Emily Valentine of ‘The Voice’ Spills on Her Crush, Dream of Opening for Cee-Lo
Emily Valentine is no stranger to reality voice competitions. Before she was competing for the throne on ‘The Voice,’ she tried her luck at ‘American Idol.’ Though the Los Angeles, Calif. native, who describes herself as “a contemporary Blondie with Tina Turner covering it,” doesn’t want to be tagged a reality TV wash-up, she knew that this NBC show was her chance to dive in to make her dream of opening for Cee Lo Green a reality.
Soon, Valentine — who belted Pink‘s ‘Sober’ in the blind auditions and got Cee Lo to turn his chair — will battle it out against one of her fellow Green teammates in the “battle rounds” segment of the competition. We just hope she doesn’t get patched up with country cowboy Curtis Grimes, because as she blushingly spilled to PopCrush, she’s got a mega crush on the guy she secretly calls the “Marlboro Man.”
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get into music?
My mom was in a band until I was 10-years-old. It was more ’40s and ’50s music, but you know, I grew up with pictures framed on the wall of my mom and Bo Diddley. She was very much more Motown stylistically. That was kind of my first exposure, was watching my mom perform on stage as a little kid. My dad wasn’t really around, so it was just me and my mom. I just loved watching her put on lipstick and watching her get ready for shows — that whole process — and I knew that’s what I wanted to do from day one. I think I sang before I even spoke and I’ve always been such an entertainer. I don’t really have any hobbies, it has always just been music.
And you pursued it as your own career. Is it true that your punk rock band, Go Betty Go, is kind of on hiatus right now?
Right after high school I joined a band that had already sort of been established and already been on Warped Tour a bunch of times. So, I went to an audition and lied about my age and ended up getting the part. The music industry is very different than it was back in the day, and people don’t realize or recognize that bands sometimes get $40 a show and have to drive 600 miles to the next town. You know, after years and years of touring … I recognized at an early enough age (’cause I’d been doing it for so long) that punk rock [doesn't] pay the bills anymore, and I wanted to move out of my mom’s house and take my music to the next level. I’ve always been a singer’s singer. Punk rock was just … You’re yelling to a smoky crowd of 75, and I can do much more than that vocally.
Watch Emily Perform ‘C’Mon’ Acoustic With Go Betty Go
So what did you decide to do?
Growing up, I loved all kinds of music. I loved Christina Aguilera. I had that ability to sing pop music, but I always kind of suppressed it because around 14 or 15 I identified so heavily with the tattooed crowd — you know the kids with the mohawks, the naughty skater kids. I always thought that I was going to be the singer of a punk band, and that was my idea of success, to tour the world and sing for a punk rock band and that’s what I did. At 20 years old, freezing in the Swiss Alps, it’s like, ‘Whoa, is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?’ The answer was no. So, I auditioned for ‘American Idol’ and I thought my path was going to be the Gwen Stefani route. I really did.
How did you get the opportunity to be on ‘The Voice?’
You know, for the last two years I’ve been developing my sound as a solo artist and have found an incredible manager who has been taking really great care of me and showing me the way, behind-the-scenes. My dream was to open for Cee Lo Green. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. You just put it out there into the universe, and sure enough, ‘The Voice’ came around! I was very, very apprehensive to do another voice reality show. Very apprehensive. That’s the last thing that I want is to be the reality singing girl that couldn’t cut it. So, I decided to audition and sure enough, he was wearing a Misfits t-shirt that day of the blind auditions, and Mr. Cee Lo Green turned around. So, my plan is to someday open for Cee Lo Green.
So you said that growing up you really loved Christina, but were you actually hoping to make it onto Cee Lo’s team?
