As the junior TV talent show returns for a new series,chats to Will.i.am and the other mentors
Sometimes, we just need to watch fun telly – and that’s exactly what The Voice Kids is.
The ITV talent show – a spin-off from The Voice – gives seven to 14-year-olds the opportunity to get up on stage and impress with their singing skills.
The series, which is presented by Emma Willis, starts with blind auditions, in which the pint-sized contestants perform in front of four celebrity ‘coaches’ (this year, the line-up is will.i.am, Pixie Lott, Danny Jones and Paloma Faith).
Sitting in big red chairs, the stars press a button if they like what they hear, which swivels them round so they can see the face behind the voice.
The successful auditionees then have battle rounds to make it through, before the semi-finals and final. The prize at stake? A dream holiday for them and their family, plus a £30,000 bursary towards their musical education.
Here, we go behind the scenes with each of the coaches.
The Black Eyed Peas frontman (real name William Adams) has been working on The Voice UK since 2012, and has starred in every series of The Voice Kids.
“The other show is great but there’s something that the kids bring that adults forgot and that is just life and no extra agendas, fun…” notes the LA-born star.
“Kids know how to play. When was the last time as adults we were like: ‘Yo, let’s go outside and play!’” Is there anything the 45-year-old would tell his 18-year-old self not to do?
Yeah – don’t do drugs! When all my friends were doing drugs, everybody was like: ‘Oh, how come Will doesn’t want to do drugs?’ I was a square guy.
Will.i.am is a busy man; as well as being a rapper, singer and songwriter, he’s also a record producer, DJ and entrepreneur.
“I don’t really have downtime,” he admits. “One time I had two days off and I was like: ‘What the fuck is this!?’ For me, a vacation is like: ‘We’re paying? To do nothing? This doesn’t make any sense?’ “What I really like are spa days. Because a spa day is still productive. You’re still working on something. You’re working on your body, you’re working on relaxing your muscles, getting a pedicure and manicure.”
London-born singer Faith – known for hits such as Only Love Can Hurt Like This – has also worked as a coach on the main series of the voice, back in 2016.
So, how does The Voice Kids compare?
“I prefer it,” says the 38-year-old, who is also an actress, having recently starred as the villain in TV series Pennyworth.
I’m having the time of my life. I feel like the main show gave me a lot of anxiety, but this gives me pure joy in bucketloads.
She continues: “You see it with your own eyes, how growing up and becoming an adult gives us inhibition, self-doubt… But we all, at some point when we were kids, had a purity and our talents could really shine.”
Faith admits she has had to comfort kids who have become teary during filming.
“I feel like it’s about not patronising them, so just saying: ‘Take a breath, you’re brilliant’. It’s about encouragement, it’s not about drawing attention to it because kids are really aware of embarrassment and stuff, probably as much as adults would be.” She just wants it to be a fun experience for the kids, she professes.
“It’s not supposed to be a defining moment for any of them. I wouldn’t do a show that was giving that pressure to kids.”
Teasing what we can expect from the talent this year, 29-year-old Lott says: “It’s amazing. My team is so different this year. Different stories, different backgrounds, different styles.
“At the battles, they really fight it out, and you see that side of them you haven’t seen before, so I get excited by that.
The Bromley-born singer was only 19 when she went straight to number one with her debut single ‘Mama Do’.
“I always just say, as advice to young people – even to myself now – just go for auditions and opportunities,” she suggests.
You never know where they might lead to, you never know who you might meet.
“You might meet one of your best friends, that you do things together with when you’re older, work-wise.”
As for Lott’s personal life, she is engaged to model Oliver Cheshire, who she started dating in 2010. Discussing their wedding plans, she shares she will be having a lot of bridesmaids… “It’s 18 and counting! I just don’t want to leave anyone out. It’s my best friends from school, my cousins, Ollie’s family and then my sister and then some little flower girls. It just all adds up.”
The McFly star was victorious on The Voice Kids last year; his mentee, 13-year-old Sam Wilkinson, was announced as the champion after performing an original song called Everything’s Alright, plus a duet of the Beatles song Hey Jude.
“Pixie won it every time before, so you start doubting yourself,” confides the Bolton-born singer and guitarist, 34.
“You start thinking, ‘Am I looking for the wrong thing? Am I coaching wrong?’ ‘What do the public wanna see from the voice kids?’ But then I stuck to what I knew best, which was Sam.
I always think big singers are gonna win it… But for a guy who wrote his own song, to sit there with a guitar, and an understated performance, and win, I was so chuffed. I had to have a word with myself; ‘you do know what you’re doing’.
What does he listen out for during the auditions?
“When someone can hold the energy of a room, that’s when it’s like ‘OK!’ “They might not be the best singer, or you might hear nerves, but in those 90 seconds that they’re singing, we’ve got to decide, ‘Can I help them?’” Jones shares he’s been taught a few new dances while filming this series, thanks to video-sharing platform Tik Tok.
“I’m down with the kids!” he quips.
“My favourite thing is introducing them to new music and new artists that they never would probably find if I didn’t say it… From Sam Fender to Bob Dylan,” he follows. “They come back and they go, ‘My life has changed!’”