Until recently, 20-year-old Evan McKeel was playing gigs around Richmond at places like Sedona Taphouse, Cafe Caturra and the Carytown Watermelon Festival. Last Tuesday, his audience got a lot bigger.
On Sept. 22, NBC’s, The Voice aired the second episode of season 9, with McKeel among the 13 artists vying for the chance to fulfill their dreams during blind auditions.
McKeel’s musical career began at age 5 when he started singing at his church, West End Assembly of God, on North Parham Road. McKeel says that West End encouraged its youth to “sing, dance, act and get into the arts.”
“Church gave me an opportunity at a young age," he says. "I got used to singing on stage.” By age 12, McKeel was one of the leading performers at church.
McKeel was home schooled, which allowed him to focus on his music. In middle school, he learned to play guitar from his father, and by high school he was writing, recording and singing music all over Richmond. When it came time for McKeel to make the decision about if he wanted to attend ministry college or pursue his singing career, he chose music. “I was trying to pursue a national career,” he says.
On The Voice during blind auditions, McKeel says he was not nervous when performing the Mutemath song "Typical." “I honestly really don’t get nervous when performing in front of a group of people,” he says. His only apprehension came when he was nearly done with his song, and coaches Gwen Stefani, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams had not turned their chairs. “I started to prepare myself that I was going home,” he says. “I was thinking ‘Oh shoot, I’m not going to get a turn,’ then in the next 10 seconds I had all four of them! It was such an amazing feeling.”
After listening to each coach’s opinion on his rendition of "Typical," McKeel said he was interested in various genres of music, adding that he listens to Stevie Wonder. That prompted Williams to ask him to sing the chorus from Wonder’s “Overjoyed.” “I defiantly wasn’t expecting it,” McKeel says, “but I am used to making up songs on the spot. I thrive in those types of situations.” McKeel nailed the chorus, bringing Stefani to tears at the end. Faced with making a decision on which coach he would work with, McKeel hesitated, but ultimately chose Williams, a Virginia Beach native.
“We call the same place home," McKeel says. "I could tell from talking to him that we both had the same tastes in music and that Pharrell would understand me as and artist along with the direction I am trying to move in. Pharrell understands the music I am trying to create.” McKeel was also thankful that Williams asked him for the impromptu performance. “Putting me on the spot made me prove to him that I am a diverse musically,” he says. He believes Williams will push him to grow and that he genuinely cares about the music.
McKeel says he is thankful that God opened this door and opportunity for him. “I have never felt more in the center of God’s wealth for me,” he says. “All of the glory is to God — it is completely his plan.” McKeel says he has received numerous calls from his pastors at West End Assembly of God, and he's thankful for their prayers and support.
McKeel says his long-term goal is to have a career in the music industry, and to diversify the industry. He wants his music to “cater to a lot of different people." He has a love for all music and does not want make the same album over and over again. “I would want to make a soul album, a country album and even a rock album,” he says. Eventually, he hopes to branch out and perform on comedy television shows, make his own ice cream and have a family. “I’m not trying to look too far behind or too far ahead," he adds. "I like to pour myself into what is in front of me.”
Asked what one thing he would tell other Richmonders trying to pursue a musical career, he says, “Life is short. If there is something you want to do, pour yourself into it, regardless of what people think.”
Stay tuned into NBC’s The Voice (Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m.) to see more of Evan McKeel.
Richmonder Evan McKeel sang Mutemath's "Typical" during his blind audition on The Voice, getting all four judges to turn their chairs around by the end of the song.