Cadet turns judges’ heads on ‘The Voice’

October 4, 2017 GMT

From a stage in her dad’s record shop on the south side of Fort Wayne to one of the bigger stages in today’s music business.

That’s the journey of Addison Agen, who Monday night during blind auditions on NBC’s “The Voice” got judges Adam Levine and Miley Cyrus to hit their big red turn-around chair buttons and offer the 16-year-old a spot on their teams.

Agen, a junior at Concordia Lutheran High School, sang a soulful version of Ray LaMontagne’s “Jolene” that led to compliments from all four judges before she chose Cyrus.

Cyrus pointed out similarities in her and Agen’s sound and that she understood what it was like being a young woman with talent.

“That was a really difficult choice : I went into it thinking that I was going to go with Miley, but Adam, he put up a really good fight,” Agen said Tuesday during a telephone media conference with about 10 other newly minted “Voice” artists.

“It’s like crazy. Everybody wants to get to know Miley Cyrus, and I get to work with her. She’s a great person,” Agen said.

Levine, of Maroon 5 and solo fame, turned first and pop singer Cyrus, daughter of country star Billy Ray Cyrus, followed a few seconds later. Both decided on Agen after no more than a few bars of her rendition of the song.

Agen is the daughter of Morrison Agen, owner of Neat Neat Neat Records & Music on South Calhoun Street. Addison Agen said the stories circulating about her start in music were true: her father built a stage at the store and she was the first to perform on it. And her mother, Kristine, a music therapist and teacher at IPFW, really did take her to sing at area nursing homes at a young age.

“I was raised completely around music,” she said, adding she began singing in grade school with the Agen Family Band, which also included her brother, Korrigan, on bass guitar. The group played at farmers markets and community events.

“My mom was lead singer and I played backup, and then we switched,” she said. “I’ve never done anything close to as big as this. I’m not as experienced as other people, but I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember.”

At Concordia, students were wearing “Team Addison” T-shirts, and about 50 people attended a viewing party at the school Monday night, including Addison, who is back at school, and her family, said Ashley Wiehe, school spokeswoman.

“We put it up on the big screen and got to cheer her on,” she said. “We’re excited for Addison.”

Addison is taking a theater class and has done musical theater at Concordia, including snagging a lead role last fall in a production of “Sorry, Wrong Number” that went on to a regional competition, Wiehe said.

Chris Murphy, Agen’s drama teacher, said her experience singing at the record store helped hone her skill.

“She’s one of those people who just has an old soul in a young body. That deep tone is just her voice,” he said. “Her performance was just so dramatic. It was very well done.”

Jennifer Hudson, whose Oscar-winning career began on another TV singing contest, “American Idol,” agreed. “It was just a pleasure hearing you sing,” the newest judge on “The Voice” told Agen, adding that her voice is “so beautiful.”

“Awesome,” said Blake Shelton, a country music star and fourth judge.

Levine called himself Agen’s “biggest fan” and marveled that someone so young could put so much power and emotion into singing a song reflecting so much pain.

Asked at the media conference why she picked the song by LaMontagne, Agen, who also writes songs, said it’s been one of her favorite songs “for a really, really long time.”

“It’s such a sad song ... It’s about a man who is so down because of drugs and alcohol that he can’t take his eyes way from it and go with the love of his life,” she explained.

She added she doesn’t have personal experience with addiction but thinks it’s something everyone can relate to.

“But I have so much hope for people, that they can turn around,” Agen said. “And that’s the way I tried to sing it.”

Although the audition shows are on tape, Agen will advance to live shows, which include battle and knockout rounds in which coaches pit pairs of singers against each other to see who goes to the final rounds.

Coaches at some points also can steal each others’ eliminated singers and audience votes and downloads count toward naming the ultimate winner who gets a recording contract. “The Voice” airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.

Agen is the second person with ties to Fort Wayne to advance beyond blind auditions. Barry Minniefield, a soul singer who was also a Fort Wayne native, appeared in 2015.