We laughed with her, we cried with her, and it's safe to say that Team Blake's Erin Willett is not just a waitress any longer. Thanks to a Top 8 finish on The Voice
, she has bigger and better things ahead of her.
Every artist on the show had their journey, but Erin's was the one that we took along with her, as she bravely deallt with the illness and later passing of her father, Chuck Willett, during her tenure. But she was also a lot more than just a personal story: she was talented, funny, sweet, sometimes inappropriate and always unapologetic, embracing the fact that she was not your prototypical female vocalist.
"It's a little bit different now just because there's celebrity hanging over my head," she told me during a recent phone conversation. "I think it's kind of weird that people put you on a pedestal, and you're kind of still proving yourself. The show was never meant to be my peak in my career. A lot of people already put you on that level. And you're like, 'You haven't even heard an original song of mine. You haven't heard what I'm capable of.'"
Erin's focus now is on making the fans she's picked up from the show also fans of her own work, and "getting into the business of being in the business," whether it's having conversations about all aspects of her career, or making the connections she needs to further it. "I just want to be able to live off my craft," she explained. "I want to be able to support myself through music. If fame comes of it, then that's fine [but] it's completely about being able to say that my occupation is [as] a musician."
She's different amongst the Voice
alumni, in that rather than being recommended by someone or scouted by a casting director, she went to an open call audition just like you or me - and thus began an experience she never fathomed.
"It was more than what I thought it was going to be," she admitted. "I didn't have any expectations when I went to the open call. Going through the blind auditions, and being on Blake [Shelton]'s team, and going through all the personal stuff, and then being in the live shows, it was a lot more than I thought it would be. I didn't realize how much I [had] prepared for. You think these experiences are going to be way too overwhelming and [then] you realize that you can do it. My opportunities were a lot more endless than I thought they were."
Other people may have been overwhelmed in Erin's position, with a huge professional opportunity and an equally significant personal tragedy both playing out simultaneously on national television. She, however, not only survived but succeeded, with the help of her fellow artists, the crew and her coach, who also recently lost his father.
"Blake and I have a really great personal relationship, through all the things that we've been through," she explained. "I think that our team especially - Gwen [Sebastian]'s on tour with Blake, and Raelynn is like their adopted child - they really do take everyone under their wing. Miranda [Lambert]'s kind of part of the team. I see her a lot, and through the whole process I did. It's great to feel like a family.
"After I was eliminated, I ended up getting together at Blake's house and we had a great conversation, and it wasn't even about the show. I'm so thankful and lucky that I got to be on his team."
But, she added, "I haven't really reached out to him professionally. I think I want to be prepared for that." It's a humble attitude that shows Erin's true nature very well - she doesn't want an opportunity handed to her, she wants to know that she's earned it.
All the coaches, not just her own, have Erin's respect. "Adam [Levine] I saw at Blake's, and he was super nice to me. It was my birthday when I saw him, and he came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. It's frickin' Adam Levine and he's like, 'Happy birthday.'
"I also saw Christina [Aguilera] when we were at the wrap party [and] she was just so cool. I wish that people could see how genuinely sweet she really is when the pressure and the lights aren't on. And even Cee Lo [Green], he was always so cool with us.
"They are such great people, and that's the frustrating thing about celebrity and all the things you have to deal with when you're thrust into the spotlight. At the end of the day, these people are just people, and that's what I tried to prove when I was on the show. I'm just a normal person."
She might see herself as unlike anyone else, but what always struck me about Erin was how much effort she put in, whether it was in a performance or even just in interviews. Every time I saw her, she was so sweet and so fun to be around, even though it was usually at the end of a very long and stressful day. Even when we walked past each other or happened to spot each other in the studio, she'd make the effort to say hello. That's more consideration than many people would extend.
She's also very cognizant of how much others around her worked as well. Speaking of the show's final four, she reflected, "Everyone was so good. Of course Jermaine [Paul] is on my team, and Chris Mann is one of my good friends, Juliet [Simms] I looked up to and Tony Lucca is a good friend of mine. All four of them have been at this and working hard for this goal, and they all came up in the top four - they put in their time and their effort and they got a result out of it."
Of course, having the winner of season two come from Team Blake did bring a certain amount of satisfaction: "After Jermaine won, I called Jermaine and I [said] 'I feel like I got second place, because you won.' I know that he deserves this and he needs this. I was very close to him just because I was with him every single day."
Erin also made a point of recognizing the dozens of people backstage and off-camera that make the show possible, whom you and I never see. "Everyone who's behind the scenes realizes how life-changing it is for us," she explained. "It's a really cool process to be a part of. We see all the people behind the scenes who do all the dirty work. We realize all the work that they put in, but no one really gets to see them. They are part of our lives, and part of our journey and our experience."
So how does Erin sum up her Voice
experience? "It was a whole roller coaster," she said with a laugh, "but it was really worth it."To keep up with Erin, you can follow her on Twitter (@erin_willett). For more on The Voice, you can follow my Voice-exclusive Twitter at @bigredchairs.Image courtesy of NBC