Sounds Local: Teen singer with local roots shines on ‘The Voice’

  • Brynn Cartelli sings with Kelly Clarkson on an episode of “The Voice.” Tyler Golden/NBC

  • HUNTER

For the Recorder
Published: 5/4/2018 4:08:37 PM

Editor’s Note: This column was written ahead of Brynn Cartelli’s Monday, May 22, victory on NBC’s “The Voice.”

On a recent Monday night, fans of NBC’s Emmy-winning musical competition “The Voice” anxiously watched as voters determined the final 10 contestants who would advance to the next round.

One of the contestants who made the list was one of the show’s breakout stars, 15-year-old Brynn Cartelli of Longmeadow. She is part of Team Kelly, which means that former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson is serving as her coach/mentor throughout the competition.

Her take on Lady Gaga’s “You and I” that she sang Monday was yet another in a series of jaw-dropping performances that have made her such a standout competitor on the popular show.

Brynn has won many fans since the 14th season of the show began airing in February, and one of her biggest is her grandfather, Bob Cartelli of Sunderland. Cartelli, who is the owner of Greenfield businesses Cartelli Ford/Toyota on Main Street and The Body Shop on Hope Street, has been cheering his granddaughter on, but as a granddad, he also has his share of worries. Brynn, who is a freshman in high school, is the youngest contestant on the show.

“I think every grandparent is thrilled with their children’s progress, but she’s a baby and she’s moving at a much faster pace than we anticipated,” Cartelli said. “Both her father and I would have preferred for her to have done a few more years in high school before she embarked on this venture. But success breeds success, and she is committed to this musical program. And they have fully endorsed her.”

With Brynn, “The Voice” has found a contestant that has the looks, personality and talent to go straight to the top. The response to her, especially from young viewers, has been phenomenal.

For Cartelli, that could mean from now on he will be known only as “Brynn’s grandfather.”

“I emailed her the other day and said that now with her fame and glory, I can get to the front of the line at restaurants and get a good seat at the movies. There’s a lot of perks to being the grandfather,” he joked.

Brynn started singing at a young age and established herself as a singer in local talent and variety shows.

“We knew from early on that she was talented, but of course, every parent thinks their kid is the best,” he said.

Her parents, Deb and Damon Cartelli, and brother, Jack, spent their summers in Nantucket and while vacationing Brynn would perform in various small venues. It was during one of these performances that someone took a video of her and sent it to “The Voice” television show. The producers liked what they saw and called her out to Los Angeles for an audition. She was 13 at the time.

“She didn’t pass that one and we thought that was the end of it,” Cartelli said. “But they saw that she had talent, and they gave her some coaching and had her audition again when she was 14. So the whole process was two years.”

The first phase of “The Voice” competition is a blind audition where the contestant sings as the four celebrity judges have their backs turned to the performer. They spin around when they hear a singer that they may want on their team. This year’s judges are Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Alicia Keys and Clarkson. Both Shelton and Clarkson wanted Brynn on their team but she chose Clarkson.

“I chose Kelly over Blake because I have looked up to her for so long,” Brynn said on the show. “She really seemed to know what kind of musician I was.”

Clarkson has proved to be the perfect choice. She has called Brynn’s voice — which has a maturity beyond her years — captivating. She’s also helped her develop her stage presence and overall confidence.

“Kelly Clarkson has done a lot and really taken her under her wing,” Cartelli said. “For instance, Clarkson had to do a television interview with Ellen DeGeneres, and Brynn not only was behind the scenes in the dressing room, but went over and met her during the course of show. Kelly mentioned Brynn as being the youngest in the team.”

Monday night was fan pick night, which meant the performers sang a song that their fans chose. Brynn’s fans known as “Brynnions,” picked the Lady Gaga song for her to sing. And being that it was fan night, the show featured clips of some of her fans, including a cheering crowd shot taken at the Longmeadow High School and video of the U.S.A. field hockey team wishing her well. A woman, identified only as Susan from Wendell, also appeared on the show and gushed about what a huge Brynn fan she was and how she knew her performance would be “wicked amazing.”

Brynn’s swampy, soulful version of the song was a hit with the crowd. The day after her performance, she was the most streamed contestant on Apple music.

“Gaga is not easy to cover, man,” Clarkson said after Brynn’s performance Monday night. “Your vibe, everything about how you move — you’re just so confident and comfortable in your skin, and you’re only 15. And it’s crazy! It is so infectious, and that is why America keeps voting you through. Because you’re beautiful and you’re so talented.”

“She has gotten so much support from the school and just a lot of positive feedback,” Cartelli said. “One day, I received a phone call from a customer who told me there was a billboard up on the Mass. Pike wishing her good luck and congratulations. We knew nothing about it!”

Brynn is not the first western Massachusetts resident to appear on “The Voice.” Michelle Chamuel of Amherst took second place on the show’s fourth season. Michelle Brooks-Thompson, who grew up in Sunderland, competed in season three and Noah Jackson, also of Sunderland, appeared on season nine.

While it’s been an incredibly exciting time for Brynn and her family, it’s also turned their life a bit topsy-turvy.

“Both her parents are out in Los Angeles with her,” Cartelli said. “Her dad goes out on Saturday and stays until Tuesday after the votes are in, and comes home. Her mom is out there all the time. And because of her age, she is being home-schooled out there. There’s a lot of things that have changed within the family unit during this time frame.” (Not to mention the demands of her frantic rehearsal schedule, which was why she was unavailable to be interviewed for this story.)

The competition is nearing its end as contestants are eliminated one by one like a game of musical chairs. This week will narrow down the contestants to eight, and eventually only four contestants will remain when the grand finale airs on May 21 and 22. The winner, which is determined by the viewers at home (who vote online or via iTunes purchases), will receive a recording contract.

So life might get back to normal soon, or maybe not. Early in the competition Clarkson predicted that Cartelli would be the winner.

“Brynn will be the youngest person ever to win this show,” Clarkson said. “I didn’t say ‘could,’ I said ‘will.’”

Will her prediction come true?

“We expect that she is going to be one of the top four, and then it’s up to the voters. But she has struck a chord with the young teenage audience that are really fascinated with her, ” Cartelli said. “And in talking with her dad, she is very comfortable and very enthusiast and very competitive going forward. In the long run, it would be good for all of western Mass. if she did win, as it would shine a spotlight on the area. We are all hopeful for her and very proud.”

“The Voice” airs on NBC Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.


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