An Interview with Rayshun LaMarr of "The Voice"

Monday, 07 May 2018 02:01 Written by  Tiffani Alexander


Don’t ever stop believing in what your dream is – or in yourself.


Rayshun LaMarr has a smile and an energy that literally fills and lights up a room. It’s hard to begin to imagine the stirring story behind that now famous smile. After being diagnosed with cancer and a rare genetic disorder that stripped him of both his sight and his voice, the 33-year-old singer at one time didn’t know if he’d be able to do the one thing he loved most again –– perform. Lucky for us, the story didn’t stop there.

In this interview with GMO Publisher Tiffani Alexander, Rayshun –– originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and a current resident of Fort Washington, Maryland –– opens up about his path back to the stage, his musical influences, the type of artist he strives to be, and how his journey led him to the top 10 on NBC’s super singing competition, The Voice.

Tiffani Alexander: I know it’s been a long road for you, just getting back to performing. What has that been like for you, that kind of battle, for lack of a better word, to get back to performing?

Rayshun LaMarr: It’s be quite a journey, dealing with the cancer and then losing my voice and then losing, just the ability to do what I love was tough. Right when that happened, I felt like I was in my prime, about to really take off. We were doing really well, the band I was in, and then bam, this happened. Dealing with that was totally devastating because I didn’t know if I was ever going to get it back, or if I was ever going to be able to perform again. That was a tough battle. And then when I finally regained my hearing and my voice, and everything started to come back together, I slowly but surely began performing again. I stepped out there slowly, because I was so intimidated by how the chemo and all the medicine I was on affected my voice. That was difficult, but I just started believing and gaining more faith, taking the time to love myself and tell myself whatever happens, it’ll be ok. I didn’t die, I’m still alive and whatever my journey is going to be after this, I will be forever thankful. Thankfully, I’m blessed to still be able to do what I love –– music.

Tiffani: Wow, truly a blessing! And how did you actually end up auditioning for The Voice?

Rayshun: How that happened is really crazy. I auditioned for the show at least three or four times before, and every time I’ve take time off from work to either go to New York or Atlanta , or wherever they were to do the big cattle call. So this year I was like, ‘Man!’ [laughs]. I haven’t been working a lot this month, and I got a gig, and I can’t turn down this gig cause I gotta pay my rent and I gotta pay my car note, so I can’t leave to go to Atlanta. Cause every time I went to the previous auditions, they were like “great job, great job, but not what we’re looking for this season.” So I’m like ok, I’m not going to waste my time or money this year to go up there just to be told “great voice, but not this year.” I would’ve missed a gig, then I would’ve been late on my car note and behind in rent, and I didn’t want to do that so I was like forget it, I’m not going to do it this time. So I didn’t do it.

Maybe two weeks later I get a phone call and a guy contacts me and is like “hey, are you interested in being on The Voice. The funny thing is, I didn’t believe them, because just a few days before that I was talking about the show and how I wanted to audition and couldn’t. Then I get the call and the guy is like “this is such and such from The Voice, one of the producers here, are you interested in auditioning for The Voice? So I’m like ok, whatever, let me just play along. I didn’t really think about it, maybe brought it up to a friend. The very next day the guy calls me back like “hey, can send me two videos of yourself, just talking about yourself and explaining your story.” I sent the videos in, he calls me back the next day like, “hey, they love you, some of the producers are going to reach out to you for an interview.” I’m like cool. Mind you, back of my head I’m like my friends are playing tricks on me right now because I just said I wasn’t going to go do the auditions. I’m still playing along, nonchalant –– I know he thought I was an a-hole [laughs], but I didn’t think it was real. And then maybe a week later I had a plane ticket like, “come audition for the blinds.”

Tiffani: Wow! That was just meant right?

Rayshun: Like literally, it was completely meant to be.

Tiffani: Now that you are actually a part of The Voice is it what you expected? What’s it like working with Adam and the rest of the judges and contestants?

Rayshun: It’s way more than I ever expected. I wish I had another set of eyes so that I could just show everybody what’s going on ­­–– so you guys can enjoy the experience with me. It’s like something I never even dreamt of. Everyone wants to work with artist who’ve been in the business forever, but it’s not even the artists, it’s the production staff, it’s the people we are around, everybody, everyday –– everybody makes you feel like you’re a star. Like you are important, or you’re special. They ask if you need anything, they care about you, they want to make sure you’re 100 percent healthy, you’re not down, you’re voice is ok –– it’s like a big family here. That was one unexpected thing.

Another unexpected thing is how much goes into this show, actually. The stuff you all see on TV, it may seem like we do it in a couple hours out the day, but a lot of the stuff takes three, four, five days, even weeks to put together. That was different. And then just the long hours. I knew I was going to have to do a lot and be busy, which I’m used to, but – the long hours are real [laughs]. Early mornings and late nights.


