Why We Turned Down NBC's The Voice

Have you ever just needed a little validation? Whether you're In the middle of a massive life change or just trying to find balance and gratitude right where you're at, we all need a little magic from time to time. Something that tells you you're headed in the right direction.

Well, we had ourselves a bit of that magic in the spring of this year when we were contacted by a talent producer at NBC's The Voice who had discovered us through Instagram (hashtags work, people!). He wrote to invite us to a private audition for the next season of the show. Corey and I were thrilled. Corey had just decided (literally that week) that it was time to take the big leap, focus 100% on his music career and begin the process of transitioning out of his full time job. This opportunity, and the way it came about, was so encouraging. We've never really fancied ourselves as "reality show people." We don't really watch them and to be honest, it's not at all the path we envisioned for our music careers. Nonetheless, the timing was crazy. We had to at least give it a shot. 

We flew down to Sacramento for the audition in late August and were ushered through the process by a staff of great folks from the casting agency. We've performed in just about every environment you could imagine, from stadiums to backyard weddings, but let me tell you that THIS was a nerve-wracking performance. I don't care who you are, put anyone in that dark room with that giant camera staring you down and a handful of strangers (who are only there to critique you) judging your every movement, you WILL be nervous. And we were. Nonetheless, we sang our little hearts out and in the end we really did feel proud of how it went. We made it through 3 songs when the casting director stopped us and said, “Okay guys, here’s the deal...” I’ll tell you right now that since I’m an alarmist, my brain told me right away that we hadn’t made it. Come to find out, Corey’s brain told him the exact opposite.

If you’re going to rent a car, pick the most obnoxious one available. That’s our rule.

If you’re going to rent a car, pick the most obnoxious one available. That’s our rule.

And he was right.

Her plan was to fast track us to the blind auditions starting the Very. Next. Month. We were stoked, honored and still totally and completely nervous. The next hour was filled with a casting interview, nervous laughter, contracts, signatures, more nervous laughter and lots of looks between each other that said, “What just happened? Did we really just get fast tracked to a friggin nationally televised mega popular TV SHOW?” When we were finally finished at the studio, we walked out into the 80 degree sunshine, got in our rental convertible mustang (yes...we did), and screamed. Then we drove through Chic-Fil-A because...duh.

We had an amazing day in Sacramento, went wine tasting, almost went to Chic-Fil-A again and flew home the next day. By the time we landed in Oregon, we began to understand the realities of being involved in this kind of show. We knew it was going to require some sacrifice, possibly moving our little family to LA for filming, working remotely and flying back and forth a lot. It still felt doable, but we had a lot of questions slowing us down. The deadline to send the contracts in came and went, but the talent agency staff still graciously worked with us to answer our questions, until we finally got the only answer that could make us turn down an opportunity like this. We realized we couldn’t bring our kids. There’s a strict “no family” policy on the show, because they operate as a reality show, and need to keep information under wraps during filming. They keep the contestants in the same hotel, and no family is allowed there. Not only could we not bring our kids, but even if we were able to, we couldn’t bring anyone to help watch them while we were filming. (We want to go on record saying we totally understand the need for this policy - they’ve gotta do what they’ve gotta do!)

Our boys are 6 and 3. Greyson is in first grade and Finn is still home everyday with one of us. Our boys are never going to have these years again. They are smart and sensitive and they LOVE music. I couldn’t stand the thought of them missing us for that long.  We thought about our values and how we wanted our boys to look back on their childhood. Do I want them remembering back to a time when both of their parents lived in a different city than them for six whole months, missing parent-teacher conferences and Greyson’s birthday and Facetiming whenever we could squeeze it in? Is that what we want music or hard work to mean to them? No, I really don’t want that. In fact, I can’t live with that. No opportunity, no matter how great, is worth that price to us. So...we turned it down.

This was taken right after our audition, during gin and tonics, and right before our Schnitzel came. I’d say this was one of life’s most perfect moments.

This was taken right after our audition, during gin and tonics, and right before our Schnitzel came. I’d say this was one of life’s most perfect moments.

I’ve reflected on this opportunity a lot lately…I thought about it when October 1st came and I woke up in my own bed. If we’d agreed to the show, we would’ve been waking up for our first day of rehearsals in LA. I’m thinking about it now as the filming of the blind auditions began this week. I’ll definitely think about it whenever I see something on tv or social media about The Voice Season 16, and Corey and I aren’t on it.

But I have LOTS of hope. 

Brandi Carlile says in her song The Mother, of her daughter, “I’ll never hit the big time without you.” My hope is that my boys will know that we’ll choose them every time.  Will there be times we have to leave them for shows or work? Yes, of course. More than ever though, we’re determined to make it on our own terms. If opportunity knocks and we have to leave for 2 weeks or 3 months or 2 years, we’re bringing them with us. We want to bring them along on this adventure and show them whatever parts of the world we get to see. We want to raise musicians, world travelers, hard workers and mostly, men of character, who have their priorities right. 

I also have hope because we have a KICK-ASS record coming out really soon. We're just starting to get mixes back and you guys, these songs sound incredible. We can't wait to share them with you. 

We're thankful for our little moment of "magic" with The Voice. It may yet yield something incredible for us, but if things keep moving like they're moving, we don't think we'll need any TV show to live our dream. And we'll get to live it with our sweet boys by our side. 

Whitney Parnell

Hi, I'm Whitney! I love my work as an administrator for Westside Church and The Well Conference. I live in Bend OR, arguably the most beautiful city in America, and I do life with my husband, Corey Parnell and our gorgeous son, Greyson. I am an unofficial advocate for people with ALS as my dad, Steve Stern, fights the horrid disease. I've developed a business called Clarion Personal Management to help authors, speakers and artists manage their events as their virtual executive assistant. I am a pretty fast driver, and my breakfast of choice is biscuits and gravy.