Tacoma singer-songwriter Vicci Martinez was a big hit on the inaugural season of NBC-TV's “The Voice,” ultimately finishing second in the TV talent search before recording “Come Along,” her duet with pop mentor Cee Lo Green.
It was fellow Tacoman Stephanie Anne Johnson's turn to make waves last year; and now, with the sixth season in full swing, another local singer has her eyes on first prize. Federal Way native Ayesha Brooks – a.k.a. Music Box – is competing on Team Usher, after being stolen from pop singer Shakira's squad last week.
She couldn't tell us if she'd be in both of this week's episodes, which aired at 8 p.m. Monday, March 31 and Tuesday, April 1, but we've sure got our fingers crossed. Here's some of what she had to say about the impact her national platform has had on her so far.
Tacoma Weekly: How did you get your stage name?
Brooks: When I was younger, I had really bad stage fright so I decided to come up with an alias to kind of help me describe how I feel. … I just needed to separate who I am around my friends and family from the person I am on the stage.
TW: People see you on the show now. But where might they remember seeing you perform around here?
Brooks: Right now I'm trying to do the solo thing, just as Music Box. But, before being on “The Voice” I performed with a group called Imagine the Giant. We performed a lot in Fremont and Portland. We did a lot of West Coast shows. We were kind of like a garage band. We did rock-soul music.
TW: Obviously, you want to win. But how else do you hope to build on this experience?
Brooks: I really wanna be a voice for people that have stage fright … and I also want to be a voice for single parents, people that are doing it on their own. It's a really scary thing to wake up every day and have to take care of another human being (while) also not giving up on your dreams, and showing your children how to pursue … a life of passion. For me, that's deeper than winning the show.
Also, this is just a platform to show who I am as an artist and to show my love for my city. I love being from Washington. I love being from Federal Way, and I love how musical this state is. I mean, we have Allen Stone. We have Nirvana. We have Jimi Hendrix. We have so much amazing music that has come out of Washington. So I just want to be a part of that legacy.
TW: Well, the past few seasons they've had some local folks on there. Vicci Martinez was the favorite on season one, and Stephanie last season.
Brooks: Yeah, Stephanie and Austin (Jenckes, from North Bend).
TW: Is there anything you learned from those guys or that you took away from their appearances?
Brooks: Absolutely, I would say having pride in where you're from and sticking to who you are as an individual. I've gotten to meet Stephanie, and I've gotten to meet Austin, and they're just really positive people, and I'm the same way. I think it's given me pride in where I come from because we kind of all have the same outlook on life, and I think that just comes from being from Washington.
TW: Most recently, we saw the “Eternal Flame” episode. Take me back to that experience.
Brooks: I took a chance, and I was like, “I'm gonna put myself in the song. I'm gonna do it the way I feel this song touches me.” That was a risky thing to do, I feel, because Shakira wanted me to be a little bit more vulnerable.
I kind of wanted to take it more to church. In the end, I'm glad I did because it really resonated with Usher. But I was really nervous because I felt Deja (Hall) had the advantage in the fact that she is so young, and she sings so vulnerably, just naturally. She has a softer voice. And we became really close, so I wanted her to progress on, too.
TW: What's it been like working with Usher versus being on Team Shakira?
Brooks: I think where I relate to Shakira is she's a mother, and she's juggling being a mother and being an international superstar. So she was able to just tell me not to think so much. I think, as Moms we try to control, and a lot of times on stage you don't have any control. You have to be a vessel to the music and allow yourself to be flexible. I learned that from Shakira.
From Usher, I think I'm just going to learn how to really be a little more confident in who I am as an artist and make decisions that have purpose.
TW: Is there anything behind the scenes that has surprised you or been different than you expected?
Brooks: I think the thing that surprises me the most is how down to earth the celebrities are. You have an idea of how Shakirah would be, and she's really very fragile and kind of a little bit more shy than I would think she is. That has shocked me the most, how human they are.
TW: I know you can't say too much, but can you tell us anything about what's coming up next?
Brooks: All I can really say is stay tuned and watch. (She laughs). That's all I’m allowed to say.