A Delaware resident has become the first from the state to audition on “The Voice.”
Nadjah Nicole has been singing most of her life—she had her first performance at 12 and started singing professionally at 16.
But getting a foot in the door can be difficult for any singer. By day Nadjah works at a WSFS bank to support herself and her young daughter.
Now the 23-year-old from Claymont is taking the next step in her career—singing for top artists like Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani.
On Monday night’s premiere of NBC’s singing competition “The Voice,” Nadjah became the first Delaware resident to sing in the “blind auditions”—and landed a spot on Team Blake.
“When I initially auditioned I didn’t think I would get it, but I thought this could be the push that puts me into a full-time musical career,” Nadjah said.
“If I didn’t who knows? I could be working for the bank the rest of my life. Although I’m thankful for having a job, it’s not what I want to do. I want to be an artist. I want to perform on stage across the country and in other countries.”
On The Voice singers from across the country perform a song in front of famous singers whose backs are turned against them.
This season Shelton, Levine, Williams and Stefani are the judges. The show also has featured Shakira, CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera.
If the judges like what they hear, they turn their chair. If more than one judge turns a chair, the contestant must choose which judge they want as their coach. The contestants receive mentoring as they go through several rounds in the competition—and if they’re lucky, they perform live for the general public’s vote.
Nadjah was born and raised in Dover on the Air Force base, and later moved to New Castle. She graduated from the Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington. Nadjah said the community in Delaware has been very responsive to her Voice audition.
“It’s like a family. We’re one of the smallest states and somebody from a small state is in Hollywood. So they’re all standing behind me, which is great,” she said.
Nadjah writes her own music, and performs with her band N2 throughout the area. Her band-mates have been supportive of her audition.
“I was like, ‘Yeah do it, you’re amazing, you can do it,'” said band-mate Ismail Salaam. “She went and I was ecstatic.”
Band-member Abraham Todd said he was very proud of Nadjah’s performance when he watched the audition Monday night. She could be away for several weeks if she makes the “live rounds,” but the band said they want her to go as far as she can in the competition.
“Of course we will miss her, but at the same time it’s developing and growing her into the type of artist she wants to be,” Todd said.
Nadjah describes her sound as soul and R&B, and says her biggest influences are Erykah Badu, India Arie and Jill Scott. Nadjah said she’s also trying to incorporate jazz into her performances.
Besides music and work at the bank, Nadjah also takes care of her 2-year-old daughter, Journey Beloved. She said having a child has affected the way she approaches her music career, but she said her daughter is one of her greatest motivations.
“I have to be more aware of when I rehearse, where I rehearse. I have to be more aware of what I say, how I portray things, who I collaborate with, because I always want my child to be proud of me,” Nadjah said.
“It also makes me work harder because I want to provide a great life for her. She gives me that push.”
One of Nadjah’s cousins, who lives in California, encouraged her to audition for The Voice.
Nadjah said she didn’t think a chair would turn for her because there are so many talented musicians who audition—but she knew it would be a good opportunity. During Monday night’s show Nadjah sang “Tight Rope” by Janelle Monáe.
“I’ve seen her in concert. I love her shows. She’s an amazing woman, an amazing example. And I thought I wanted something that would challenge me,” she said.
“I’m a ballad singer and I want to get out of that and be able to sing whatever. And I wanted something with a message. I thought it was perfect for the time.”
As she performed on stage, Nadjah said she was scared and nervous, and was relieved when her performance was over.
“I was very aware of everything at that time. I was looking at people in the crowd, the band was behind me, I was listening to the whispers,” she said.
“It was overwhelming. There were so many emotions. And I didn’t want to pass out or have my knees buckle.”
Maroon 5 front man Levine and country singer Shelton both turned their chairs for Nadjah. She chose Shelton—even though she originally thought she would choose Levine.
“I just wanted someone who was going to say something that spoke to my heart, and he did that and that’s what mattered to me,” Nadjah said.
“No matter who you work with…just because they acknowledge you and turn around that’s all that matters. Just to have someone hear me made my day.”
She said the difference in each coach’s genre doesn’t matter because the feelings portrayed in music cross genres.
“Country music has soul in it,” Nadjah said. “There’s tons of stories, and love and loss, and just like there is in every other genre. There are things I can learn from him and there are things he can learn from me.”
The next round is the “battle round,” where two singers from the same team face off. The rounds start airing October 12th.
In the meantime, Nadjah and N2 are performing at World Café Live in Wilmington Oct. 2. at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online.
“People always say, ‘You’re going to be on the Grammy’s and you’re going to be in movies.’ If that’s what the universe wants for me I’m open to it all,” Nadjah said.
“But if it means I’m going to be singing at World Café Live and selling out shows and paying my bills and travelling from time to time, that’s awesome as well. I’m still living my dream and that’s what matters.