The search for a new vocal superstar is back as The Voice UK returns to ITV in 2018.
Pop sensation Olly Murs joins Jennifer Hudson, Sir Tom Jones and will.i.am to complete the superstar panel of coaches – and Emma Willis is back as presenter.
New coach Olly is no stranger to talent shows, first finding fame on The X Factor, where he came second in 2009. He has gone on to sell more than 17 million records worldwide and notched upfour UK No.1 albums and four No.1 singles. His most recent album 24 Hrs hit the No.1 spot in November 2016 while in 2017 he played two consecutive tours selling in excess of 600,000 tickets.
Singer, songwriter, producer and entrepreneur will.i.am returns for his seventh series – the only coach to appear on The Voice UK since the very beginning. Will – who also appeared as a coach on the first series of The Voice Kids on ITV in 2017 – is one of the most successful artists in the world, winning seven Grammy Awards and selling more than 12 million singles in the UK alone. He has produced international artists including Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Nicki Minaj while his group The Black Eyed Peas have sold more than 76 million records globally
Legendary artist Sir Tom Jones has had huge success in a career spanning six decades, selling more than 100 million records and clocking up 36 Top 40 hits in the UK and 19 in the US. The recipient of Brit Awards for Best Male and Outstanding Contribution to Music as well as a Grammy, Sir Tom’s music career started in 1965 with the worldwide hit It’s Not Unusual and continues with great critical and popular success to this day. He was awarded an OBE in 1999 and received a Knighthood for services to music in 2006.
Grammy, Oscar and Bafta-winnng artist Jennifer Hudson returns after winning the 2017 series with her act Mo Adeniran and fresh from her stint as a coach on The Voice’s US version. This is the first time a coach has appeared on The Voice on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. The singer, movie star and Broadway actress first found fame after her breakout Academy Award-winning performance in Dreamgirls, which followed her finalist-run on American Idol. She went on to make her recording debut with her self-titled album, selling millions of copies worldwide and garnering her first Grammy Award. Her subsequent albums, films and television roles kept her in the Billboard Top 10 and earned multiple awards and attention. Her Broadway debut in the 2015/2016 musical revival of The Color Purple garnered her another Grammy win.
Emma Willis again returns to present The Voice UK after completing hosting duties on The Voice Kids in the summer.
Meanwhile, The Voice UK’s digital platforms will bring fans all the backstage gossip as Jamie Miller, a finalist on the last series, returns as digital reporter. Since appearing on the show, he has signed a US recording deal with Atlantic Records, home of Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Aretha Franklin.
This year’s winner will again scoop a recording contract with music giants Polydor, home to global stars Take That and Ellie Goulding as well as the UK’s biggest breakthrough artists including The 1975 and Years & Years.
The series begins with solo singers and duos competing in the Blind auditions in the hope that the coaches hit their buttons and turn their red chairs for them. If none do, the coaches lose their chance to see the acts at the end of each performance in a format twist that was first introduced last series. With only ten spots to fill on each team, the competition is fierce. The coaches then whittle down their teams at the Battle rounds, with each able to ‘steal’ one act from a rival. The teams get smaller still during the Knockouts while the public get their say at the live Semi-Final – deciding who will make it through to the final. The winner of The Voice UK 2018 will then be crowned by the public during the spectacular live finale.
The new series of The Voice UK launches on ITV on 6 January 2018 at 8pm.
INTERVIEW WITH WILL.I.AM
How different does it feel being back on The Voice UK after doing The Voice Kids in the summer?
It feels good to be back. The only time the vibe seems similar is when you have a 16-yearold singer up there because our cut off for The Voice Kids is 14. So a 14-year-old singer is really no different to a 16-year-old singer. I have 16 and 17 year olds on my team this year. That is the only time when there is blend, when you can’t really recognise the experience as different. Other than that, the fact there is Tom Jones there and Jennifer Hudson and now Olly makes it different. I really enjoyed working with Pixie and Danny on The Voice Kids. I like The Voice Kids a lot.
