ENCINITAS — Recent La Costa Canyon High School graduate Kat Hammock has a really good reason for pushing college off a semester — she made it onto Team Blake on the TV singing competition “The Voice.”
The Encinitas native, 18, was featured on the first episode of the show’s 17th season, which aired on Sept. 23. Each season begins with the “Blind Auditions,” where artists perform in front of four coaches, who have their backs turned to them. If a coach likes what they hear, they press their button, which turns their chair around toward the singer. If only one coach turns around, the artist is automatically on their team. If more than one coach turns around, they are each given a chance to plead their case and then the singer gets to choose which coach they want.
Hammock got two chairs to turn when she sang and played piano on her rendition of “Vienna” by Billy Joel. Just before she sang the last line of the song, coach Blake Shelton turned, followed quickly by coach — and Shelton’s real-life girlfriend — Gwen Stefani.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Hammock recalled in a phone interview last week. “I mean, they turned so late in my audition that I thought, like, oh, it’s over, no one’s going to turn for me, this is it. I was mentally preparing myself, and when they both turned, I was just in shock.”
Stefani made her case first, saying she wanted Kat on her team because “you were able to dial into your heart and then share that and I love that … you’re going to be magic.”
Shelton countered by saying he was desperate to have Kat on his team and walked close to the stage, appealing to Kat’s parents and siblings, who were supporting her backstage.
“Do you guys watch this show? Do you guys realize how long I’ve been doing this? Seventeen seasons,” Shelton began. “I had three people in the finale last year, there’s only four that made it to the final.”
Hammock ended up going with Shelton, a decision she said she’d made before going in, though she admitted Stefani’s convincing pitch made it hard.
She said she was super nervous to work with Shelton because of his reputation and the fact that he’s “Blake Shelton,” but he quickly alleviated her anxiety.
“He has a way of really easing the room and making everyone comfortable,” she said. “He jokes around a lot, he’s very kind, it’s a great atmosphere to be able to work with him.”
Hammock grew up in Encinitas with her four older siblings and has lived in the same house her whole life. She started singing in her church choir in the fourth grade and picked up the piano at her choir teacher’s insistence that if she wanted to be a singer, she had to learn an instrument. She says she feels most comfortable performing behind the piano.
Before performing on “The Voice” stage, Hammock had the opportunity to perform with her church choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City a couple times.
“It was really cool to do that, and I had, like, a little solo in that,” she said.
She said she was raised on ‘60s and ‘70s songs and cites Billy Joel, The Beach Boys and The Beatles among her musical influences. She said she chose to sing “Vienna” for her blind audition for many significant reasons.
“It’s just my favorite song, it’s one of the first songs that I performed and one of the first songs that I learned to play on piano,” she said. “And it’s just meaningful for me, my sisters introduced it to me when I was younger.”
She started a You Tube channel a couple years ago, that has over 600 subscribers and 11 videos. One, a cover of “Why” by Sabrina Carpenter, has 14,000 views. It was because of her You Tube channel that representatives from “The Voice” contacted her to be on the show, through a vague email she says she almost dismissed until her brother did more research and found out it was legit.
She said the timing to be on the show is perfect, as she had just graduated high school and hadn’t yet started college. She was due to attend Villanova University in Philadelphia this fall but was able to push it back because of the show.
Next up for Hammock are the “Battle Rounds,” in which each coach pairs two of his or her team members to perform together, then chooses one to advance in the competition. The other two coaches this season are John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.
That is followed by several more rounds of competition and then a live finale. The winner, who gets $100,000 and a record deal, is chosen by viewers.
Shelton said he thinks Hammock can make it to the end.
“Kat was just magical,” he said on the show after her blind audition. “I feel like she has the talent and charisma to make it to the finale.”