Watch Rayshun sing Alicia Key's "Fallin'

Tiffani: I have an idea, based on the songs you’ve sung this season, but who are your biggest influences?

Rayshun:My biggest influences are Stevie Wonder, Ledisi­­.­ I’m a huge fan of Ledisi. A huge fan of Fantasia. I love James Brown. I love Bruno Mars –– like that whole era. Even like John Legend, I love the soulfulness of John Legend’s voice. Those artists are my most influential artists. And I love, I’m a huge, huge fan of –– rest in peace –– Ella Fitzgerald.

Tiffani: Yeah, the original. What kind of album can we expect from you?

Rayshun: I came into this competition expecting to be a Rock Soul artist. I came in here with the whole Rock and Soul thing, because in my Agency band, I did a lot of the Rock songs, a lot of the classics, and I fell in love and found a new appreciation for that type of music. But I still loved Soul music so I wanted to combine those two. But, as I got into this competition, and started to grow and get different song choices, I realized that I now want to be a real Soul singer. My album is going to be like a Leon Bridges type feel, but with a splash of like the male version of a Fantasia/Ledisi-ish direction. Mixing the old school with the new school vibe, and still having that energy and emotion behind the songs, and the lyrics and the melodies.

Tiffani: I can see that. I don’t know if you can tell us or give a little hint as to what you’ll be singing this week?

Rayshun: [Laughs] It’s going to be a surprise. Another thing on this journey: They have totally been challenging me with the song selections! A lot of people don’t know that these songs, we don’t choose ourselves. I get a lot of feedback on my Facebook and social media about it, but I do the best that I can with what I’m given. We have some options sometimes, we have a say and we can put a percentage in, but at the end of the day, we do not have final say. So whatever song I’m given, I have to do it, and just know I give my all.

This week, I need all the support and for the fans to go and vote! I’m singing a brand new song that a lot of people have never heard, which is going to be a challenge. Introducing new music to new ears –– it’s hard for people to adapt. And I can relate to that myself, because when I heard the song I had to listen to it like three or four times to be like “oh, I really like that song!”

That’s going to be the challenge, and Adam said that too. He was like, “I believe in you, I’m giving you this song because I know that you can do it and make it your own.” So I’m really trying to push that, and get America to see that. The song I’m doing this week is called “Grant Green.” You’ve probably heard the hook on this cellphone commercial. Look it up, it’s called “Grant Green” by Mr. Jukes.

Tiffani: That is so random [laughs] but I’m going to look that up!

Rayshun: Very random, that’s why I need all the support, all the love. Please go with me! [laughs]

Tiffani: We are with you. You’re making the DMV proud. On the competition, of course we are all behind you to win it all, but who else are you super excited about this season?

Rayshun: I love Kyla Jade, that’s my home girl, I love Kyla. I am super excited about Jackie Verna. Let me tell you why: She’s my teammate and her voice, a lot of people aren’t ready or haven’t dug it yet, but her voice is so unique and so different –– so good and pure all at the same time. I don’t think the competition has had a winner like that before either. I’m not being biased because she’s on my team, she’s like the other special person in the competition in my eyes. Everybody’s good, don’t get me wrong, and shout out to D.R. King, Terrance, Tish, and my baby girl Sharane who left the other day. They keep breaking us up!

Tiffani: They got to get down to number one.

Rayshun: We got to get to that number one. So shout outs to all of them. They were my rocks here –– we all prayed together, sang together, hung out together and I’m all alone now. I need your support!

Tiffani: What advice do you have for an aspiring artist, maybe someone whose also been through a lot and may be on the verge of giving up on their dream?

Rayshun: Of course, never give up. Don’t ever stop believing in what your dream is –– or in yourself. Number two, love yourself first, most importantly, love yourself. Because you have to love and trust yourself enough to know that you can do it, whatever it is. And the last thing, just take a leap of faith. You have to take that step. If you love yourself, if you believe in yourself, you’ll have enough courage to take that third step. And once you make that step, believe it or not, everything is going to open up. Everything is going to be so shocking and surprising, but you won’t know until you take that step. Don’t be scared and love yourself. Oh, and stay around positive energy!



Follow Rayshun on Twitter @RayshunLamarr and don't forget to watch The Voice this Monday and Tuesday on NBC and VOTE!


Photos courtesy of Rayshun LaMarr's Facebook page:

Tiffani Alexander

Tiffani Alexander

Publisher and Editor in Chief of (GMO), Tiffani Alexander came to Chicago in the fall of 2004 to pursue her Master's degree in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management at Columbia College Chicago. Tiffani earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of
 Maryland, College Park. She has worked for both Cygnus Business Media and Maher Publishing before embarking on her dream to start her own magazine. In addition to publishing GMO bi-monthly, Tiffani freelances and works as an editor on a legal journal in Washington, DC.


Tiffani can be contacted at

Follow her on Twitter: @TiffaniGMO



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