What dynamic does Olly bring to the panel?
Olly is quite mysterious like Gavin Rossdale. He has similar circus antics as Ricky Wilson and he has the heartthrob front-man performer vibe that Danny from The Script had. He is like all three of them together. I like Olly a lot on the show.
You have been playing a few mind games with Olly on the panel…
They weren’t mind games but because I’ve been stressful before making decisions on the show, I am just trying to make it light and for him not to stress too much as it clogs you from just enjoying the person singing. When you are extra critical or super cynical you are not really enjoying the moment.
Jennifer is the reigning queen, is she more confident this year?
Jennifer is great, she is great on TV. I am happy she did this show again and that she committed to do both The Voice UK and The Voice US because she could have easily said, ‘I’ve had a great time in the UK but I’m doing the US show now and I’m not going to break my back going back and forth’. So I am happy she is still doing The Voice UK.
You have had the experience of doing two versions of The Voice when you did the UK and Australia shows…
Yeah but for some reason, the trek from LA to London is manageable but it really feels like Star Trek the journey from LA to Australia. You really feel you are going to a different planet it is so far away!
How is it to have Tom back too?
Think about it, Tom has an excuse not to come back. He has a new hip, he is 70 years old-plus, he could just say, ‘I am going to relax!’ But Tom is like, ‘I have got a new hip and I’m coming on The Voice and I’m more vibrant than I was last season!’ I don’t know where he is getting the energy from but I want to be like Tom when I am in my 70s.
Are you looking for anything different on the show this year?
I am looking to work with people post-The Voice. Whoever I can work with after the show. That is what I have been turning for. That is what I am excited about.
What keeps bringing you back to The Voice UK?
Just the UK, I love it here. I just like this country, Britain. Any excuse. Although for some reason when I do my British accent it sounds like an old man!
INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER HUDSON
How does it feel to be back?
I’m so excited to be back! It feels different returning after having the winning contestant last season. My first season, I had the pressure of being new and now I have the pressure of being reigning champion. I am trying not to think about it too much and just have fun with it.
You are doing the US version of The Voice as well, is there a different vibe to the British show?
There isn’t anything drastically different between the two shows aside from the accents! All of the contestants are pursuing their dreams and both shows have passionate coaches. British people are definitely a little more reserved.
What is it like having Olly on the panel?
I love it! He is so fun. I love his energy and excitement. Since he also had a similar experience, he can relate to the contestants too, which is cool.
You share that bond…
Definitely. We can relate to this experience. That helps me support the contestants even more and is helpful to the contestants, as now they have two people in that position on the panel.
Is it nice to be back sat between Will and Tom?
Always! It is so fun and such an interesting panel. You have Tom, a legend, who I am always blown away by. It is just a joy to be in his presence and sit next to him and watch and learn from him. Anything he says is just gold and I just think, ‘wow.’ Just telling his story is history, iconic.
Will, I swear his mind is like outer space. Just trying to understand his thought process and how he thinks keeps me going. What is Will saying? What is he thinking? Where is he going with this? But it makes it a very interesting panel.
Have you got any further down the road to understanding where Will comes from and where his thoughts emanate from?
At one point I thought I had him figured out but I am finding I haven’t. He has gotten crazier! It is his charm and I love it. It just shows how we are all individuals!
Your two final acts from last year, Mo Adeniran and Jamie Miller, are both doing well…
Mo is so busy, I knew from the moment he won he would be. Once the ball starts rolling it never stops. Even for me, once I was on the American Idol rollercoaster it never ended and I see the same for Mo. Jamie is like a little brother. He will text me or send me videos. He is always singing something. If I can support any of my acts in finding their dream, I am here. Once you are in JHud Productions you are stuck with me!
Does it feel strange being interviewed by Jamie now he is the digital backstage reporter?