Yeah, it’s so funny how that worked out. Christina Aguilera is an icon to me. She influenced me for a lot of years. But, I just felt like maybe there would be some kind of competitive factor involved in choosing Christina, and I know that she’s a better singer than I am. I don’t know … You know, it was scary. I don’t want to be intimidated by my coach. I want to really absorb what they have to say. Cee Lo Green, I’ve been a very big fan of his music for a long time too. It just seems like everything that Cee Lo has done … I feel is more my style as an artist, whereas Christina is somebody that I look up to. I’m not a straight-up pop singer, I’m definitely a more soulful, twangy … I’m like a black-sounding white girl covered in tattoos that looks sort of like a gothic Marilyn Monroe. That’s why I made that decision. My goal was to open for Cee Lo, so I thought that it was a sign — and she didn’t turn around for me!
How is Cee Lo as a coach? What have you learned from him so far?
He’s all about the soul. He really is a soul man. He’s not as concerned with notes and pitch. In his words, you want them to be able to feel you, and if you don’t feel what you’re saying, nobody can feel you. As artists on ‘The Voice,’ we all have incredible voices. We can all sing the right notes if we want to. Not everybody can tap into their inner emotions and really emote them on stage. That’s really what I think the star quality is, is an audience member can feel what you’re feeling based on the words that are coming out of your mouth. Words are just a by-product of the emotion inside. So, he really wanted to convey that emotion was going to be there.
What made you choose to sing Pink’s ‘Sober’ for your audition?
I think it’s natural for people to kind of compare us. We both have raspy, powerful, belting voices. But, for the most part, for the blind auditions I just wanted someone to turn around. Pink is a very well-known, mainstream artist that I knew I could rock the hell out of, and that song, ‘Sober,’ is an incredible song no matter who’s singing it. All I needed was for one person to turn around and I knew with that song as a tool I could utilize that.
What’s your relationship like with your teammates?
It’s pretty good. I’m a true fan of most of my teammates, really, seriously. Some more than others, like, I have a crush on one of the members on my team.
No way! Who?
Oh my god. I don’t know if I should say! Okay, I’ll give you one hint: The Marlboro Man.
Really? Curtis Grimes, yeah?
Yeah. I think so. You know, he’s just really sweet and I’m a girl from L.A. and he’s a cowboy from the south. I’ve never met anybody like him before … If not Curtis, I might be on the market for a cowboy, because I love that old southern charm. Curtis is really talented and I’m always really attracted to somebody with a drive, and he is one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever met in my life. If anybody deserves it, then Curtis definitely does.
Vicci is my roommate and like my best, best friend. Seriously. Tori and Taylor, they are just so sweet. If Disney was in a body … They are like happy little Disneyland people. They are so sweet and kind. And Nakia? So much soul — he’s like a reincarnated Blues Brother with an edge. I really commend him on being openly gay on the show, because it’s not an easy thing to do. I’m a huge fan of everybody on my team, really. Ultimately, I would be stoked if any of us won.
What’s next? When is your battle round coming up?
Only based on the promos that I watched on the show, I’m assuming that I’m next week.
Who picks the song, does Cee Lo?
Cee Lo appoints our partners and the song. He’s the one who chooses what we sing and who we sing it with. I’m really nervous, but Cee Lo’s style is very soulful, so I really really hope that comes into play in song picking, because I’d love to be able to show Cee Lo Green what I got.
If things don’t pan out with ‘The Voice,’ what will you do next?
Literally, I’m going to be doing the same thing that I was doing [when] the opportunity came up. Really, when I did ‘American Idol,’ it was like a year-long process. It was a huge, giant commitment. With ‘The Voice,’ three months ago it didn’t even exist to me. I’m going to be releasing an EP and a video for my first single, ‘Ooh La La.’
The reason I did this show was to meet Cee Lo Green. Once I found out who the partners were behind the scenes on a business level, I realized that if any of these music executives were in the same room of a club in Hollywood, that would be the best networking I could have ever done in my entire life. To be honest, I’m going to be in a great position.
Watch Emily Valentine Perform Pink’s ‘Sober’ on ‘The Voice’ Blind Auditions