Todd Michael Hall • From The VOICE to the Valley

An Exclusive Interview

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, National Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 896   By: Robert E Martin

14th May, 2020     0

Todd Michael Hall has carved a distinctive name throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region long before the stellar range and expressive nuance of his remarkable vocal abilities registered with the judges and audience on NBC’s hit television show The Voice, instantly catapulting him to national acclaim.  

Finding his passion for heavy metal music at the age of 15, when he brother Jon formed the powerful metal band Harlet and started jamming clubs throughout the tri-city area back in the late 1980s, releasing two albums Virgin Wings (EP, 1987) and 25 Gets a Ride (1988), he later formed Pulling Teeth in 1994 and then put music on the backburner after college and started working at his family’s manufacturing company, Glastender, which he now runs.

Todd started a pen pal relationship with a woman from India who was a fan of his musical endeavors and after three years of writing, he flew out to meet her and proposed on his second trip. They now have three kids and outside of work and being a dad, Todd gigs abroad two months a year with the heavy metal band Riot V, which he’s been involved with since 2013. 

Todd also worked on several other metal projects over the years, including Jack Starr’s Burning Starr, with whom he released 3 albums between 2009 and 2017 and Reverence, releasing When Darkness Calls in 2012 and God’s of War  in 2015. His latest release with Riot V, Armor of Light, came out in 2018 and last year he released Return to Eden with Avalon.

With his latest appearance on The Voice Todd was unfortunately eliminated during the 4-Way Knockout, but has gained a whole new level of distinction within the world of popular music.  

Recently, The Review sat down with Todd to discuss his experience performing on the 18thseason of The Voice, in addition to what his musical plans are looking into the near future as we navigate our way through these uncertain and unchartered waters of a COVID-19.

Review: First of all congratulations for making it into the 4-Way Knockout on ‘The Voice’.  Even though you didn’t prevail, I hope the fact you made such an indelible mark on a significantly broad audience, gaining new fans all over the world outweighs whatever disappointment you might be feeling. 

Todd Hall: Thanks. Even though I got much further than I ever thought I would, it was still a touch disappointing when it came to an end. It has been a wonderful experience though and nothing but a blessing, so it is all good.

Review: Pursuing this level of achievement in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is challenging in itself; but one thing I’d like to start with is how challenging it was to perform and train in a context where you are separated from the flesh & blood of live interaction and separated by a computer screen, seeing as music relies so heavily on human interaction.

Todd: Well, everything I did on TV was before a small live audience of maybe 500 people. The coaches were there and we finished filming my blind audition back in October; and then when I made it to the battle the Knockout Round was filled in January.  Now all the contestants are performing from their homes; and actually, I ended up performing in my home for Blake Shelton for the coaching session prior to the 4-Way Knockout. 

For my live song I was going to perform More Than a Feeling by Boston, which features some amazing high notes; so I was bummed when I didn’t make it.  But when I had the meeting with Blake I had a mic stand in my home with a tabalet attached to it with pro-tech equipment, so Blake was seeing me through a camera and saying stuff like, ‘Oh, that’s what your house is like?’  We were chatting as the recording was set up and there was a remote control set for the tablet, so I wasn’t controlling it - the Tech Crew at The Voice were handling that.

Actually, things were set up similar to the way I record vocals in my home and captured electronically to the tracks. The music track was plahing and I needed a monitor to hear it; and then I’m singing, which was pretty bizarre. I also did a practice session with the production people on Zoom that was focused on staging.  They kept saying, ‘Think of the camera as your audience, but I don’t like looking at a camera, so it was weird for me.  Trying to perform an energetic Boston song in front of a camera is definitely a little weird, but that’s the way it’s going for now.

Review: When you look at your journey from audition to performance up to the 4-Way Knockout, what are the biggest things you took away from the experience?

Todd Hall: I didn’t realize how long it all takes. Actually, this started about a year ago. I received an email about an upcoming audition call taking place for The VOICE almost a year ago toward the end of May; and the audition was in Chciago back around the third week of June, or something like that.   It was a long, long process.

My biggest takeaway from it is how I feel a lot of blessing at the friendships made. Experientially it was a wonderful thing. I got to experience televised musical performance at the highest level, which actually challenged my level of reality seeing the amount of preparation and expertise and everything that goes into a televised live musical performance that I could never reproduce all by myself.   

There are so many bodies and so much talent that goes into the presentation. I’ve performed in bands for years and have played big shows, but its still basically me going onstage and doing my thing.  But with this it involves meetings with vocal coaches and staging people and wardrobe and make-up and hair - everything is executed at that high level of professionalism.  I mean, I’ve never had makeup on before - except for eyeliner back in the late ‘80s.