I am so proud of him. I am still coaching him, I tell him he has to believe in himself.
During filming you brought a collection plate in with you, tell us about that…
A fan gave it to me in America. She said every time I sing, I take everyone to church and gave me a collection plate. I said I would take it with me to The Voice UK. In church, we take up a collection after the choir sings. So if the acts have sung exceptionally well, I feel the need to get up and take a collection from the audience. Of course any money collected will go to charity.
You didn’t know what many of the coins and notes were in the plate!
I have no idea what the money is! I have travelled all across to the UK and I still can’t figure it out. It is fancy currency!
You sing a lot for the audience during breaks as well…
I always love to sing. I love singing for the audience. Sometimes I just sit there and do it subconsciously. Whenever I am performing, I want to hear the audience too. They want to be part of it too.
Do you think you can win again this year?
I definitely think my team can win again this year. I am still passionate about the contestants and I feel that is what helped us win last season. The passion will never die.
INTERVIEW WITH SIR TOM JONES
How does it feel to be back and with a new panel member, Olly Murs?
It feels great to be back, I love doing The Voice UK. Olly is a fresh face, he is energetic and enthusiastic. He is doing really well.
Has his arrival changed the dynamic on the panel?
Not really because Will, Jennifer and myself know one another well but Olly is a refresher, he throws something new into it.
You did pretty well winning pitches in the Blinds this year…
With my track record on the show, singers trust me. If they’ve watched the show, they would have seen what I’ve done with singers to bring them forward. I’m so pleased with the talent on my team, it seems like a good year this year for me.
Is it good to have Jennifer and Will back too?
Those two, they are like friends to me, it is like when you haven’t seen someone for a while then you see them, you know them so well you just click straight back in again. That is how I am with them.
Is Jennifer more confident this year now she is the reigning champion?
She was confident as soon as she sat in that chair! That is her personality, she is a very experienced, confident person. Of course she’d like to win again, we’d all like to. When you get a winner it is reassuring that you’ve done a good job and you have brought that person to where he or she should be.
During breaks in the Blinds you’ve been singing to the audience a lot…
Since The Voice UK moved to ITV, it feels more relaxed and more like you can do whatever takes your fancy at the time. They like to see us together interacting with each other as opposed to fighting one another, which I like.
You’ve been very open about your new hip, how are you feeling now?
I don’t need any kind of aidnow, I am walking fine and it’s getting better and stronger every day.
Your finalists last year, Into the Ark, have been touring with you…
They have got a bright future ahead of them. They’ve been developing through experience and they are writing and performing consistently.They seem to be quite unique as there is nothing like them around at the moment and that is a good thing. They are going to tour with me in America next spring, which I’m looking forward to.
What are you looking for on the show this year?
I am just looking for people who hit me and move me. If they can move me then they can move an audience. We all look for that but not exactly in the same way. What moves Willor Jennifer or Olly maybe wouldn’t move me and vice versa. We hear different things in singers. Sometimes we all hear the same thing and that is why we all turn. When we all say, ‘I’ll know it when I hear it,’ it is difficult to explain what ‘it’ is until you actually do hear it.
What is it that keep you coming back to The Voice UK?
I like helping other singers. I like passing on my experience and explaining what I feel a singer needs to do to be successful,and this is the best way for me to do that. It is like singing itself – I am doing something I would do anyway but this is part of my profession now, coaching, just like singing is. I love it, I love doing it and I love helping people. It is part of my life and the way I have always felt about music and the business, to give back to aspiring artists and try and help them along. I want to pass on my knowledge and experience. Being on this show is perfect for that, particularly as I have been in the business so long.
Do you think you have the winner this year in Team Tom?
I always think I do, I wouldn’t have picked these singers otherwise. But I can always see the potential in the other teams as well, I know what I am up against. I think this year there are more really good singers than we have had before so it is going to be more difficult. We have one steal at the Battles but I wish we had more!
