Thursday, April 17, 2014

Interview with Sisaundra Lewis by Susan Cross

Interview with Sisaundra Lewis 

with Susan Cross on April 4, 2014

I had the honor of interviewing this lady just as The Voice competition was beginning. We met years ago, because the sound of her voice at Cirque du Soleil La Nouba captivated me. Since we are local Central Floridians, we kept in touch so when I requested an interview and photo we were glad to see each other again, more than anything. And now, I am celebrating her success on The Voice and although she was eliminated from the final 4 I will continue to celebrate her talent, and hope that America does the same. I don't believe that her career will end here.

Considering the difference in age from the other contestants, it is amazing that she got as far as she did. Most have probably not even heard of Aretha Franklin and could not appreciate the genre of R&B that she represents. I love all genres from R&B to country to rock n roll to blues... It's time for a performer like Sisaundra educate the youth of America on music that may have been forgotten or not been 'covered' for a long time. Her time is coming. She has an obligation to do this and I expect her to fill that space.

Susan Cross:       Where are you from?
Sisaundra:          I am a home grown Florida girl who graduated from Haines City High School. But I really appreciate and need the support of people in all of the cities of Florida and all over the country.  

Susan Cross:      How many people auditioned for this season of the Voice?

Sisaundra:          If I’m not mistaken, there were about 70,000 hopefuls. On July 27 I flew to New York to audition. I stood in line there with about 10,000 people, by myself—without a manager, without an agent. I wanted to start there, to see if I could get through everything on my own, by myself. So everything was a test and a challenge for me as well. It was probably about a month before I knew I would make it to the blind auditions.
Susan Cross:      Out of those, how many made it to the blind auditions?

Sisaundra:          For the battle rounds there were 48 members. We’re getting down to 12 members after that.
Susan Cross:      A lot of people are wondering why you chose Blake Shelton as your coach.

Sisaundra:          His honesty in saying, “I’m probably way in over my head with this one.” Just kind of drew me to him. I think I would look at it as ‘you’re not in my genre’ kind of thing, since he’s known for grooming mostly country artists. His honesty, his humility, his connection with me as far as his eye contact, his energy, and just about everything that he said that drew me to him. I felt like he would be the one to help me to define my gift; that he would help as a superstar. If you know music it doesn’t matter what genre you’re in you have to be able to coach an artist in so many ways and Blake is the one, after standing there in that moment, listening to him, that I felt could help me open up so many amazing doors for me in the sense of my gift, my talent. I’ve done pop, I’ve done R and B, I’ve done theater but I’ve never had the experience of working with a country artist especially of that magnitude. That, coupled with the spirit of him—that’s why I chose Blake.
Susan Cross:      Some of the other judges didn’t seem to show the same reaction to your voice. Did that put you off at all?

Sisaundra:          Even with that connection with Blake, I listened carefully to what the other judges said because I am always open to learning and each one of them has something to offer.
              I will say that when I initially started this journey, my thoughts were about the typical industry standards. I don’t fit and so I’m challenged with all of that going into this with the general public. But that’s not the case with the TV, not with NBC because, of course this show was designed to avoid all of that stuff. They don’t care what the industry standards are. They just want to hear your voice and so I went into it thinking I’m older, I’m this, I’m that, and I thought I would be representing that group of people—those dreamers, those who sacrificed for kids, those who are 40 plus.

               I’m surprised to receive so much support from younger people, too, saying “You inspire us.” Not only from my voice, but even asking questions like, “How do you stay in shape like that?” “I want to look like you when I mature.” “I want to take care of myself.” It’s so nice to see that it’s not just what I thought it would be. It’s wonderful to see that it’s not just my voice but also to see that I could be so much more, that kind of a role model to young people not just as a singer but as a person, as a human being and that’s what I’m hearing so much even as I get into this journey.

Susan Cross:      Most people know by now that you have toured with Celine Dion. Where did you travel during that time?
Sisaundra:          I have performed in Las Vegas in various shows. I’ve done so many things. I’ve performed for Royalty, with Celine, of course. We’ve been at every nook and cranny of the world. I was saying that the only places that I haven’t been are Australia and Africa but when you work with someone of that magnitude you really do have the honor of performing for so many wonderful people:  The Queen of England; the royalty in Canada; Princes and Princesses; everything you could imagine. I performed for the Clinton inauguration, the inaugural ball; outside of Florida; almost everywhere in the United States and everyone in the world except those two continents.

Susan Cross:      How did this affect your family life?
Sisaundra:          I had my son Vincent at the time that I was touring with Celine. My family is my village and they were very helpful for me. They saw it as an opportunity for me to travel as a single mom and be able to provide for my son as well and so I did.

                                My family is my priority and the reason I laid my career down for over a decade was to be home and provide a stable home life for my kids until they recently gave me permission to pick it back up. [laughs]

Susan Cross:      When you came home to Orlando you eventually began performing in various venues. What was the next big step in your career?
Sisaundra:          My girlfriend, Deborah Brown was a choreographer for Cirque du Soleil during the time that I was working with Celine. Deborah and I became close. I stayed in touch with her and she said one day you’re going to have to come and work for the circus. I said, ‘Get out of here. I can’t do the circus kind of thing. I don’t think I’ll fit in.’  She said, “I think you’ll fit in.’

    So I went on to doing a lot of things and when I was working at City Jazz at Universal Orlando a group of men started walking toward the stage when I finished my set. When they approached me, they said, “Hi, Sisaundra” and I immediately picked up the French accent. It was Benoit Glazer [conductor and composer for Cirque du Soleil] and I can’t remember who he brought with him but he said, “We’ve been looking for you. We’re from Cirque du Soleil and we’d like to know if you’d come by and see the show.” So if I’m not mistaken, it was my girlfriend, Deborah Brown, who had let them know that I was in Orlando, because they had been looking for me and they didn’t know that I was here until they saw that performance. And that was the beginning of my 10 years at Cirque. I thought, oh, my gosh, Deborah was right.
I was at Cirque du Soleil La Nouba for a decade. It’s one of the most beautiful shows on the planet and I was honored to be with that show for that time and to see the WOW factor of theatrical circus. I remember your doing an article about the musicians several years ago. We appreciated people spotlighting the music in the show.

On Twitter you can "follow" @Sisaundra for updates

Keep watching on Facebook for Sisaundra's posts, she is not going to disappear.

Here are the links to remind you of her voice and performances, both on NBC’s The Voice and in other venues. Download them on iTunes so you can keep on listening. My favorite is the Blind Audition, but many of you have probably never heard that song before--all the more reason to download it.
Blind audition:
Battle round 1:
Battle round 2:
Singer’s choice:
Garden Theater:    
Tribute to Whitney Houston:

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