For Draper singer EJ Michels, ‘The Voice’ is an exciting step in his musical careerMay 08, 2023 08:56AM ● By Katherine Weinstein
EJ Michels, a singer and vocal coach from Draper, appears on “The Voice” on NBC. (Photo courtesy of NBC)
The city of Draper received a shout-out on national television last March when singer-songwriter EJ Michels finished his blind audition on NBC’s “The Voice.” “My name’s EJ, I’m 31 years old and I’m from Draper, Utah,” he explained to the judges, noting that his hometown is about a 10-hour drive from Los Angeles where the show is taped.
Even though Michels was eliminated during the knock-out rounds on April 24, his appearance on the singing reality competition series has been both a rewarding experience and a step forward in his musical career.
After spending long stretches of time away from home recording the first rounds of “The Voice,” Michels was glad to be back in Draper. “I just love the feeling of being surrounded by the big Wasatch Mountains,” he said. “My family is here. It’s where I’m meant to be.” He shares a condo with his partner and their Cavapoo puppy.
Mike Powers, Michels’ partner, is supportive of his being on “The Voice.” “It’s been very exciting,” he said. Powers, who works in cybersecurity, explained that he had been a fan of Michels’ music before they met online during the pandemic. The couple moved in together last summer. “The long stretches that EJ’s out in California have been challenging because we have a puppy. But it’s definitely been really exciting,” he said.
“It’s been nothing but a positive experience for me,” Michels said. “I feel nothing but lucky that I got to do the blind audition and get on Team Blake.”
Growing up in Draper, Michels attended Crescent View Middle School and Alta High School. He started learning classical piano at age 7, but did not discover his singing ability until receiving accolades at a ninth-grade talent show. “I was like, ‘Wow, people react to my voice. Maybe I do have something special,’” he remembered.
Michels and his brother put together their band, Foreign Figures, while in high school. The band’s name partly evolved out of the fact that the four members came from different backgrounds and had a wide variety of musical tastes. “The music brought us together,” Michels said. He described Foreign Figures as “under the umbrella of alternative pop rock or indie pop rock which evolved into synth alt rock.”
Over the years, Foreign Figures has toured in both the U.S. and Canada in addition to producing albums and music videos. They have opened for artists such as Smash Mouth and Kesha. Locally, Foreign figures is affiliated with Stand 4 Kind, a Draper-based nonprofit that aims to curb bullying and promotes kindness through school assemblies and programs.
In 2014, Michels began teaching voice lessons and later became a vocal coach. He passed exams to become a certified instructor in the renowned local voice teacher Dean Kaelin’s “mix” style of singing. “I want to be the best singer, artist and vocal coach I can be,” he said.
As a solo artist, Michels characterized his style as “blue-eyed soul.” “Soulful pop songs are my vibe,” he said. “I love Adele, Sam Smith and Coldplay—artists who are raw, honest and emotional. I really love singing from my heart and soul.”
His heartfelt approach to music caught the attention of the judges on “The Voice.” Michels’ journey on the program began with a virtual open call audition. “You sing 90 seconds of a song,” he said. Forty-five minutes later, he received an email from the show’s producers which was followed by more auditions and interviews. He then received the call to go to Los Angeles.
Prior to auditioning for “The Voice,” Michels had tried out for “America’s Got Talent” and “American Idol” but didn’t make it. His inspiration to keep trying was another talented local singer, David Archuleta. Michels was in high school when he first saw Archuleta perform on “American Idol” and became a huge fan. “He really inspired me to believe that I could do the same,” he said.
The contestants were allowed to choose their own piece for the blind auditions but were given songs to perform for the subsequent rounds of the competition. Michels sang “Easy On Me” by Adele for the blind auditions round and performed “Tracks of My Tears” with fellow contestant Tasha Jessen in April. The live rounds of “The Voice” will be broadcast on NBC starting in May.
Being on a reality TV show is not easy. Powers shared some details about Michels’ life behind the scenes at “The Voice.” “The contestants are at a hotel under strict COVID rules,” he explained. “They always have to be ready to perform. The process goes on for months.”
During the knock-out round, Michels donned a sparkly black jacket to perform “Trip Switch” by Nothing But Thieves. When the judges did not choose him to proceed, his fans took to Twitter to express their disappointment.
Michels, however, is keeping his performance on “The Voice” in perspective and still plans to release his solo debut album later this year. The album will include 12 songs but he has yet to reveal the title.
In describing his album, Michels alluded to his long and often difficult journey coming out as a gay man. “It’s a series of songs about falling in love and being in a healthy relationship for the first time as my fully authentic self,” he said.
Michels is eager to tour his album and has new videos planned. He has also lined up a gig to perform in Draper Historic Park as part of the city’s free summer concert series in June. “I am ready to hit the ground running,” he said. λ