KENOSHA — What was going through Betsy Ade’s mind as she sang in a television studio with John Legend, Adam Levine, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton listening?
“Don’t forget the lyrics,” she said. “I try to stay in the moment when I’m on stage.”
The second time she hit the high note in Florence and the Machine’s “Hunger,” John Legend pushed the big red button, turning his chair around and signaling that he wanted Ade, a lifelong Kenosha resident, on his team for this season of NBC’s “The Voice.”
“That was absolutely exhilarating,” said Ade. “He changed my life within the matter of one second.”
Ade is a familiar face in Racine’s music scene. Her band, Well Known Strangers, has performed around Racine County for years, including at Party on the Pavement, HarborFest and wrote and performed an original song, “Voices,” at a human trafficking awareness event at Memorial Hall in 2017.
But at 40, she’d reached a stage in her life where she doubted whether music was the right path for her and how much longer she could continue.
“I’ve been doing this so long, I’ve gotten to a lot of places where I wondered if I should pick up painting or something else,” she said. “Because I’m not getting to the level I want.”
A member of her management team recommended she go for “The Voice” tryouts in Chicago in June. From there she went on to the blind test which aired on Tuesday.
For the blind test she chose the song “Hunger” because she connected to the song’s story about “coming-of-age, blossoming into another part of your life... the falling down and getting back up.”
After Legend hit the red button, Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine did too. For a few seconds after Ade finished, the two were vying to get her on their team.
“To have two huge influencers in music — national, international artists — turn around and say that to you, small town girl from Kenosha — It’s mind blowing,” she said. “It’s like, you are doing the right thing.”
‘Did that really just happen?’
Ade chose to join Team Legend, partly because he picked her first and secondly because her 10-year-old son, Talynn, is a big fan of Legend.
Since the episode aired, friends and family have told Ade they were moved by Talynn’s emotional reaction when Legend chose his mom.
“I was really speechless,” Talynn said. “I didn’t think of anything, I was just jumping.”
Ade was the last to audition, so once she was done, the whole taping was over.
“Everybody started packing up. It’s like after a wedding or big production — everyone packs up and goes home,” she said. “We were like, ‘Did that really just happen?’”
For months, Ade, Talynn and her family couldn’t tell anyone what happened at the audition. How does a 10-year-old keep quiet that his hero chose his mom?
“I was just thinking (telling someone) could disqualify my mom, so I’m not going to take any chances,” he said.
Putting everything in
In the meantime, Ade has had a few coaching sessions with Legend, who she said is “very chill” to prepare for her next performance.
“He’s very matter-of-fact,” she said. “He really lets you do your thing and lets you celebrate your different style and allows you to continue doing that but has great advice vocally.”
For Ade, who said she normally wears a lot of different hats day-to-day, her time on The Voice gives her the rare chance to focus on her music.
“It’s been really hard to have to work and do this on the side,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had the means to put absolutely everything into it.”
Ade said she hopes this opportunity will cement her career as a lifelong songwriter and performer. Talynn said he hopes she becomes the next Kelly Clarkson.
NBC officials could not disclose when she will next be on the show and no one knows how long Ade will stay in the competition. But Tuesday’s airing has already given her a career boost, as people across the country have been checking out Well Known Strangers’ music.
It’s also given the Kenosha community a boost — at the doctor’s office on Friday, a nurse recognized her, so all the nurses gathered together for a selfie with her. Ade’s girlfriend, who works as a nurse, asked her to visit her work so she could meet some of the patients. Former teachers and students have reached out to let her know they’re cheering for her.
“I’m very lucky to have all these people on my side,” she said. “I’m keeping it all in my heart and I’m going to be taking it with me wherever I go.”
And now that Talynn’s big secret is out, he can tell his jealous classmates what John Legend is like in person.
“He smells good.”