Though the competition against his fellow Team Usher member was strong this week, Tyler native and "The Voice" contestant Stevie Jo Rosenbalm said he wasn't going up against a rival, but a friend.
"Me and Jake (Barker), we would hang out all the time, before we even knew we were going to be paired together. We were on really good terms as friends. We kind of became bros because we can identify with each other and we respect each others' talent," Rosenbalm said in a phone interview Wednesday. "Also Jake's one of the funniest guys I know out there. So when we found out we were battling each other, it wasn't ‘Oh I'm going to beat you' or ‘Now it's a rivalry.' It was more, ‘We know we both can sing and sing it really, really well' We also knew we could push each other to be the best we could be. We knew if we could do all those things, one of us is going to get stolen, so we never stopped believing that we both were going to get through."
That lack of direct pressure that would exist had he sang against a more open rival resulted in an easier performance, he said, a relief considering the difficulty of their shared song, Steve Winwood's "Higher Love."
"It's more of a relaxed feeling. You're in the moment and enjoying it more," Rosenbalm said.
"The thing was, going into that battle, me and Jake had really been working and going everywhere together, practicing together and really trying to nail down our parts. I knew that it was going to be a close battle. So it wasn't really surprising to me that (Usher) chose me to win, but only because I knew it was going to be kind of a coin flip."
Writing and performing music is something that has come naturally and easily to Rosenbalm for years, but being a contestant on "The Voice" has pushed him in some unexpected ways.
"You have to really work on your weaknesses and really put in the time and work. I'm the type of guy that's not used to working this hard at my craft," he said. "I'm used to relaxing and writing songs whenever I feel like it and singing along with the radio. Now I'm having to do vocal warm ups and technical things to really improve myself. I can tell it's definitely working."
Much of that pushing has come from being coached by Usher and guest mentor, multiple Grammy Award-winner Jill Scott.
"We learned a lot from them as far as really getting into the song and connecting with the song, … and also the technical aspects," Rosenbalm said. "Usher was really telling me to come in strong on the first line and really hit it. That was something that I didn't really focus on before I went into the rehearsal with him."
Local fans of Rosenbalm's will get a chance to hear him live when he performs an acoustic set at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Que.
"I'll play some originals. I'll play some covers. I'll play ‘There Goes My Baby,' of course. Sadly, I do not know ‘Higher Love' on guitar. I should learn it," he said.
"The Voice" airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on NBC.