Q&A With NOIVAS: How Taking a Chance Led to ‘The Voice’

It’s been a long road for NOIVAS to get to The Voice. As one of the standouts with his powerful audition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” NOIVAS has continued to prove himself as a noteworthy contestant–so much so that when he was eliminated from Chance the Rapper’s team during the Battle Rounds, fellow coach Blake Shelton stole him, solidifying his place in the Knockout Rounds.

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Describing himself as a “proud girl dad,” NOIVAS (whose birth name is Savion Wright) hopped on a Zoom call with American Songwriter from his home in Texas to talk about how his daughters inspired him to pursue music, the impactful reason why he chose “A Change Is Gonna Come” as his audition song, why working with Shelton is a full circle moment and much more.  

How did you end up on The Voice? 

I basically quit music for a little over six years. I was just getting back into it around 2021 and that was mainly because of us finding out that we were going to have my first daughter. She was the reason why I got back into music. My daughters are the reason why I do music again and why I found a love for music again because I have gotten burnt out for so long. I had given up on that dream because I felt like maybe it wasn’t in the cards for me before we had her. We found out that she was a little girl, and I just got so inspired again. I wanted to write music again, I wanted to sing to her. So every single day since we found out she was pregnant with her in October 2020, I would sing to her while she was in the womb and the song that I would always sing is “You Are My Sunshine” and that was the perfect song for that moment because she really inspired me to get back into music. I would pick up my guitar again, I would play my piano and I would sing again. I felt like it was the medicine that I needed in order to get back to music. 

Fast forward to finding out that we’re pregnant with my second daughter, and then I get an email and they were like, “We’ve seen some of your old videos on your Instagram, do you still do music?” This was one of the casting people from for the show and I was like, “I’ve gotten back into it. Here’s my email address.” Ended up ignoring the email that they sent for about two weeks, but it kept beating me in the back of my head. I was like, “Maybe I should do this.” But at the same time, I was like, “I have a job, I have children now, I’m a different person.” But it kept eating at me. So then I talked to my partner. She was like, “The worst that can happen is if you get the Blind Audition, you fly out there and then if you don’t get the chair turns or if it doesn’t work out, you just come back home and you take care of your beautiful girls and me.” And I was like, “Wow, that’s true. It really is that simple.” 

I sent an email back to them probably 30 minutes after we had that conversation. I picked up my guitar, I put on my phone on my little tripod and then I recorded me singing a song. It was “A Change is Gonna Come” on the guitar, on the piano I did “Skyfall” and then the one that I sang with an instrumental was “Whatever Happens” by Michael Jackson. I did those three songs and I immediately sent it out that evening. She emailed me back and was like, “The producers love you. Congratulations, we want you to audition.” If it hadn’t been me taking that chance, and being inspired by my daughters, I wouldn’t be here right now.

Take me inside that moment when you were auditioning with “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke and what you felt being up there singing that song.

The vocal coach [Peter Pergelides] who I worked with on perfecting the song and trying to create that moment of our Blind Auditions gave me some really good advice. He really loved my attention to detail in the way I did that song because of the fact that I was being very cognizant of what the song means and how big of a deal it meant for me to do such a song like that. When you have the facts of a song like that, then you’re able to tap into something that’s much bigger than yourself. So that’s why I like to do research on the songs that I do because every single song that I’ve done so far on the show and going to do in the Knockout Round, I was trying to make sure that I appreciated the artists that came before me who did those songs so that I can understand how I can do it and how I can put myself into it.

I met with Peter one last time before I went out and he said, “What you need to do here is tap into the pain that you felt when you lost your brother. Tap into the appreciation of your father and your grandfather. You’ve told me the story, now tell yourself that story and then push it out into the world.” He really helped me find where I needed to go in the song. I was not trying to be as technical as I could have been in the song. … I needed to sing it like Sam Cooke wrote it. He wrote that song as a rallying cry, a piece of education for people to understand what it was like being Black in this country at a time where we were considered second-class citizens or not even human to certain people. So that’s what I wanted to tap into and that’s something I’m very thankful for, that I had the ability to do it and that I had that guidance from my vocal coach Peter who walked us through how to feel and how to envelop that emotion that we wanted to push out. 

Talk to me about your evolution as an artist and the rebirth that you’ve been going through.

I started playing music and because of the feeling that it gave me, that’s the reason why I became an artist. My parents raised us on this quote by the great Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you’ve done, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” That’s really the perfect description of what music can do for people. That was really the reason why I decided to do “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke because, for me generationally, that song really means a lot, especially from losing my brother, to my father’s history of how he grew up in Mississippi in the ’50s and ’60s. Then my grandfather and him being a pastor in the backwoods of Mississippi and being threatened by the KKK. 

What is the meaning behind your name NOIVAS (pronounced Noy-va)? 

The reason why I came up with the name was because I felt like it was something that I needed to do in order to show the evolution of who I am now as an artist, as compared to who I was years ago. I did go by my first name for a long time while I was still performing before I went on hiatus. I talked to my  partner and I was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I just flipped my name?” [NOIVAS is his first name Savion spelled backward].

NOIVAS in a lot of different languages means different things. In Portuguese, it means bride or fiance, and then in French, which is the one that I really like because my mom’s family is from the New Orleans, Louisiana, area. But she took it from savior, that’s where she really got it from. I went back to the French translation of NOIVAS and it fits even in the moment of me being on the show, just the new rebirth of the person that I am now as an artist. It was something that was really cool and I ended up finding out that NOIVAS in French means “I will not go.” So I thought that was really cool, especially now with how things turned out on the show where I lost my Battle, but I did not leave.

We just saw the Battle Round with you and Ray Uriel. Ray won the Battle, but then Blake Shelton stole you at the last minute. Tell me about your headspace now being on Blake’s team and going into the Knockouts?

I will first say that working with Ray during the Battle Rounds was amazing. It was seamless for us, we connected instantly. There were no issues, there wasn’t a battle between the two of us. It was just us wanting to enhance each other throughout that process. We have mutual respect for each other from the start and that was something that we wanted to bring into the Battle. I really think we showed that amongst us both. After that Battle, Chance choosing Ray over me, I was so happy to see him win because he deserved it. He absolutely killed that song. He took it to a whole other level. When Chance called his name, I was like a proud dad. I was in a very good place with everything. I already had a feeling that it was going to play out that way because of the fact that I’m a positive person. Even going into the Battle, I was like, “I’m going to declare that both of us are going to make it through this next round,” so that was the positivity that we went in with. And then for it to come full circle for me to end up on Blake’s team after wanting to be on his team from the start. I was very proud and very appreciative of that. 

It was honestly one of the best moments of my life because I’ve been a big fan of Blake for a very long time. I’ve always been a fan of country music because that’s how I grew up. I’m from Texas and I grew up on Blake, I grew up on Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw and Faith [Hill], Shania Twain. That’s what I grew up listening to on the radio all the time. So to come full circle of listening to a lot of his music, to be able to be in the same room with him was cool. But now to be able to work with him and have him as a mentor going into Knockouts, that’s one of the coolest moments so far that I’ve had.

Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC

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