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will.i.am believes artists who appear on The Voice need to have someone to ‘champion’ them once they leave the show in order to succeed in the music business.

The US rapper and music producer – who joins Sir Tom Jones and new coaches Kylie Minogue and Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson when the BBC1 show returns for its third series on Saturday – was responding to claims that previous winners had failed to make their mark on the music world.

Talking to reporters at the show’s official launch at New Broadcasting House on Monday, will.i.am said: “Very few people who’ve gone through TV talent shows have gone on to become megastars.

“Every artist needs someone to champion them, and The Voice format doesn’t have a ‘champion’ that follows the artist from the TV show to the record company. So when the show’s finished, who’s guiding the singers through this tundra, this forest [that is the music industry]?”

But he insisted he was doing just that with Northern Irish singer Leah McFall (pictured), who lost out to Andrea Begley in the final of last year’s show.

He said: “Last year, when I said to Leah: ‘Hey, come on my team, I want to see you through the tundra, I want to try my best to walk you through these woods’.

“Since then, she’s been on tour with me and we just finished recording her album last week. When I say I’ll fight for an artist I mean it – and I’m still fighting for Leah.”

The Voice returns on Saturday January 11 at 7pm on BBC1.