The Spotlight Beckons
October 19, 2017
On October 2, Fort Wayne's Addison Agen wowed the world (and two judges) with her rendition of Ray LaMontagne's "Jolene" on NBC's singing competition, The Voice.
Soon thereafter, the 16-year-old was back at Concordia Lutheran High School.
While it is probably common for teenagers to imagine being hailed by their peers as conquering heroes, it surely doesn't actually happen all that often.
But Agen had to contend with something very much like that when she returned to school.
"That was a really interesting day," Agen said in a phone interview. "It was a little bit overwhelming. I guess if that sort of thing isn't overwhelming, it means you did something wrong and no one likes you.
"But everybody was very nice and supportive," she said, "telling me that their grandma is excited for me or their baby cousin is excited for me."
All of Fort Wayne is excited for her. And the excitement in Fort Wayne is multi-generational.
Some of us welled up while watching her performance on October 2. Some of us out-and-out cried. And it wasn't just because Agen is from Fort Wayne. It's because Agen is good. Really good.
More than 40,000 people tried out for this season of The Voice, and Agen was among the 90 who made it to what are called "Blind Auditions."
"Blind Auditions" involve the coaches (Adam Levine, Jennifer Hudson, Miley Cyrus and Blake Shelton) sitting with their backs to the auditioners initially, then turning their futuristic chairs dramatically when and if they hear something they like.
This it how they build their teams.
If more than one chair turns, the auditioner gets to choose which famous singer's team he or she wants to be on.
Agen said she expected to be nervous, but a funny thing happened on the way to the jitters. Serenity.
"I was expecting it to be crazy and everything awful," she said. "But it almost got to a point of Zen. I stuck out my hand to see how shaky it was, and it was normal. I just thought about how hard we'd all worked to get to that point, those 90 people. I thought, 'If I mess up, only people in the audience will know.'"
Agen said she just focused on getting just one chair to turn.
"Last season, Chris Blue had this mindset early on of, 'I just know I am going to win,'" she said. "He was so confident. So I just told myself, 'I know I am going to get a chair to turn.'"
Ultimately she got two chairs to turn: Cyrus' and Levine's. She ended up choosing Cyrus.
"She's such a hard worker," Agen said. "She's 23 or 24, yet she's been doing this for so long. She's worked with people my age. She's worked with females. She grew up singing folk and country just like I did."
Levine lost out, but Agen said she watched the recording again and realized that he made some good points.
"I just had to go with my gut," she said.
So what happens next? Well, Agen knows but she can't say.
I talked to her less than a week after her blind audition. At that point, she seemed to have entered a TV singing competition's version of the witness protection program.
She would say nothing about anything.
By the time this hits print, something even more major might have happened to her.
She was willing, however, to talk about the far-flung future.
Agen is about as levelheaded and down-to-earth as 16-year-olds get.
Expect no diva behavior if she doesn't win the competition. No tear-filled rants on YouTube.
Whatever happens, she said, she will take it and "run with it as far as I can."
Agen said she plans to record a follow-up to her debut CD, New Places (available at her dad's Calhoun Street record store, Neat Neat Neat).
"I plan to get a booking agent and set up some shows," she said. "Maybe do a little tour with other artists from the show. Work with new people. Go to new cities. Try to show as many people as possible what I can do."
For many 16-year-olds, college is in the cards. Agen's recent success doesn't mean she has dealt herself a new hand.
Some people have advised her that she shouldn't have a backup plan, which I told her is terrible advice.
But I am an old guy.
She agreed with me, however.
"Whatever happens, music will always be something I'm doing, Agen said. "Even if it's not my main career. It would be a shame to completely let go of this. But I have always wanted to go to get a degree in visual art. That's my other passion. I could see myself becoming an art teacher."
Now, here's an interesting wrinkle: Throughout her life, Agen has played about 10 mini-concerts at Neat Neat Neat.
She is scheduled to perform another on Oct. 27.
Of course, a lot has changed, and Neat Neat Neat is not an enormous place.
It is impossible to guess how many people will attend and how far they will travel to do so.
Agen said she and her dad are discussing strategies for coping with a potential onslaught of new fans.