It may be his fourth time as a coach on BBC1’s The Voice (Saturdays), but will.i.am says it doesn’t get any easier. He tells us about rejection, friendship and why he wouldn’t even apply to be on the hit singing show…
When a singer doesn’t make it through an audition it seems to hit all the coaches really hard. How do you feel when someone’s sent home?
“It’s heart-wrenching. I empathise because I know what if feels like to have the door slammed in my face and to be rejected. I don’t ever want to be the door slammer for someone. I’ve been doing it for four years and I still don’t know how to just take that. It hurts me. I can never get used to that. You could scar someone so much that they may never want to sing again.”
If you were just starting out, would you apply to be on The Voice?
“No I wouldn’t! It’s not for me and the kind of artist I am. I don’t think you could judge me on my vocals – you would have to judge me on my mind and the ideas I come up with. This show doesn’t highlight the ideas you have, it highlights your ability to sing other people’s ideas. It’s not for the sort of artist that I am.”
You’ve got Rita Ora on the panel this year – would you say it’s the best line-up yet?
“If I say yes it looks like I’m being mean to the girls who went before her. I loved working with Jessie J in the series one and two and with Kylie Minogue in the third season, but the reason I like this one the most is because I was friends with Rita before the show. It feels good to have someone you’ve known and who you can be yourself with. With Tom, because he’s a legend, I just want to ask him questions like, ‘What was it like singing with Little Richard?’ And only I got to know Ricky through the show, but I knew Rita before she joined. She’s my friend so I can be myself with her.”
The singers who do get through will have to cope with being in the public eye. Do you have any advice on how to cope with some of the criticism they may get?
“Yes. A contestant from The Voice Australia won the show and had a hard time dealing with it because with victory comes a whole bunch of bad stuff. People are so insensitive. Sometimes I wonder how people can say such mean stuff just for a retweet? People will take the liberty to bash someone just so someone else can read it and they don’t even really mean it.
“It messed this girl up so much. She said, ‘I don’t understand why people are so mean. I’m barely 18. I just love singing.’ She was crying hysterically. I had to talk to her on the phone, saying, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re going to get over it. Don’t take that stuff personally. It’s just the internet.'”
Do you get negative comments on social networks?
“Erm, newsflash! I get negative stuff just walking down the street! Sometimes you get some really mean things, but I just laugh it off.”