Caroline Reilly walked out into darkness. Hours before, while the Forsyth County resident was waiting to take the stage for her big blind audition on “The Voice,” the 16-year-old was battling the worst case of nerves of her life.
“I was so nervous,” Reilly said. “I can’t even explain how nervous I was. I had never been so nervous. But I knew when I went out there, I knew it would be OK.”
She was right. Reilly’s performance on the hit NBC reality show on Monday, Oct. 14, earned the final spot on judge Gwen Stefani’s team and praise from the other judges. The former No Doubt singer said that Reilly’s voice “is way too mature” for her age. Kelly Clarkson thought Reilly’s voice was “rad.” And Reilly was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight.
“It has been so exciting and just crazy to see everyone’s reaction,” Reilly said. “I’m so thankful for everything. My friends and family are so supportive. That was something I’m so thankful and blessed for.”
The audition format of “The Voice” was familiar to Reilly. She always loved to sing, and at 10 years old, Reilly got involved in musical theater at the Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts. But after a few years, Reilly became more interested in music.
Her father’s taste was a big influence. He played lots of classic 70s rock — Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc. — and Reilly fell in love with it. Her own style came into focus as she discovered the 90s rock of the likes of Blind Melon, Green Day and No Doubt. Eventually, she started performing in a band.
Reilly auditioned for “The Voice” this past February in Nashville. She sang “Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band. And that’s when the old nerves first resurfaced.
“I haven’t done auditions in a real long time,” Reilly said. “For me to go in and do an audition again, I was so nervous. But it was really fun.”
“The Voice” pushed Reilly on to another round of auditions in front of producers in Los Angeles. They approved, and Reilly performed her big audition for the show’s four judges — Clarkson, Stefani, John Legend and Blake Shelton — that aired in front of millions of people.
The nerves were immense before Reilly sang “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane with a strong tone that belied her age. The judges were bobbing their heads during the performance. Clarkson, Legend and Shelton had already filled their teams. Stefani had one spot left. She held Reilly in suspense as the rockstar assessed the 16-year-old’s voice, and Reilly sensed the uncertainty in the moment.
“When I went out there, I didn’t know how it was going to go,” Reilly said. “Then no one’s turning, and I was like, ‘I’m just going to go all out.’”
Stefani eventually picked Reilly to complete her team, and Reilly finished her performance with a forceful flip of her neon-red hair. Reilly’s next appearance on the show will be for the battle round, where coaches select members of their team to perform duets and then choose a winner to advance to the next stage in the competition. The show culminates in one winner receiving a record deal and $100,000 grand prize.
But for now, Reilly is back in Forsyth County pursuing her music career. She continues to take voice lessons, now at her parent’s music studio, Freedom Academy of Music Education. She’ll be performing at an event at Halcyon on Friday, Oct. 25. One day, she hopes to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she received a scholarship to participate in a five-week summer program a few years ago.
Wherever Reilly’s music career goes, she’ll take with her the experience of a lifetime.
“I think this whole experience has just given me confidence,” Reilly said. “The contestants are all supportive of each other. Everyone’s so loving. It’s just so much support, and I’m overwhelmed with it.”