By John Burton
COLTS NECK – The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for young singer Jacquie Lee and her family.
“It’s been crazy, but exciting crazy, fun,” said the 16-year-old Lee as she hurried from a radio interview in Toms River, taking time out for another interview before going to her Mandarin Chinese class at the Ranney School in Tinton Falls where she is a junior.
What is responsible for whisking the Colts Neck resident from interviews to Los Angeles and back and into the social-media universe is her appearance and selection as a member of Christina Aguilera’s team on the NBC TV show’s The Voice.
“It’s been really surreal,” she said about singing and competing on national television for millions of viewers. “It’s hard to believe.”
Lee has survived what the show calls its “blind audition round” during which she sang a rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” She will be proceeding on to the “battle rounds” this week. During that phase of competition, team coaches select two members to perform a duet and then select one to advance in the competition. Following that, should she make it, will be the knockout round when a pair of singers from a team – who are not told beforehand with whom they will be paired – perform in succession. Again, one contestant is selected to continue.
“I am really just blessed,” Lee said. “Getting this far is an amazing accomplishment.”
Lee has been singing since about third grade and has been doing some songwriting. When she’s not working on music, she’s listening to it.
“Music is pretty much a big part of my life,” along with high school, her friends “and field hockey,” she said.
As far as music goes “I don’t sing, as a rule, 16-year-old pop songs,” she said. “I’m more of an old soul” who has a love and appreciation for the Beatles, Aretha Franklin and a taste for Adele and Ed Sheeran and – of course – Christina Aguilera.
The reason she chose the Winehouse number? “It was the soul,” she said.
Lee had been participating in the Rockit music performance program at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. She was performing last year at Long Branch’s Pier Village where Marc Swersky, a songwriter/producer who heads up Monocentric Music, saw her sing the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
“Her poise and confidence was shocking” from someone so young, Swersky said.
He encouraged Lee and her parents to go to New York City for an open audition for The Voice.
During an interview in Starbuck’s at The Grove in Shrewsbury, Swersky, who is working as her manager, predicted: “This will be the last time she’ll be able to walk in here and not get swamped.”
Already, Lee has amassed admirers and fans who have been following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Having actual fans, it’s like awesome,” she said, clearly still amazed by it.
She has been approached for autographs. “I just got my first fan letter,” she said, wide-eyed with a big smile, explaining the letter was an actual piece of handwritten snail mail.
“It’s been absolutely crazy and chaotic,” said Denise Lee, Jacquie’s mother. She and her other children, 11-year-old Richie and Nicole, 18, are equally excited by the turn of events. Probably the most enthusiastic, Denise Lee said, is her husband, Richard Lee. “My husband is just over-the-top excited,” she said.
“I never thought this would happen,” Jacquie Lee said, still seeming surprised.
The experience has taught one thing that she wanted to pass along: “I would tell all young artists to dream big.”