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The entire television-watching nation now knows what Barrett Baber desperately wanted to tell his Arkansas friends but couldn’t.
Not only had Baber tried out for “The Voice,” but his blind audition impressed all four judges of the televised reality show. All four turned their chairs and begged the Fayetteville resident and former Fayetteville High School teacher to join their team of promising but as of yet undiscovered vocal talents. Industry trackers indicate that more than 12 million viewers tuned in to watch the Sept. 21 season debut “The Voice,” which featured a clip of Baber singing “Angel Eyes” by The Jeff Healey Band and then follow his performance with the Hog Call at the urging of judge Blake Shelton, a well-documented college football fan.
Forced to select one of the four celebrity judges, Baber went with the judge closest to his own style, something he calls “country soul.” That means he opted for country star Blake Shelton over pop stars Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell.
“He’s a country super star. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity,” Baber said recently by phone from Fayetteville, where’s he’s lived for six years. The selection to one of the four teams means Baber will appear at least one more time on national television.
Baber has been no stranger to stages in this corner of town. He performed at fraternity houses, public parks, charity galas and more – any gig he could. The local gigs gave him practice and confidence in his abilities, he said.
“I’m thankful for every opportunity,” he said.
The opportunity on “The Voice,” meanwhile, came at an important career junction for Baber. Coming off his selection for a “Grammy Gig of a Lifetime” as an official preview concert for the 2014 Grammy ceremony, Baber talked to his wife about leaving his gig as debate and forensics coach at Fayetteville High School to focus on music for a year. In what Baber can only describe as a “near spiritual” coincidence, about the time they reached that conclusion was when he opened a show at George’s Majestic Lounge for vocalist Luke Wade, who appeared on Season 7 of “The Voice.”
Wade told him to try out for the show. Baber offered some resistance – reality shows weren’t his thing, he said.
But Wade was persistent to the point of sending a link of one of Baber’s YouTube videos to a casting director at “The Voice.” And Baber came around to the idea when he was told that unlike “American Idol” and their ilk, “The Voice” desires to work with contestants, unlike the opening few weeks of “Idol” when that show focuses on “embarrassment at the expense of the contestant,” Baber said.
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