INTERVIEW WITH OLLY MURS
How does it feel joining The Voice UK as a coach?
It feels amazing. It is incredible to be part of such an amazing show and a show that I have watched from afar for many years. I am really enjoying being part of such a fun, exciting show, it is brilliant.
What’s it like being the new boy on the panel?
It is mad. When I first started I was really nervous to be the new member, it is like being in a new class at a new school with all new kids, I have got all these new people to meet and they all know each other and they have got to get to know me. Will they like me or not? I don’t know, but I have settled in brilliantly. I was really nervous to start off but everyone is really lovely and the whole team is great to work with and they have made me feel really welcome. They are really fun.
Are some of the other coaches on the panel playing games with you?
I think Will is probably the most competitive that I saw, he was trying to get into my head and trying to convince me to turn when maybe I shouldn’t but that is what it is all about. It is all fun and games and I think especially when you are on The Voice UK it becomes ultra-competitive because one of us is going to win the show with the team we have got and obviously we all want to have a really good team and we all want to win. I think there is always going to be that nice little competitive edge and I think Will always brings that. I love it, it is all banter for me, I like it when people are testing me out and having fun with me, it is great.
Did you know any of the other coaches before joining the show?
I knew them as artists and what they have achieved but I didn’t know them personally. Sir Tom is probably the only one I have properly met before and had a conversation with. We met at a gig in Germany, myself, Tom and Gregory Porter were all there singing. We all got chatting after which was nice. Will and Jennifer I have never met before but I have admired them from afar and so it was just lovely to meet them all. They all have their own personalities which is really fun. I’m sure they were probably thinking, ‘who the hell is this guy with bags of energy?’ but I am hoping they are liking me just as much as I am liking them.
Have you got a strategy to win?
No I haven’t at all! My strategy is just to pick a really good team and I think everyone on the panel just wants to find a star, that is what it is all about and to give our knowledge and advice and try and coach a big star. That is the whole point and hopefully give these guys the opportunity that we were given. That is the only strategy I have. It is very difficult, maybe ask me next year and I will maybe have a different strategy if I am doing the show because I’ll probably have a bit more experience but at the moment it is just about picking the right team. I am just really happy that we have all got really good teams and really strong singers.
You have come from a talent show background yourself, does that help you on the panel?
Yeah of course, it helps me to be able to give the contestants my advice and they also know I have been through that experience and I can help and guide them with that. If they have any questions they want to ask I can help them. But when they get to the later stages of the competition it is really about picking the right songs and that is what I want to try and get across to them. I hope they have the confidence in me to help them with that but they also need to know themselves and find themselves as an artist. I definitely think that the experiences I have had doing reality TV shows will definitely help them and that I have had such a successful career coming from a reality TV show, not many people get that opportunity so I am very lucky that I am part of that group.
Is it good to be back on Saturday night TV on ITV?
Yeah of course, I love the ITV audience and they obviously know me really well over the years being involved heavily with The X Factor. It is going to be great to be in people’s homes on a Saturday night again. Hopefully they will really enjoy this series just as much as I have loved being involved in it. I think it is going to be a fantastic year, I am feeling really confident and excited about it. I can’t wait for people to watch it.
How important are shows like The Voice UK in finding talent?
They are massively important, especially for someone like me who was working in a call centre in Essex. My mum and dad didn’t have the finances or didn’t know anyone in the music industry so I really didn’t have the opportunities. I didn’t know where I could go or what I could do so these shows really do change people’s lives. You still have these really amazing characters and what I love about it is when you find those characters who aren’t professional singers and are just normal regular people who really want to change their lives. That is what I love about these shows, being able to give someone the opportunity to change their life and be the next big thing and that’s why people like to watch. They always like to see the underdog do well.
Are you looking for anything particular from the acts this series?
