Another Kansas City vocalist has turned heads — and more importantly, chairs — this season on NBC’s reality singing competition “The Voice.”
Eric Lyn Copeland, 27, of Kansas City, Kan., prompted Academy Award- and Grammy-winning judge Jennifer Hudson to turn her chair during the Oct. 2 auditions episode and add Copeland to “Team J-Hud” (she was the only judge who turned for Copeland).
“You gave each and every note the care that it deserved,” Hudson told Copeland after he finished his rendition of the Five Stairsteps’ ’70s classic “Ooh Child.” “I am so proud and so happy to have you on Team J-Hud!”
Copeland (who performs as just Eric Lyn) will join other vocalists on Hudson’s team. The show’s three other judges — Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus and Blake Shelton — have also assembled their own teams of vocalists. Now the teams will perform in “Battle Rounds” to decide who moves on in the competition.
Copeland is the latest local musician to find success on “The Voice.” Earlier this year, during the show’s 12th season, Smithville country singer and Parkville University graduate Casi Joy made it to the Top 20.
Copeland still has a few more performances before he reaches those heights but says he’s excited at his chances.
The Star caught up with the singer, who was home in Los Angeles a few days before the show’s battle rounds begin on Monday, Oct. 23. Copeland is a voice teacher in L.A. and talked about how F.L. Schlagle helped prepare him for “The Voice,” the moment he knew that he wanted to sing forever, and what it’s like working with Hudson.
Q: What has been your journey from Kansas to L.A. and then to “The Voice”?
A: When I left KCK, I went to Fisk University in Nashville (where he received a bachelors in music with an emphasis on vocal performance). I graduated in 2013 and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do afterward. I began singing a lot of background and doing a lot of session work in Nashville and was becoming pretty popular doing it, so I began to wonder if I could do more and find more opportunities if I put myself into the right space.
L.A. had always been on my mind, so after graduating I waited a year until 2015 and applied to three schools in L.A. and got accepted to three (Copeland decided on California State University, Northridge, where he is pursuing a masters in vocal performance).
Q: So you’ve always been involved in music?
A: Yea (laughter). At Schlagle I was involved in the a cappella choir, chambers choir, and I was a drum major with the band for about three years. And at Fisk I was a part of the world-renowned ensemble called the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
Q: What kind of influence has growing up in Kansas City had on your music career?
A: An amazing one for sure. Both of my parents, specifically my dad, they kept my brother, sister and I around a lot of old-school music. But Kansas City as a whole I’d say has been influential because of the jazz scene and how prevalent it is there.
My uncle at one time owned the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, so I used to go to the American Jazz Museum all the time. I was just like, “Oh, the jazz museum? The Blue Room? Oh yeah, this is cool, this is my vibe.” And I got a chance to perform at the Blue Room when I was 16. And it was in that moment that I knew that I wanted to sing for real.
Q: Where in KC have you performed?
A: I’ve sung for the KCK community college theater department’s production of “Dreamgirls” in 2008. I’ve sung at the Blue Room. I did Soul Sessions at the Jukehouse on 18th and Vine and Poetic Notes at Qudos Cigar Bar downtown. I did a lot of work with Lee Langston. Please put his name down, he’s probably the main reason I got the chance to sing in Kansas City.
Q: How did you come to be a part of “The Voice”?
A: I just had a friend who contacted me one day and was like “send me an email of you singing.” I didn’t know what it was for, I just sent it.
Next thing you know, I got an email from Michelle McNulty in casting, and she told me that she wanted me to come audition for “The Voice” privately.
So I went through the first phase and I passed. The second phase and I passed, and afterward NBC brought everybody that finished those phases into this conference room and told us that we would all be a part of the show’s blind auditions. I didn’t even believe it when I heard it the first time (laughter), I had to ask again like “what did you say?” (laughter).
Q: How is it working on Team J-Hud?
A: It’s amazing. I’ve been a fan of J-Hud for quite some time, you know with “American Idol,” transitioning to movies, “Dreamgirls.” But I’ll be honest, I didn’t think she would pick me. Because you know Jennifer has a very demanding voice, but my voice is significantly lighter.
So when she turned and she had her choice words for me, I thought, “Oh my God, who would’ve thought you would have turned for me?” I was just so excited because I actually am a fan. And I love her spirit. She has a lot of compassion.
Being on Team Jennifer, she’s just really helped all of us to just own who we are. She accepts our authenticity of who we are as artists, and what our gifts are capable of doing. She wants us to stay in that lane.
Q: How would you describe your music style?
A: Everyone says I’m jazzy, which is funny because I don’t try to be (laughter). I think it’s a thing because I’m from Kansas City. But I’d say I’m more alternative soul.
Q: What singers do you draw inspiration from?
A: Lalah Hathaway, Leslie Odom, Nancy Wilson. She’s so cold, I really enjoy her phrasing. I love Ella Fitzgerald. Kim Burrell.
Q: Have you learned anything about yourself so far working on “The Voice”?
A: I’ve learned you have to be very resilient and obedient. Following through with what God told you to do.
Q: Is there anything you miss about Kansas City?
A: Barbecue (laughter). Gates? When I went back home last Christmas, I found out they had jerk chicken wings and I was shook! (laughter).
I miss the fact that people say hello. In L.A., they don’t have a lot of people that are personable. In KC, you walk down the grocery store and people will at least acknowledge that you exist. So I miss the people. And I miss my family.
Where to watch
“The Voice” airs at 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC.