and selected the latter as his vocal coach for the season. You can check out his official contestant profile, complete with behind-the-scenes video, here. But before you check him out on tonight’s new episode of The Voice, read our exclusive interview with the contestant, in which he talks about coach Cee Lo, the upcoming battles, and auditioning for a little competitor called American Idol.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you hear about the competition?
One of my friends actually sent me a message on Facebook the day before, or a couple days before, for an open audition. I wasn’t gonna do it, I really wasn’t gonna do it. I really didn’t want to get involved in a competition. I’m not that type of person, but I went to the audition and they really enjoyed my performance, which got me excited and then finally when I heard that they accepted me, I was just amazed. It made me feel really good.
So really within like 48 hours of hearing about it, you tried out?
Wow. So you hadn’t done American Idol before or anything?
I actually tried out for American Idol a long time ago. But I never made it past, like, any round. I got to the audition where they have the mass, mass amount of people and it was just ridiculously crazy. I never made it past anything.
Were auditions for The Voice a little more low-key?
No. There were a lot of people there, but it was coordinated. They were pumping people out really fast, but I felt like they were doing it pretty well.
What were the blind auditions like?
Nerve-wracking. I was nervous. I was really nervous. I just really wanted to make sure that I remembered my words and I wanted to connect with the audience, but I really wanted someone to turn around. So I’m sitting there singing and it kinda felt like I was just going through the motions of singing because I was just staring so intently at the chairs, waiting for them to turn around.
And what did it feel like when they finally did turn around? It was Adam and Cee Lo at the same time, right?
At the same time. I wanted to yell and scream, but I was like, “Okay, gotta get through this song,” but I was elated and it was relief, really. It was a lot of pressure on my shoulders.
Did you wish Christina or Blake had turned around?
It would have been great for both of those coaches to turn around, but I feel like they didn’t turn around because they felt that Adam or Cee-Lo would be a good choice for me, and I agree with that decision.
How did it feel when Christina said she was mad she didn’t pick you?
[Laughs] That was awesome. And it’s great that it was on camera, ‘cause I will have that moment forever and I’ll just keep on replaying it over and over and over.
I would if I were you. So obviously you work mostly with Cee Lo but do you see the other judges?
I work closely with Cee Lo. That’s the bulk of my time. I don’t get to spend any time with any of the other judges, I just get to spend time with my coach.
So how are the battle rounds going?
Well, you’re gonna have to watch and see.
Aww, come on.
I will say that it’s a great concept. I think this really helps it stand out from American Idol. And it’s a great opportunity to have two great vocalists sing with each other.
Are there any moments during the battle rounds that we should look forward to?
I just think you should look forward to an amazing battle. I really think that all of the contestants have great battles, but obviously mine is the favorite. When you watch it it’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna be great. Every single battle that goes down, everyone in America is gonna be torn.
It sounds so intense, these singing “battles.”
It is intense. You have such great artists going up against each other. It’s gonna make great TV moments I think.
So do you get along with everyone? How much do you get to interact with the other contestants?
I lived with these guys. This is like my family. I like seeing how great we all are. It’s a really uplifting atmosphere. Especially on our teams, everyone is rooting for everyone else. Of course, we’re secretly hoping that someone falls down the stairs, but you know, it’s great. We really love each other. We’re connected by our love of music and our ability to sing and it’s such a unique experience that we get to be involved with in the show.
Who would you say is your biggest competition?
I would say everybody is my competition.
Aww, cop out.
No, I really do. If you’re gonna go on my team… it’s hard to say cause we’re all so diverse from each other. I never know what Cee Lo is wanting, like what did he wake up that day and what style does he want. He’s so eclectic. I think the team definitely reflects that. And that’s another cool thing about him. He doesn’t just love one style of music. But it’s also a little frustrating. It doesn’t really give me insight into what I should do. We’ve got country, we’ve got pop, we’ve got some soul, blues. I know that Niki and I are very similar. We both sing R&B, and I think that if we do a duet, that would sound awesome. But I think I would sound great with everybody.
You seem like a pretty avid Tweeter – are you gonna keep that up throughout the season?
I would love to. If I can, yes. I want to try to respond to as many people as possible and I want to try to get as far as possible in this competition. I would love to win it. I would love to get a record deal, but it’s not gonna crush me if I don’t. But definitely I wanna get the record deal.
‘The Voice’ battle rounds scoop! Mark Burnett talks changes, promises ‘one of the best hours of TV’