I am looking for presence and an energy. It is very difficult as a coach when you are sat there waiting to press your button and you are hearing an amazing voice. I remember the day I was at the Brits at The O2 and Adele came out and sang Someone Like You and I remember, it was the energy in the room. The song was amazing and her voice is incredible but there was this real energy in the room that everyone was just so in awe about what she was doing and how beautiful the song was. It was just a really amazing moment. For me as a coach, what I am looking for is obviously a great voice but also something that attracts you. I heard some amazing voices at the Blinds but they didn’t always connect with the audience. That is what I am looking for, someone who cannot just sing but really connect with an audience. If anything the audience and the singer are pressing your button before you press it.
Viewers might just think you’re looking for a pop act, is that right?
What I am looking for is someone who isn’t like anyone else already out there. I want people who are individuals and characters, people who are different. I am looking for a team which is full of individuality and uniqueness. There is no point in me trying to compete with Sir Tom Jones or Jennifer Hudson as they are going to go for the big singers, the big divas or operatic singers, so to me I am looking for a pop voice but also people who are unique and charismatic characters.
Being the new member of the panel, has it been important for you to win pitching battles against the other coaches?
It was so important. I think the first time all the coaches turned for an act and I was up against everyone and won, it was a massive moment. Listen, you are sat across from Sir Tom Jones, the experience he has achieved and what he has done in his career, the success that he has had is amazing. When I get to Tom’s age, if I can have the career he has had, it would be absolutely amazing. When you look at Jennifer Hudson, she was on American Idol and then has gone on to win Grammys and an Oscar, that is amazing, an incredible achievement, she is an amazing artist. Look at will.i.am, as a singer and producer, he has achieved massive things. I have had a successful career myself as an artist but these guys have been doing it a lot longer than I have. I have a little less experience but I like being the underdog, I’ve always been the underdog.
It was interesting for me to go into this knowing that I’m going to be going up against three very experienced coaches but the good thing I have on my side is that I am probably the most current artist from the panel that is right in the thick of the action on the pop charts now. I think that is why I have been picked a few times over the other coaches as well.
Who would you say is your main competition on the panel?
I think it has to be Jennifer. She was the winner last time, the one to beat. Myself, Tom and Will, we have just been all about beating Jennifer Hudson as we can’t let her win again! She has been the one we are all up against.
INTERVIEW WITH EMMA WILLIS
Are you excited to be back?
I am very excited to be back! Normally it feels like quite a long time between series but, because of filming The Voice Kids in the summer, it has gone by really quickly this time.
Last time you were filming The Voice it was full of little people, does it feel weird to be back to the adult version?
will.i.am said with The Voice Kids there was such a phenomenal level of talent on that show that the grown-ups really have to up their game and I think he’s right. If the grownups aren’t as good this series we’re going to be like, ‘I’ve seen a 10-year-old better than you!’
We have a new boy, Olly Murs, this year…
He is a brilliant addition. He is very much like Jennifer, he knows what it is like, he has experienced it so he can relate to every single person who steps up on that stage. He is such a nice guy and he is so successful. In a time when it is really hard to become successful in music if you are just starting out, he is someone who is still achieving it so I think he will have really good knowledge and advice.
It is unusual to have two coaches who both have first-hand experience of these type of shows…
You have got different sides of the pond, Jennifer is a worldwide megastar and Olly is massive all around Europe and everywhere, it is not like he is just a British artist. Olly knows what it is like to come from a show that is very British and how to succeed at it while Jennifer knows how to do that on both sides of the Atlantic and over in America she has also won Grammys and an Oscar.
It is all about your voice but you have to progress and have stage presence as well and they both know about that.
Jennifer is back as reigning champion…
She was that good with us the Americans wanted her too! I am so pleased she is back, I love her to death. I’m really pleased she is here.
And Will and Tom are back too…
I saw Will when we did The Voice Kids and he is just utterly bonkers and totally genius in equal measure, he is so amazing at what he does and for me has made The Voice what it is today. I also love Tom, he is just such a gentleman. They are both like captains of the ship. You can’t have Pirates of the Caribbean without Jack Sparrow and we have two of them!
