NEWTOWNABBEY singing sensation Leah McFall cruised through the blind auditions of BBC1 talent show The Voice, securing her place in the next stage of the competition with a jaw-dropping vocal performance.
Leah’s amazing audition, recorded before Christmas at the MediaCity studios in Manchester, featured in episode three of the hit TV series, which aired on BBC1 on Saturday evening (April 13).
The 23-year-old, from Carnmoney, performed a mesmerising version of the Rita Ora hit, R.I.P, which attracted the attention of judges will.i.am and Jessie J.
“I was so nervous, but my main focus was just to make sure that I was able to walk off the stage knowing that I gave a good performance,” a delighted Leah told the Times.
“I blacked out - I don’t remember any of the performance. The only thing I really remember is hearing the crowd cheering and opening my eyes and seeing Jessie J.”
The smooth-talking will.i.am also turned his chair at the last second as he made a bid to get Leah on his team.
With an eclectic taste in music which includes a wide variety of influences and inspirations, from Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin to 90s pop acts Destiny’s Child and TLC, Leah describes her sound as “quite weird”.
“I do sing a bit odd at times and with a lot of variations so I probably sound a bit weird now and again,” she explained.
But Jessie and will.i.am loved her ‘weird’ sound, with the former hailing her “an asset to the show”. And although the other two judges, Sir Tom Jones and Danny O’Donnoghue, didn’t turn around, Leah was more than happy with her choice of mentors.
“I was so chuffed, I really couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“Jessie said that even if I didn’t choose her, she was just happy that I had decided to come on the show.
“Will said to me ‘you’re already an artist and I just want to support you’, which is probably the biggest compliment I’ve ever got.”
Leah’s relief at having made it through was short-lived as she remembered that she had to decide which superstar mentor to go with.
“It was a really hard decision to make as they are both so talented and amazing and I love both their music. They’d both be great to work with so it was a really hard decision to make.”
Leah, who doesn’t play an instrument, decided to go with will.i.am due to his production background - a talent which has helped him rack up numerous hits with some of the biggest names in music.
In order to secure a place in the live finals of the competition, Leah will have to overcome some stiff competition in the tough ‘battle rounds’ and the ‘knockouts’. She has already benefitted from some useful pointers and advice from the Black Eyed Peas rapper and his right-hand-man, Dante Santiago during rehearsals for the pre-recorded battle shows, where contestants go head-to-head in a bid to make the next round.
Entering The Voice could set Leah on the road to superstardom. But the level-headed Glenabbey Church girl, who began performing at the age of 16, knows it’s a tough gig to make it in the music business.
Two-and-a-half years ago she moved to London to pursue her dream of singing professionally. She also planned to complete a fashion course at university, but when her music career began to take off, she decided to defer her studies for a year.
“Things are going really well at the minute. I might go back to university in September, but I’ll just see how things pan out,” she said.
Leah has had great support from family and friends - both at home in Northern Ireland and in Camden where she lives - in her push into the music industry, and she can’t wait to get home for a visit next month.
She isn’t allowed to say yet whether or not she makes it through to the live finals. But regardless of how things turn out on The Voice, she’s determined to push ahead with a career in music. And her appearances on prime time television are giving her publicity and exposure an up and coming artist can only dream about.
The former Antrim Grammar School pupil’s unique style and sensational vocals have already made her a YouTube hit. And after gigging non-stop last year, she has now turned her focus to working on more of her own original material, teaming up with a number of talented musicians and beatboxers in the recording studio.
“I just want to take it as far as it can go really. I don’t really have any limits on it. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer, so every time I reach a certain stage I will just push on for the next,” she said.
The battles are due to air on BBC1 on May 11 and 18, followed by the knockouts, before the three live shows starting on June 8. The live final of The Voice UK 2013 is scheduled to take place on June 22.