Review: When you’re performing in front of a camera like that before an immensely larger number of viewers than you might have when performing a live show in front of a concert audience, did the potential magnitude of that ‘invisible’ audience alter you in any way?  Were you conscious of the exponential magnitude of bodies watching you from behind that camera lens?

Todd Hall:  I think it did during my first performance. That feeling weighed on me a little more. The way you enter the stage is so strange. You’re sitting behind this door and its really quiet and once they announce you the doors open and you take a spot on the stage and it’s really silent.  The coaches are turned with their backs facing you and there’s this small studio audience and It’s rally bizarre.  My wife said she thought I looked really nervous; but once the song kicks in you’re a performer and if you’re prepared the performance really comes straight out of your soul.

During the second performance when I did the ‘Battle Round’ duet with Joei Fulco, I was well prepared. Our vocal coach ran over the song once and we were laughing and joking with one another. Afterwards, we were hanging out and trading harmonies and really getting into it.  When we moved into the hallway going out I could see people in the audience and this feeling of total joy washed over me and I thought, ‘My Lord, will I ever get to do this again?’ When we walked onto that stage it was amazing. I did a fist-pump with Joei and wasn’t thinking about the camera so much as just having fun. 

Review: What was it like working with the vocal coaches?  Did you take anything valuable away working with them?

Todd Hall: There’s two issues involved with that question: one, I’m older and quite experienced; and two, the type of singing I do is different, so I don’t think the coaches are as used to giving recommendations to someone with a high voice such as mine, so there was some confusiong between singing with a ‘head voice’ as opposed to a falsetto.  

I’m not classically trained, but when I sing high it is not in falsetto - that’s what Nick Jonas does; or a guy who tries to talk like a girl.  What I do is a powerful higher-register sound that isn’t so natural - you have to really train and learn how to do it.  I don’t know if this makes me sound like I have a big ego, but honestly the vocal coaches didn’t have a lot to suggest to me regarding my voice because I think it was outside their realm of experience. They would suggest things regarding pronunciation, or maybe how to open a note a certain way, or when moving to a different note using an upper mixed-voice - so they were helpful with a couple little tweaks here and there.

Review: What was it like working with Blake Shelton?

Todd Hall:  Blake is a really friendly guy. Blake doesn’t coach from a perspective of suggesting how to get nots to come out, but is more an overall feel kind of guy. He’ll hear something and say he doesn’t like the sound of what might be going on in a certain part, so suggest doing something different. Because I came in at the end and my involvement got cut short because of COVID, I didn’t get a lot of interaction with him. The last interaction we had was a 3-minute Skype session.

Review: You must obviously have a whole new legion of fans through this experience. What’s that been like?

Todd Hall: I certain have. A couple interesting things is that being an older person, while I had a ton of views on my Blind Audition video, being older I don’t get as many followers as younger artists do, so social media is a younger-person type of thing.  

I am probably ridiculous in that I feel a need to respond to people to thank them for their support. I’m telling you that after appearing on national TV, I spent four days just trying to like and respond to everyone. It’s a lot of work.  They have social media advisors associated with the show that tell you not to respond to any direct messages because people might take what you say and post it out of context, which can be a scary thing; plus some people don’t understand the appropriate level of contact and start contacting you a lot, which puts you in awkward spot of coaching them into more appropriate type of behavior. But it’s difficult for me to ignore people. I ended up responding to people that contacted me and gained a lot of fans in the process.

The whole reason I decided to go on The VOICE in the first place was to reach more people with my music.

Review: With this behind you now it must be a strange time. You have all this notoriety and momentum from being in the spotlight, yet the live concert season is on hold because of COVID.  How are you approaching these upcoming summer months as we go into the rest of the year?

Todd Hall:  I had three weeks of shows booked with Riot V in July that are all postponed until next year and like most musicians, when holed up at home and not out performing I’ve been spending my time doing a lot of writing.  Plus, my business was shut down for a few weeks, so during this crazy melee I’ve been writing songs on my own that are more singer-songwriter oriented; but I do like heavy metal so also hooked-up with a new writing partner named Kurdt Vanderhoof. He is originally from the Seattle area but lives in Southern California now and is a band called Metal Church, so has some notoriety in the California music scene. 

He and I got together to write a hard rock album with an early ‘70s-‘80s’ vibe and spent three weeks writing 16-songs together, which is pretty exciting. I’m doing final tracking on the vocals and will have a new solo album out in a few months. Plus, I’m working on another album with Riot so have music coming out my ears.

Review: Sounds great, Todd.  Thanks for speaking with us.  Anything else you might like to mention that we haven’t touched upon?

Todd Hall: The biggest thing for me is that I want to thank all the people in our area for their love and support. It’s been overwhelming and heartwarming to have so many people saying so many nice things, as well as all the local businesses putting up signs of encouragement.

I’d like to thank all the people out there for being so supportive. I was proud to stand on that stage and say I was from Saginaw, Michigan.



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