Reagan James doesn’t have the attitude one might expect from someone freshly booted from a popular televised singing competition.
During a brief chat Monday afternoon, less than a week after she was voted off the seventh season of The Voice, the 16-year-old Burleson native ( who battled strep throat during her penultimate week) was resolutely upbeat and grateful, not only to her ever-expanding fan base, but also the show itself, and her mentor, country superstar Blake Shelton, for helping guide her to the top 10.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
How did you feel last week?
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The best word I could describe it with is I felt blessed. Making the top 10 I felt was perfect for me. It was exactly where I needed to be and it was exactly where I needed to leave. ... I was on The Voice to get exposure, and build a fan base and experience the experience of a lifetime. I feel like a lot of people go on this show and that’s the high point of their career, but I plan on this being just the beginning.
So what was the fan response like? Because you had the attitude immediately following [last week’s elimination], “Now I’m focused on the wild card and what comes after that” and people online were like “No!”
Everybody was flipping out and I was like, “Stop — no, we’re not going to be negative about this. Not many people can say they made it as far as I made it, and you guys did everything you could to keep me in.” Fate is fate, and this is exactly what was meant to happen. I’m just really reassured that I have a lot of high hopes for my future, and I know my supporters aren’t going to let me down and they’re gonna stick by me through it. I’m so grateful to The Voice, though, for getting me where I am and teaching me everything I learned there. It’s amazing. And there’s still the wild card, so you never know.
What has the whole experience been like, generally?
I can’t tell you how much I’ve grown through the whole thing, musically and personally, I’ve gained years of experience from working long hours with amazing musicians and amazing people. Everybody who’s on the show, from the very beginning, but especially as the group gets smaller, the people that you’re surrounded by daily, they’re incredible people. I could name names — specifically for me, Taylor John Williams and Matt McAndrew and Luke Wade, they have had crazy influences on me as an artist and as an individual. We constantly influence each other in writing ... if you were surrounded by negative people all the time, you wouldn’t be able to get through long days like that, you wouldn’t be able to stay positive and not give up on yourself.
There is a lot of hate, and people do hate on us a lot — if you look at that Fancy video, I got a lot of hate for that. But that was my fault, I took a risk and have no regrets about it. I did what I love ... but the people that are there, the staff and the producers and the transportation people, everybody is so accommodating and amazing. I couldn’t have been more thankful that i was on a show like that. you hear a lot of bad stuff about reality TV, and about certain shows, you hear a lot of stuff in the media about contestants being treated poorly or talked to poorly, but there wasn’t a second I didn’t feel like I was being treated the best I could’ve been. It was a really insane experience.
Was there anything in competing, to this point, that surprised you?
It’s funny because, at the very beginning, whenever you started talking to Gwen [Stefani] and Blake and Pharrell [Williams] and Adam [Levine] at first, their words really blow you away: “Oh my gosh, they really did say that to me.” And then you start to think, well, this is going to feel pretty normal. Every single time I’d have a conversation, butterflies, you know? It blows your mind that you are who you are — it got normal. It obviously felt like reality to us because it was a weekly thing. Still, it just hit you: I’m really having this conversation about my future with Pharrell Williams. The whole thing was full of surprises. Having Taylor Swift on was super cool. And all the celebrity guests we had, the mentors who came in.
Along those lines of butterflies, what did it mean to have people like Kelly Clarkson and Nelly Furtado reach out and acknowledge what you’re doing?
Any time somebody who I look up to — and Nelly and Kelly are both crazy influential on my music and my artistry — any time I have anybody like that who’s so successful comment on my work and what I do, I’m very humbled.
Having now been on the show, as an artist, what do you think the value of shows like this are?
I think, and I can only say this from my point of view, so I can’t speak about how a grown, adult musician feels about it, but I know for young people, it’s a jump-start. You don’t know have to spend the early part of your career playing small bars and restaurants — I get to skip that part, you know? The people that are in their 20s — it’s amazing that anyone’s on the show — but I don’t have to go through what they went through. It’s free exposure; you can’t pay for something like this. For me, mainly, it was an amazing jump-start in my career, and like I said earlier, being surrounded by positivity and positive influence and reinforcement and learning from coaches — it’s all really positive.
What were some of your favorite things about working with Blake Shelton? It seemed like you guys had a genuine bond.
I think my favorite part of working with him was I think most people would expect, as a country artist, he wouldn’t be very accommodating of the hip-hop style. But he was up there with the band, telling them to do certain things, telling them to add 808 [drum machine] beats. He was really feeling my whole vibe and he didn’t want to change it. That’s what’s so amazing — I went in there and he didn’t try to change what I did, he tried to polish it. And a lot of people try to change your artistry, and they feel like they’re better than you and try to mold you into whatever they are, but he didn’t do that at all. All he did was do what I wanted to do, he could read my mind and explain it to the band. It was really incredible.
Would you do it all again?
I would go through the whole experience again, because I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t.
Obviously, you can’t predict the future, but you will be going back for the wild card performance next week, but beyond that, what are you hoping to accomplish?
It’s crazy cool that you get to go straight to the finale, but I’m not setting my life on it. Whenever I got voted off the show, my first thought wasn’t “Oh, I get to come back for the wild card now!” I’m not really taking that perspective on it. The thing I like about it — I get to go perform one more time for them. It’s another song I get to sing, and another chance for people to hear my voice. I could care less about what place I got; I could care less about making it to the finale. I’m not there to win; I’m not there to place. I’m there to sing; I’m there to perform. Holding the winning title — that’s all it is is a title. What you do then is about what you do — it isn’t about comparing yourself to what other people do. And I’ve always felt really strongly about that. That’s why I’m never competitive — that’s why I’m friends with all those amazing people, because I don’t feel competitive against them. It’s not how I feel about it.
You wouldn’t reject it if you won, but apart from yourself, who would you like to see win out?
I would love if Taylor John Williams won. Or DaNica [Shirey]. I’d be happy if any of them won, but those are just, I guess ... and Craig [Wayne Boyd] — Team Blake, you know. And Luke, Fort Worth. I make connections with everybody [laughter].