For Michelle “Chelle” Cox, music’s been her primary passion for as long as she can remember.
She recalls running around the house, singing just like any other kid as early as two years old, but said she really started to take it serious when she was 13.
Her favorite music genres were in the soul and blues genres, citing singers such as Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Amy Winehouse as some of her musical inspirations.
Though she never hired a vocal coach, she had a natural talent and eventually started her own YouTube channel in 2014 and started playing some gigs. A couple years later, Chelle wanted to take that passion to the next level, and auditioned for The Voice.
It didn’t go as Chelle hoped, but she didn’t let it discourage her. She returned to audition in each of the following two years, again, to no avail. It would have been quite easy to just give up the dream and pursue ventures elsewhere, but with her mom, Tina Cox standing by her side, Chelle was in relentless pursuit.
“She’s never once doubted me or made me doubt what I was capable of as a musician,” Chelle spoke of her mom, Tina. “[She’s] my right hand man, always.”
As luck may have it, The Voice returned for the show’s 18th season, and with a round of auditions coming to Louisville, Ky., Chelle gave it another shot. This time, she nailed it.
With friends and family by the 19-year-old’s side, she took the stage and performed a rendition of Billie Eilish’s “idontwannabeyouanymore,” a song which she chose due to the meaning behind it. She stressed the importance of maintaining Eilish’s message in it, but also added her own twist to the song.
“When I learn a song I usually change it up anyways no matter what it is, but specifically that song with the message behind it,” Chelle spoke of performing Eilish’s song. “With the platform I was being given, I felt it was such an important message to put out there that there’s so many young men, women, boys and girls that struggle with what they look like and pray and wish and wish they weren’t themselves.”
“I’ve been guilty of it for quite some time in my life. I felt like that song was so good to sing and let people know it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter, the color of your hair, your skin, what you look like or what size you are. You are the only you in the universe and you should be so proud to be you.”
And once Chelle belted out the first note of her rendition, she had some of music’s top names captivated.
Country star Blake Shelton immediately pressed his button and was soon followed by Kelly Clarkson and Nick Jonas, each of whom were impressed by Chelle’s vocal range and ability. Just one coach didn’t turn, John Legend, but Legend actually expressed remorse for not pressing his button.
For Chelle, she said the moment in which Shelton turned was surreal. She caught a glimpse of it in her peripheral as she was performing and was elated, though she did an excellent job of concealing her excitement and continuing her sensational audition.
Once three of the four judges had turned, Chelle had her pick of the litter, but more than anything, she had validation.
She ultimately chose Clarkson — who she likened to be a dream coach — as her coach, citing Clarkson’s journey on American Idol in 2002 as a major factor in her decision.
“Nick and Blake, they were all contenders [too],” Chelle spoke of choosing Clarkson. “But Kelly’s been through this process before with American Idol and when she said the thing about not thinking and just letting it go on stage I completely agreed with her. I overthink everything and I really do as a musician have to learn to let it go and get on that stage and share my God given talent that I have, just let people in on that part of myself. It was definitely that part of her saying not overthinking that got me. If I could work with someone like that who knows how easy it is to overthink, if she could teach me how to not do it, or just let go a little bit of that, I think she’ll make me an even better musician.”
Thus far, Chelle’s just one of six contestants (through three audition shows) who’ve spurred at least three judges to turn, illustrating just how dynamic of a performance she put on.
So what changed in the past few years? Vocally, Chelle feels there wasn’t any major adjustment, her talent’s remained. What had changed though — and perhaps is the most underrated aspect of any singer — is her confidence.
Just as easy as your vocal ability can impress judges, so can your confidence make it come crashing down if you’re even slightly unsure of yourself. She accredited her support system behind her for assisting in building up her confidence in the past several years.
“I think that’s an area I was lacking, and one I was extremely lacking when I was 15 years old,” Chelle said. “I’ve done a few lessons before in my life but have never had actual vocal lessons before. I could have had a vocal coach before then, but it just wasn’t something on our radar. I think I just worked on learning who I was as a person and making sure that shined through when I was singing. Whatever song I was singing, make sure I’m telling the story the way the artist wanted it to be told, but also putting my own twist on it, making sure how I interpreted the song was getting out there as well. I’d say confidence is something I mainly worked on over those three years.”
How’s life changed
since the audition aired?
One audition and 1.8 million views on YouTube later, Chelle’s life has completely changed.
She pole-vaulted herself into making her dream a potential reality, but has also drawn not only local, but national recognition.
People from all over the globe have reached out to convey their congratulations to Chelle, but locally as well, with people from not only her hometown of Bargersville, but Mount Carmel as well reaching out.
“Social media’s played a huge part since my last episode aired,” Chelle explained. “Social media and just the kindness I’ve been receiving every single day since Tuesday. It’s incredible, it’s like anything I could have imagined, I feel like I’m dreaming.”
Her connection to Mount Carmel? Through Mount Carmel senior Trenton Wilkinson, who she met at a camp four years ago. The pair have been dating for the last two years, allowing Chelle to meet a number of Wilkinson’s family and friends in Mount Carmel and give Chelle another supporting base.
“I’ve had two years to get to know so many people from Mount Carmel, just incredible people,” Chelle said. “It was overwhelming to see I had Bargersville rooting for me, but also Mount Carmel. I felt so much love throughout this from both cities and so many other people.”
Chelle added that she often makes the trip to Mount Carmel, including traveling to see just about every game Wilkinson’s in. Whether it be the Aces’ Region Final victory over Massac County or the upcoming baseball season.
Back in her hometown of Bargersville [where she’s morphed into a celebrity], Chelle serves as a preschool teacher at her church, a passion she says dates back to when she used to babysit her nephew during her high school years.
Despite her musical pursuits, Chelle said that’s a passion she’s still confident will remain, even mentioning the potential of one day coupling the two and pursuing a music education degree.
“I’m a preschool teacher at my church,” Cox said. “Which I absolutely love, I adore them, I adore my job.”
Why the rocks and what’s next?
Not only did Chelle impress the coaches with one of the best auditions of the day, but she stood out as the most unique gift giver, and as she joked, “Rock Girl.”
She added that people closest to her were astounded that she gave the coaches rocks but she replied, “Does that really seem out of the ordinary for me?” Honestly, it chisels out a unique crevasse for her, not only in the minds of the coaches, but the audience as well — vital in a show such as The Voice.
According to Chelle, her passion for rocks dates back to when she was younger and admittedly, first started collecting by eyeing which rock was the shiniest or most glamorous.
“I’d say when I was younger it was mostly just which rock was the most sparkly, but then my brother started dating my sister-in-law when I saw six and she was huge into geology,” Chelle said. “He actually took me to my first rock show and from then on I loved them. I wanted them displayed in my room, I wanted to learn more about them.”
In turn, Chelle gave each of the coaches a rock, each with a varying symbolic message. To Jonas, limestone, to Legend, marble, to Clarkson, amethyst, and for Shelton, fool’s gold.
In response to Chelle’s gift, Shelton commented, “I’ve never been given a rock before ... but at least it wasn’t a hermit crab.”
Whether she’s rock girl now, or that girl from Bargersville who took the stage and awed the coaches in Louisville, she still has quite a journey to go.
Auditions will continue until the battle portion of the show airs — in which Chelle and her fellow contestants will battle for spots in the contest — beginning on March 23. Each episode airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. on NBC, so be sure to tune in and follow Chelle’s journey.
“Make sure you tune in for another round of auditions. There’s incredible people auditioning and the battle rounds start March 23, so make sure you air in to watch that.”