Gabriel Violett was cast as angst-ridden teen Otto in Broadway’s Spring Awakening his sophomore year of college—when he set himself apart from his musical theatre classmates with his pop flair and contemporary aesthetic—but he hasn’t been back on Broadway since. However, last night, he took a bigger stage: national television.
On Season 11 of NBC’s The Voice, Violett hit the stage on the September 27 episode to cover Shawn Mendes’ “Treat You Better” for his “Blind Audition” round, in which the season’s coaches listen with their backs to the artist. If coaches are interested in having the performer on their team, they press a button on their chair that turns them around to welcome the contestant.
Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys are this season’s coaches, and Violett was chosen by Keys and Shelton—leaving the choice, now, on him. Since Keys was first to turn her chair around—seconds into his performance—Violett opted to join Team Alicia.
“I’ve always been non-traditional,” says Violett, “and I’ve always gotten really close to having a lot of great parts [in theatre], but there was always something that wasn’t quite right or didn’t quite fit or I wasn’t quite whatever enough because I think I’m just a little bit outside of the margin or outside the box of what a lot of shows are casting. And I just have such a passion for pop music and vocalists outside of the context of theatre, so at some point, it just made sense that I was looking at my options. I [thought], ‘Auditioning for shows: that’s not working. I’m not intrinsically a songwriter, so I don’t have anything like that to start making albums,’ so I [thought]: What can I do? I can sing. What can you do with being able to sing? You can be on The Voice.”
This was Violett’s seventh time auditioning. After not receiving a callback the first time around, he thought, “I owe it to myself to get further.” With each audition, he kept advancing—and now he was determined.
“At some point, it just became an end goal,” he says. “The fact that it actually happened, and I was shown on TV last night, and that I’m on Team Alicia Keys… As I was working towards it, [that] was such a non-factor. It wasn’t about being on TV, it wasn’t about anything except: I knew I was good enough and owed it to myself to accomplish that, so I just set my mind to it. After seven Voice cattle calls, here I am.”
When Broadway wasn’t working out like Violett hoped, there were times he thought about calling it quits altogether.
“I’ve said it out loud a few times and verbalized to people,” he admits. “There have been a few different times over the years, [where I thought], ‘I think it’s just not going to work. I’m old enough. It’s not cute anymore. I need to figure out how to pay the bills. It’s not working. Why do I live in the most expensive city in the world if I’m not making money as a performer?’ But then after I said it out loud, it would kind of sit there in my mind—it just didn’t mesh; it didn’t feel right. No matter how many times I said it, I always found myself staying here and continuing to try, so there was something that would not let me give up, even when I wanted to, but there were certainly times when I considered.
“I went from being a sophomore in college to being on Broadway, so that was crazy, and I had all these interviews and all this attention and everything. I was young, and that was the first big thing I had done, so I hadn’t had the typical starving-artist struggle to really be able to appreciate it in a genuine way. So having [success], and then having none of that and struggling and trying to make it work—trying to figure out what I need to be doing and not booking jobs—and now coming back and having the same kind of experience, but tenfold, is amazing and crazy. A relief washed over me: ‘I didn’t know if I was going to get to experience this again, and not only am I getting to experience it again, but it’s after all of the struggle that came before it,’ so I’m so incredibly appreciative. It’s crazy, and it’s a whirlwind, but it feels right.”
Watch Violett on The Voice Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC. For more information, visit NBC.com/The-Voice.