Interview: A Deep Dive into the Technical Singing of ‘The Voice’ Season 24 Contestant Tanner Massey

Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey
Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey
‘The Voice: Season 24’ contestant Tanner Massey started his time on the show on Team Niall Horan before shifting over to Team Gwen Stefani. He has proven himself to have a firm grasp not just on the technical aspects of his own voice, but also of singing as a whole.

“‘In My Blood,’ for me anyway, is kind of a straightforward kind of song where you can use your tone and the emotion to bring out the beauty in the song,” says 19-year-old singer/songwriter Tanner Massey, referencing his performance of the Shawn Mendes smash hit on this past season of The Voice.

“Whenever I was singing it, I could kind of make those small mistakes. They make it sound human… they make it sound desperate.”

Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey
Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey

Massey, who currently resides in Tuttle, OK just south of Oklahoma City, is no ordinary teenage vocalist. He’s technical. He’s inquisitive. He’s self-aware. Much of this conversation, which lasted just over an hour, was focused on the inner workings of his vocal performances from The Voice and elsewhere.

“Sometimes it’s less about technique and more about sounding pretty,” he explains. “It’s hard to have both of those things at the same time as a singer. On one hand, you want to do something cool… something difficult to do. Then you forget that singing is an art. About conveying your emotion. The tone, the dynamic of how you’re singing. All of that matters.”

His blind audition, a performance of “Before You Go” by Lewis Capaldi,” was his first major statement. He made it 2/3 of the way through the 90-second performance without a chair turn, then scored three… Reba McEntire, Niall Horan, and Gwen Stefani, within seconds of each other after a long, drawn-out belt leading out of the bridge into the final chorus. He followed up with a tasteful 13-note run that displayed the grit and fluidity of his voice.

“For The Voice specifically, a lot of my riffs were planned,” he says. “You don’t want to stray too far… there’s a lot of nerves and pressure, especially during the blind audition. I knew I was going to do the ‘Before You Go’ riff, but the one I did at the end was an on-the-spot. I took it from ‘Used To Be’ by AJ Mitchell. In my brain, it just made sense for the end of the song. Maybe to get John Legend’s turn as well…  I was pulling out all the stops.”

His performance of James Arthur’s version of “Impossible” by Shontelle later in his run on the show was one of his best, and most vocally challenging. He borrowed elements of Arthur’s rendition, but put his own spin on it.

“That was a run I was really struggling with… it was one I wanted to do so bad, that everyone was telling me, ‘Don’t do that. You probably shouldn’t do that,’ but I was like, ‘I’m gunna DO it,’” he adds with a huge grin, referring to the sixteen-note run he did near the end of the song (that he sang verbatim on the spot over Zoom).

“I had to make a moment in the song. Songs like that can be really tricky. It’s fast tempo. You have to match the bands energy at all times. From the guitars to the epicness of the stage… you have to be on your game.”

Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey
Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey

For his last week on The Voice, Massey performed a cover of “More Than Words” by Extreme. It, unfortunately, did not go well. While he, nor any of the other contestants, are able to go in depth about the behind-the-scenes process and the politics of it all, Massey maturely focuses on the doors the show has opened for him.

“I made a lot of connections and friends with the other people that were on the show, as well as their friends and people they know,” he shares. “I’ve definitely been thinking about heading out to Nashville. That has been an absolute dream of mine. Here in Oklahoma, I’ve just never had that sense of community that I had at The Voice. It’s like… Bandcamp, but for singers. I’ve had support and worked with other people as… a business situation, but I really haven’t had… friends who are musicians or singers that are local until The Voice.”

While still available for streaming on all platforms, he is relatively distant from his outdated original music, most of which was recorded years ago.

“After I did ‘In My Blood,’ Gwen told me, ‘You just gotta write,’” he recalls. “I’ve been taking her advice. I’m in the process of writing and recording right now. The music I’ve released so far is me finding my sound. It’s the roots of the roots. I’m going to have stuff soon that I’m 100% confident about. There’s an artist named Porter Robinson… he writes a lot about isolation with this bittersweet sound. That kind of feeling where you’re happy but kind of living outside of life. That’s the kind of thing I’d be writing about. That’s the kind of tone people should expect to hear.” He also references KALEO, Jamie Miller, and Shawn James as inspirations.

Coming from several musical bootcamps geared for teens to The Voice, which is a bootcamp in itself, Massey encourages other young aspiring musicians to take the same path, but to proceed with caution.

“I wouldn’t put that on just anyone,” he says. “You have to expect failure. You have to expect that something might go wrong. We’re only human. A lot of people watching the show might forget that, for some of the people on there, singing may not even be their full-time thing. I expect to get the negative comments… I just see it as human nature. What gets to me is the negative comments that I agree with. You can’t just go back out there and explain, ‘Oh yeah, I can do so much better than that.’ That’s your one shot.”

Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey
Tanner Massey © Clayton Massey

At just 19, Massey is still discovering how he wants his voice to work and what he wants it to do for him, but, for now, he feels like he is in a good place.

“I’m slowly getting there,” he notes. “I’m homing my technique. I’m doing things in a proper way that won’t hurt my voice, like I was doing before. I work with a great vocal coach named Jessica Ford. She has a sixth sense of what the voice feels like. I can FEEL whenever something feels like it’s closed, whenever it’s lifting… and I can talk about that kind of stuff with her.”

Having someone around him who understands the science of the voice satisfies one part of the battle. The other part is himself. “You underestimate yourself because you hear your own voice so much that it’s not impressive… it’s not unique… it’s not cool. I start to think that I sound the best when I don’t sound like myself. It seems so right to be like, ‘If I sound like Bruno Mars, that means I sound really good.’  But no one is singing like him. My dad reminds constantly… ‘Sound like YOU, not like HIM,’ he says.”

Massey, a genuine talent and creative mind with a technical understanding of his craft beyond most twice his age, found solace in music when there was nothing and no one. Now, he has the platform, and there are people in his corner. He can breathe just a bit easier, while he continues to put in the work.

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