While Moses Stone and Chris Mann were applauded for pushing the boundaries on The Voice (and rightfully so), not enough attention was given to the third performer who shook up the second season: former Broadway star Tony Vincent, who went from working with Andrew Lloyd Webber to truly rocking the Voice stage.
Before the show came calling, Tony had made his name in notable stage productions of Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, the Queen musical We Will Rock You, and most significantly, originating the role of St. Jimmy in Green Day’s Tony- and Grammy-winning American Idiot. Yet his first love was pop music (specifically Britpop), and he came to the show hoping to further that primary ambition.
What we saw from Tony was a hybrid of performance and prowess that was unique in its own way. From his blind audition with “We Are The Champions” to his final rendition of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” he was able to create distinct images and feelings on stage without taking the focus away from the strength of his vocals.
In fact, it was his battle with equally impressive teammate Justin Hopkins that ended up being the most memorable moment in season two: With just his teammate and that stage, he gave a performance that was heartbreakingly honest, with the kind of conviction that can only come from a pure connection with the material. I was lucky to be in the studio when that battle was taped, and I cried then, and I still cry every time I’ve seen it since.
Therein lies one of Tony’s strengths: every musician strives to forge a bond with their material and by extension, with the audience, but he has a particular talent for evoking an emotion or a thought with each song. That, as it turns out, is his intention as well.
“I’m not moved by songs for the most part on pop radio unless they sort of leave it open ended for the listener to interpret on their end,” he told me just before he left California for his home in New York. “I do tend to focus on brokenness, dissatisfaction about myself. There’s something about a melancholy lyric I subscribe to. I don’t know if it’s years of therapy, or years of therapy I still need,” he added with a laugh.
Whatever drives him, he happens to be one of The Voice‘s most grounded individuals, and for my money, one of its most talented vocalists. Thankfully for us, he’s already turning out more music to move and inspire us with: his new single, “Starting Over,” has been up for free at his ReverbNation page for weeks now.
“I left with my head very, very high and a good relationship with my coach,” he said. “My experience working with Cee Lo [Green] and the entire production staff of the show was nothing but positive.”
He remains technically under contract with Universal Republic (which has options on all of the Voice contestants until ten days after the season finale, or the end of this week), but he’s already been laying down tracks for a new album. “For the most part, I’ve been really focused on what I was doing prior to The Voice,” he said, adding that his desire was “wanting to leave LA with three fully fleshed out mixed songs, and that’s happening.
“I’m really excited about this,” he continued when asked what we can expect from the forthcoming release. “It still sort of taps into my roots. It’s very Beatles-esque. It’s very Oasis. It’s sort of 80’s 90’s Britpop stylistically, with a much more sort of current spin on it. It’s really in your face and honest and fun, and there’s a lot of really beautiful moments as well.”
Said CD does not yet contain a collaboration with Justin, but Tony is open to the idea: “I think Justin is such an amazing talent and something special happens when we perform together.” The two have formed a bond beyond the show; they partnered for a UStream chat with fans and later a StageIt concert in Justin’s living room during season two.
Does he miss anything about the experience of The Voice? “I obviously miss performing,” he said, “and playing with that band. These are just “A” tier musicians. One of the frustrating things was having that band so removed from the performers. I wanted them to be right behind me so I could feel their presence on stage. These guys are such talented musicians, I think that they needed to be showcased as well, and I wanted to share that stage with them.”
One of the other things that’s so refreshing about Tony is his honesty, not only about others but also about himself; he’s always willing to speak openly, while remaining respectful. As such, he’ll be the first to tell you that his departure from the show wasn’t ideal. “Something that was very frustrating was that you’re being judged as a vocalist on material that you don’t get to choose,” he explained. “When I was let go from the show, the two negative comments were things that I couldn’t change. One was [that] the song [Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”] didn’t do my voice justice, and the other was the image – something that the creative department and the choreographers put together.”
Yet don’t confuse that with an excuse; he also concedes that he had an equal part to play in what ended up being his last performance. “You sort of pick and choose your battles and I didn’t think that was a battle to fight. Nobody else did anything dark like that on the show. That being said, I really do feel a sense of accomplishment in leaving the show singing that Eurythmics track. I was really able to perform the kind of performance that I do; it was very intense and very focused.”
Tony also shared with me his thoughts on the season’s finale results. “I was shocked,” he admitted. “apart from Juliet [Simms] coming in second. I was floored that Tony Lucca did not take this because of a lot of factors. Towards the end of the competition, he just really upped the game. He showed different dimensions to his performance. With his fan base and the solid career that he’s had, I would have bet my life savings that this guy had taken the entire deal.”
Having said that, Tony added, “I think that Jermaine [Paul] is a very talented singer. He’s an absolutely upstanding gent and I’m so happy for him and his family.”
Family is something very important to Tony; he and his wife Aspen became parents to a daughter, Sadie Day Vincent, during his run on the show. He’s aware of the challenge of balancing being a husband and father with being a career musician, and is taking it very seriously. “Me and my wife have pledged to make the situation work,” he told me. “It’s something that’s really important to us. We’re committed that three to four weeks is the longest we’d be apart from each other.”
While devoted to his family, Tony has also shown a remarkable dedication to his fans both past and present, whether it’s putting together that StageIt show of his and Justin’s own volition, or his active presence on Twitter. If you were hoping to see him perform, that’s still on the horizon. “I definitely will be doing some stuff in New York City for a bit, at least for the next two months,” he said, adding that he’s looking forward to seeing what Cee Lo will do during his upcoming Vegas residency – and that you might see him make an appearance there as well. And while there are no current plans for him to return to the stage, “I’d never say that I wouldn’t entertain the idea of going back to Broadway if something is really, really intriguing.”
For now, though, Tony’s focus is on making the next album that will further his distinctive sound, and establishing himself as the musical artist he has always wanted to be. The Voice has given him a much larger opportunity to do so, and he made clear that he appreciates that. “I leave this experience very, very grateful and very humble,” he explained. “I definitely don’t want to be bitter about this at all.”
What’s to be bitter about? He established himself as a truly unique vocalist, as well as one of the show’s sharpest personalities. For my part, as an aspiring musician, there was no one I learned more from over our time on the show than Tony Vincent, who convinced me that it was, in fact, possible to reconcile my pop-rock sensibilities with a childhood love of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express. No one I’d ever spoken to about that ever did anything but laugh at it, but not Tony, who gave me the courage to re-embrace that side of me, and reminded us that talented musicians can take to the stage and come from it as well.
In that sense, he broke boundaries on The Voice in his own way, and now we can look forward to his continuing to leave a distinct impression on the music world.
For more on Tony Vincent, you can follow him on Twitter (@TonyTheVincent), visit his official website, and go to his ReverbNation page (where you can download his new single!). For more on The Voice, you can follow my Voice-exclusive Twitter at @bigredchairs.
Image courtesy of Susan Blond Inc.