The show has kept the change from the last series that if no coaches press their buttons for an act they don’t turn around at the end. Do you think it worked well?
I think it worked well but I didn’t realise how brutal it was going to feel until the first one. When we heard it as a concept we were like, ‘that’s a good idea’. I think we do get more information from the coaches as to why they didn’t turn. It is year two now so the acts will be more prepared for it.
From the last series, roots have been put down for success by Mo, Into the Ark and Jamie Miller…
These things always take time and it is not instantaneous. The way I have always seen it is the music business is so difficult that if you are not massive and established, trying to start now is so hard so this show provides a platform and then they have to run with it.
The coaches can put through the best people possible but then they have to work really hard when they leave here. Mo is just about to release music and his voice is ridiculously good; Jamie Miller I think is going to fly, I think he is going to be our little pop star and Into the Ark are constantly touring, they have been on tour with Tom Jones. I bumped into them at so many festivals over the summer when [husband] Matt was playing. I was like, ‘oh, Into the Ark are playing too, I’m just going to watch them then I’ll be back!’
What is it about The Voice that keeps bringing you back?
I love the talent that we get on this show because I don’t think it is predictable. The show is so warm and it is something your whole family can watch at the weekend and it celebrates the best of what we can find that year. What is not to like about it? I love seeing people achieve what they want to achieve. I get excited and carried away.
And you can see the acts actually perform on stage from your vantage point in the studio now as well…
Last year it was really nice being there and experiencing it. It is always nice being with the families to watch it and if their loved one gets a turn it is amazing but if they don’t I feel awful. I am the one who has to go, ‘ok, thanks for coming. Oh this is awkward!
INTERVIEW WITH JAMIE MILLER
Tell us about your role as The Voice UK’s digital reporter…
I am going to be bringing the backstage gossip from the contestants and speaking to them after they come off stage for The Voice UK‘s digital platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
Does it feel strange to be back?
This is what I find so crazy, a year ago I was in my hotel room praying Jennifer Hudson would turn for me and now I’m back as the digital reporter. It is really cool to be a part o f it all and watch people achieve their dreams. This show can change your life, it has really changed mine.
What was it like to meet up with the coaches again?
Jennifer was my coach but I like to think they were all mentor figures to me, they all got on with me and they were all giving me advice. They have got plenty of advice to give me for this season as well!
What have you been up to since the final?
I have signed a deal with Atlantic Records in America. I have been working on my music in New York and Nashville and I am moving to LA soon! It has been really exciting and full on but it is really cool. The Voice UK changed my life. I was in a call centre a year and a half ago and now I ’m just chilling with Jennifer Hudson and will.i.am! It is really cool.
Tell us more about your deal with Atlantic Records…
Khloe Kardashian posted about me and that went super-viral, I had a lot of offers coming in from different record labels in America. My manager knew the Atlantic chief executive and he said to come in for a showcase. I did the showcase and they signed me three days later.
How did the Khloe Kardashian link come about?
I literally have no idea. I woke up one day and my mum was like, ‘this lady called Khloe Kardashian has posted about you,’ and I was like, ‘how do you know her name?!’ and then I obviously looked and it all blew up. I sent some flowers to her house to say thank you!
What advice have you got for this year’s acts?
I’d say just go for it, don’t have any regrets. Nobody is going to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Just smash it and give it everything you have got.
What is your best memory from the show?
Doing the duet with Jennifer. That was my best moment. That was a moment I have always waited for so to do that and end on such a high was a dream come true.
What is your relationship with Jennifer like now?
Me and Jen are really close, we are like family, she really looks out for me.
What is the big dream for you?
I just want to do music for the rest of my life and so signing with Atlantic is one part of that. I’m going to be releasing music early in 2018 in America. I’m starting in America and working my way back to theUK. I have got a really good team behind me so I am really excited.