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'The Voice' gets ready to go live

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It’s been one heck of a second season for The Voice. The extended blind-auditions round saw some singers explode onto the stage, while others were tearfully and contentiously sent home (we’ll never forget you, Ducky!). The battle rounds brought their own standout moments, including an epic vocal throwdown between Jesse Campbell and Anthony Evans on ”If I Ain’t Got You.” Now the dust has finally settled on the stage of NBC’s breakout talent show, and what’s left are 24 contestants gearing up to compete for votes from America and their coaches. With The Voice entering its live rounds and beginning its new twice-a-week schedule, EW asked the producers some of the biggest questions on our mind in season 2.

What have the artists been doing in the months between the taping of the battle rounds and the live shows?
”The truth is, a lot of our contestants are working musicians and they have gigs,” says exec producer Audrey Morrissey. ”So in between the battle rounds and the live tapings, they were all allowed to make their living and do their thing.” The only requirement? They couldn’t reveal any of the standings on the show.

How much time do the coaches actually spend with their artists?
Despite busy schedules all around, the coaches manage to email and communicate with their contestants beyond the basic rehearsals and initial mentoring sessions. And once the live shows begin, explains Morrissey, ”they all spend a lot of time with them.”

Now that The Voice is on twice a week, how will the live shows work?
Over the next six weeks, the coaches’ teams will take turns performing live on Monday, and then face the music during the newly added elimination night on Tuesday. ”There will be some saves made by America and some by the coaches,” says exec producer Mark Burnett. By week 7, eight remaining artists will compete until one singer from each team advances to the May 8 finale — and then it’s up to America to crown the winner.

How will songs be chosen for the live shows?
During the blind auditions, the artists selected from an extensive precleared list, and during the battles, the coaches made their own picks (as evidenced by Blake Shelton’s obsession with the ’80s). ”For the live shows, it’s mainly a collaboration,” says Burnett. While that means the coaches choose the songs in conjunction with their artists, as Burnett points out, ”Let’s face it: If Christina advises someone to sing a song, they’re not going to tell Christina Aguilera no.”

Will there be any theme nights?
Although other talent shows (cough, Idol, cough) are known for their theme nights, The Voice has no plans to follow suit. Burnett says that when famous performers show up, there may be songs relevant to them, but he’s pretty set against the concept: ”It means you’re pigeonholing someone who’s not in that genre to sing something that doesn’t showcase them at their best.”

How did Kelly Clarkson end up as a mentor, given her American Idol connection?
As it turns out, Clarkson’s involvement with the rival reality show didn’t seem to matter. ”Blake approached her,” says Burnett. ”[He] knows her on a personal level, and Miranda [Lambert] knows her, so Blake’s got two mentors that he knows really well: He’s married to one, and he’s friends with the other.”

Will the coaches sing again this season?
”I’m pretty positive that the coaches will end up performing at some point,” says Morrissey, though she’s mum on details. ”I can’t be specific how that will happen, but the coaches are planning on performing.”

What happens to the chairs when the coaches aren’t sitting in them?
”The chairs have become a character,” says Burnett, explaining that the show’s signature spinning seats have been duplicated so they can travel the publicity circuit (so far they’ve visited The Ellen DeGeneres Show and last year’s Emmys, among others). ”There was such demand for the chair. I know we made at least two extras, and now that I’ve told you that, there’s going to be a lot more demand for chairs.”

Why did the coaches wear the same clothes in all of the battle rounds?
”We’re not paying them enough! They can’t afford new clothes,” jokes Burnett. The real answer: All of the battle rounds were filmed in two days.

So what’s the deal with Christina’s tiny hat?
”Christina, in all of her videos and career, has always worn very different, provocative, outrageous outfits,” explains Burnett, who says he digs the bedazzled compact-disc headgear that Aguilera sported throughout the battle rounds. Jokes Burnett, ”I hear that Blake is going to be wearing one next season.”

Do the artists ever spend time with coaches besides their own?
If you’re imagining giant backyard barbecues with the entire Voice ensemble, keep dreaming. ”Unless there’s a moment where they’re around and they just say hey, they only interact with their own coach,” says Burnett. ”Only during their performances do they interact with the other three coaches.”

Where did Purrfect the cat go?
Morrissey promises that we will ”absolutely” get to see more of Cee Lo Green’s cherished feline. ”The cat comes to all the tapings, and I think Cee Lo takes the cat out beyond that,” laughs Morrissey. ”People love the cat!”

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