Interview by Mandy Nolan
Prinnie Stevens and Mahalia Barnes put on the most talked-about, nail-biting, emotional battles in the first season of Australia’s hit music show The Voice.
The two friends were inspired to embark on an exciting new project, ‘Come Together’, stopping in at the Brewery, complete with nine-piece band!
As friends, how was it being cast as rivals on The Voice ? Did it affect your friendship in anyway?
MAHALIA: We were a little disappointed they put us against each other because we both wanted to go further together, but it didn’t cause any friendship dramas. If anything, it strengthened our friendship even more.
Has teaming up afterwards helped deal with any competition issues that may have arisen?
PRINNIE: No, The Voice was such an amazing experience. And even though the battle between Mahalia and me was difficult, it never came between us as friends; in fact it only made us stronger. We decided together to do the show. And I’m so glad we did.
M: There were no issues to deal with. We are just having a good time together making music.
What do you learn from each other?
P: We learn so much from each and every day. We’re so different, both on and off stage. We approach songs differently and push each other in different areas. We also approach situations very differently too, and we really balance each other out and have each other’s backing in all situations.
M: Prinnie and I are such different performers, such different singers. We approach almost everything completely differently.
You have both done your time as backing vocalists. What is it like stepping to centre stage ?
P: I know for me it was a definite journey getting to the front of the stage. I didn’t have the confidence to be at the front for a very long time. Singing with some amazing singers like Guy Sebastian helped me build my confidence. I have to say though, being a backing vocalist is hard work and a definite art form! I really do miss it!
M: I love doing BVs. We’ve both done a lot of BVs, but we’ve both also been solo artists for a long time and done a lot of gigs as lead singers too. It’s a completely different thing but I love both.
In Come Together, what are some of the songs you chose and how do they both reflect your individual styles?
P: It’s funny the songs that we chose were the ones that suited the other person. We’re both mothers and tend to think of others before ourselves. I chose Best of My Love knowing that it was a part Mahalia’s voice no-one had heard before and I wanted to showcase that on the album
You both grew up in Sydney; how did you come to meet and work together?
P: We both met on the Sydney live scene with many mutual friends. We were both part of the urban scene and at that time; it was tiny! We have a close group of friends that we’ve kept from that time and we’re like a family.
M: We met through the local music scene and had a few friends in common. We were playing around the same sort of gigs and with similar musos. We became really close friends and actually never really worked much together until The Voice.
What are the challenges carving a career in the music industry?
P: It is not an easy industry! There is no rhyme or reason to anyone’s success or failure. You’ve just got to follow your heart, believe in your talent and the project you’re working on! Integrity goes a long way. Both Mahalia and I are about longevity!
M: It is tough. Trying to motivate an audience to get off their couch and come to see gigs can be a challenge. Getting your music played on radio or TV is really difficult. There are a lot of people who will criticise you no matter what you do, so it’s important to really love what you do and be yourself – that way it doesn’t matter what anyone says. You have to be a bit thick-skinned. You have to be willing to work hard and be really persistent.
You were both already well-known names before The Voice. What made you decide to take that on, and what did you think it would give you?
P: We both took a huge gamble! No-one knew if the show would succeed. The producers spoke to us and convinced us that they were about showcasing artists… true artists! I have no regrets! I loved being apart of The Voice.
M: A huge opportunity. A great chance to sing for a whole new audience and hopefully win over a few new fans.
What’s your dream gig?
P: My dream Gig… A PRINNIE world tour with my dancers and band! Visiting new cities and getting to see the world.
M: I don’t know. I love being on stage all the time. I guess singing a few songs with Aretha, Tina Turner, Stevie and other amazing soul singers to a great audience… really any show to a great audience. I’ve done a lot of dream gigs.
What should we expect from your shows on the weekend?
P: A fun-filled few hours of great songs! We have a nine-piece band with full band, horns, and two energetic backing vocalists. Mahalia and I will take people on a journey. Yes, we are powerhouse singers and we will have the big show-stopper numbers, but also expect some beautiful broken-down moments that showcase our voices, their differences and some vulnerability! It’s gonna be a great night! You won’t wanna miss it!
M: Lots of fun, lots of heart, lots of soul! We are bringing our amazing band with us, The Soul Mates, three horn players, two singers… there are eleven people on stage so it’s high energy and really dynamic. We are having a ball and hopefully it translates to the audience coming along for a great time with us. It is an all-ages tour so a great one for the family really – our daughters are coming along! We are playing almost all the songs from the record as well as some old favourites and a few originals too! Come along and find out!
Twin Towns, Tweed Heads on Friday 8pm; .Sunday at the Byron Brewery 7.30pm. Tix at the venue or online at kupromotions.com.au.