During The Voice Season 9 Knockout Rounds, Barrett Baber was in a bit of pain — and it wasn't just because he was going up against friend and teammate Blind Joe in a sing-off that could send one of them home. The Arkansas teacher and singer performed with a strained rib and persevered to make it to the show's Live Playoffs. It's another chapter in Barrett Baber's journey on The Voice Season 9 on Blake Shelton's team. The country artist talked to Bustle recently about the pain — and victory — of his Knockout Round, as well as his road to The Voice and how Shelton's advice echoes Baber's own formal music training.
It's tough having to go head-to-head with anyone in the Knockout Round, especially knowing that one of you will be sent home (unless you're lucky enough to get stolen). For Baber, he suffered a strained rib a few days before his performance and learned he would be facing friend and Team Blake teammate Blind Joe right before they both took the stage, but it only made him more determined. "I had a pretty serious rib cartilage sprain, which made it really difficult to breathe for a couple of days, and that made it really difficult to sing," Baber tells Bustle. "I was in an emotional state: I go out there to sing against Blind Joe, who I love and care about, and then I was riding an emotional rollercoaster from thinking my journey was going to end because of this injury. It really forced me to connect my song emotionally rather than physically."
Read more about Baber's The Voice experiences below.
On The Live Playoffs & Song Choice
Baber's injury is healed now as he heads into The Voice Live Playoffs this month and he said he's excited to show the audience more of what he can do as a performer before they start casting their votes. "I haven't even begun to do what I do best yet with country songs. I flashed a little of bit it with 'Colder Weather' [in the Knockout Round] and certainly with 'Angel Eyes' [in the Blind Auditions]," he says. "I have a lot of tools in my tool belt that I haven't even started to use. I'm excited to do that in the live shows."
The Live Playoffs have the added pressure of being, well, live in front of an audience, but song choice can also make or break a performance. Baber says he is very careful about the songs he picks and has a selection system. "I spend an enormous amount of time looking at songs, developing a list, sending notes to my coach, sending notes to producers and the music department to make sure they get what I want to do," Baber reveals. "No matter if it's a country song or not a country song, if I think that I can do it in a cool soulful country way and I'll just sit down with it, me and my guitar, and, if it's magic, that's where it starts."
Luke Wade Encouraged Him To Audition
A few years ago, Baber met and performed on the road with Season 7's own Luke Wade, who reached the quarterfinals. When they played a show together in Fayetteville recently, Wade encouraged Baber to try out for The Voice. Wade told Baber that the show was different than the other vocal competition TV shows.
"I resisted and wasn't sure, but he said, 'Let me send one YouTube link to the casting director and let's just see what happens,'" Baber recalls. "He convinced me to do it and that's where the journey began. They called me not long after that for a private audition."
How Shelton's Advice Compares To His Formal Music Training
Baber is an alum of Ouachita Baptist University, where he studied on a voice scholarship under choir director Dr. Charles Fuller. In choir, Baber said that Fuller emphasized focus on the details in order to take their performances to a higher level. "We spent hours doing that," Baber recalls. "We were all great singers, but he really drilled us to focus on the little things and made sure that we performed in a way that was a visual art.
And, the Arkansas native has found that Shelton and The Voice's philosophy is the same as OBU. "It's the same concept that's been proved to me again, this time from Blake Shelton," Baber says. "In order to be a great recording artist and performer, you have to go from good to great by focusing on the little things — like how you enunciate words and what melodies you use."
What His Family & Students Think Of Him On The Voice
Due to his obligations to The Voice, Baber is currently taking a semester off from teaching at Fayetteville High School, where he coaches debate; but his colleagues, his students, and his family have been very supportive of his music dream. He even got the chance to go back and play guitar at the school's pep rally recently.
"I told them that I hope they all find something that they love to do and I've been fortunate enough in my life to find two things: One of them is making music, and the other is teaching high school," Baber says of his students. "I hope teaching is something I get to go back and do, but right now, I'm focusing on music. I think all of them are excited for me and understand that when you get the chance to do something like this — even if it is a little bit risky and uncertain — but you gotta do it if it's your dream."
As for his own children, he says that his young son and daughter may be too young to truly grasp what's happening right now, but the hardest part for Baber is leaving them in Fayetteville to film The Voice in Los Angeles. "I know that the sacrifices I am making by doing the show are really setting me up to do something special, even after the show," he says. "And that's when I'll be able to prove to myself and everyone else that you can be an artist and still be a great dad."
Image: Tyler Golden/NBC