A look at this Utah singer’s big run on ‘The Voice’ and what’s next (aside from his junior year of high school)
What makes the young musician’s run on ‘The Voice’ all the more impressive is the fact that he can’t read a note of music
SALT LAKE CITY — Blake Shelton and Nick Jonas fought over him. Shelton attempted to woo him with a puppy. Kelly Clarkson called him “cute.” And James Taylor called him a “prodigy.”
Tate Brusa’s run on “The Voice” sparked a lot of interest from the show’s judges, guest artists and and millions of viewers — his audition alone has 8 million views.
One of the youngest competitors on the show this season, the 16-year-old singer continued advancing, getting picked over contestants double his age and size.
But on April 13, Brusa’s time on “The Voice” came to an end.
What makes getting to the top 24 even more impressive, though, is that the singer/guitarist/pianist can’t read a note of music.
“I’m sure if I tried I could figure it out,” Brusa recently told the Deseret News. “But I don’t really have the patience to learn it.”
That’s right; every performance Brusa gave on “The Voice” was done by ear — a skill that led the legendary James Taylor, a guest mentor on the show, to call the high school sophomore a “prodigy.”
“Having James Taylor come along and say those nice words, it was unreal,” Brusa said. “I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s crazy to watch back and hear him say my name. And that’s always going to be on TV, so that’s pretty cool.”
Here’s a look back at the big highlights from Brusa’s run on “The Voice,” and a look forward at what’s next for the budding musician — aside from his junior year of high school.
On “The Voice,” contestants learn their fate during the blind auditions, when judges flip their chairs around to see them. It wasn’t until the final seconds of Brusa’s performance that a judge turned for him. Just as Brusa was finishing his cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” Nick Jonas hit the button and turned his chair.
Shortly after, Shelton also swiveled for a chance to snag the 16-year-old singer.
Standing on the sidelines, Brusa’s family erupted into cheers.
Jonas, who ended up giving Brusa some on-the-spot coaching during the audition, said he admired the “fight” in the young singer’s raspy voice.
That rasp — a quality the singer claims to have developed during a busy childhood spent screaming and annoying his two older sisters — impressed all the judges. So much so that Shelton brought out a cute, fluffy puppy as a ploy to get Brusa to join his team over Jonas.
”If you don’t choose me as your coach, this puppy’s going to go straight back to the animal shelter,” Shelton said.
But Brusa, who has long been a fan of the Jonas Brothers, already knew who he was going to pick.
“I figured the dog wasn’t going to go back to the pound if I didn’t pick Blake. And originally I thought I was going to get the dog if I were to pick him, but then I realized that was a bit of a stretch,” Brusa previously told the Deseret News. “I was amazed and honored that he turned around, but I had to go with Nick.”
Brusa never regretted his choice. And the teenager’s bond with Jonas only grew stronger as the show went on.
He spent two weeks preparing for the Battle round. During that time, he not only received more personal instruction from Jonas but also met Kevin and Joe — the other two Jonas Brothers.
Getting advice from the brothers on how to handle voice changes and navigate the music industry at a young age was a dream come true for Brusa, who actually turned down front-row seats to a Jonas Brothers concert in Salt Lake City last fall because he was traveling to his audition for “The Voice.”
For the Battle round performance, Brusa and 36-year-old singer Anders Drerup sang Post Malone’s “Circles.” The song ended up being a better fit for Brusa, a Post Malone fan who knew the song extremely well.
“Tate, you are a phenomenal singer, and there’s something about you that I’m drawn to,” Jonas said after the performance. “Perhaps it’s your care for your craft at such a young age. Because maybe I see a little bit of myself in you.”
Jonas picked Brusa over Drerup to advance to the Knockout round.
“Having him actually say that he saw himself in me was pretty cool,” Brusa previously told the Deseret News. “Those were his words. Someone that you’ve looked up to and loved, and loved their music, it’s pretty overwhelming when they say something like that to you.”
When he was 3, Brusa climbed up on his family’s piano and figured out how to play the Coldplay song “Clocks.” Over the years, he’s taught himself how to play countless songs on the piano and guitar. Coldplay gets played a lot in his house, a lab for where he works on his craft. One song Brusa always comes back to is “The Scientist” — the song he chose to test out for the Knockout round.
“I guess I’ve come full circle — performing a Coldplay song on TV for 10 million faces,” Brusa wrote in an Instagram post.
The 16-year-old’s voice isn’t as high as it was when he first started singing “The Scientist,” though, so he had to teach himself how to play it in a lower key.
He had a breakthrough.
In preparing for the Knockout round, Brusa got the rare opportunity to rehearse in front of Taylor. He still laughs when he thinks about the first rehearsal because his voice cracked on the first note of “The Scientist.” That little moment did not make the episode that aired on April 13.
Taylor, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, also gave Brusa advice and encouraged him to shower the people with eye contact when singing to form a better connection with the audience.
“It was awesome being able to work with him,” Brusa said, adding that his grandparents are big fans of Taylor. “He’s a great songwriter and an amazing guitar player, too.”
“The Scientist” ended up being the last song Brusa would perform on “The Voice,” though. Jonas picked 38-year-old singer Roderick Chambers — who sang Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” — to advance to the live shows.
Sending Brusa home was a tough decision for Jonas, who said he had always been impressed with Brusa’s “blazing confidence.”
“I just want to thank you guys so much,” Brusa told the judges after being eliminated. “It was such an honor performing in front of all you guys.”
“You are so good, man!” Clarkson shouted at him. Jonas stood up to give him a hug.
And then he walked off the stage.
Looking back on it all, Brusa said there are some things he might’ve done differently. But he’s proud to have made it to the top 24 — the singer said 45,000-50,000 people initially showed up to “Voice” auditions across the country.
“That’s a pretty big accomplishment,” he said.
But as Brusa’s time on the show has come to an end, his music career is starting to show new life — the singer’s following on Instagram grew from under 2,000 people to more than 34,000 since “The Voice” started airing in February.
A few nights ago, Brusa performed a live concert on Instagram that 7,000 people tuned in to watch over the two hours.
Brusa plans to release a single at the start of May. After that, he’ll release his first EP, either near the end of May or beginning of June.
“I’m not really in it for the numbers, but it’s good to be able to release music to a bigger crowd,” said Brusa, who at the moment has four songs out.
Once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, Brusa hopes to get out and perform for a live crowd again. He’s played at the all-ages venue Kilby Court in downtown Salt Lake City a few times. One day, he’d like to play at the Depot, another downtown venue, and start opening up for bands around the United States.
“Playing shows outside of where I live, that’s eventually the goal,” Brusa said. “We’ll just have to see.”
It’s unclear what Brusa’s future holds. But one sure thing — big names like Taylor and Jonas are still in his corner.
“I’m really curious to see where this young guy ends up,” Taylor said during Brusa’s final episode.
“Keep your head up and keep on singing!” Jonas tweeted after the elimination. “Your future is bright.”