By Geraldine Freedman
It all started with a phone call.
“I was sitting around the house watching television when the phone rang and my dad said it was ‘The Voice,’” said Moriah Formica. “I thought, ‘Whoa.’ Then I felt unreal that they’d reached out to me.”
Casting agents had seen some of Formica’s videos on YouTube and wondered if she’d be interested in coming to New York City to do an audition for the popular nationally televised talent show.
“At first I was shocked . . . then flattered. I wondered if I wanted to do that,” Formica said. “I was a bit muddle-headed. I decided to do it.”
Formica, then 16, was a junior at Shaker High School and well known locally since she was 12 for her gritty, explosive vocal style and guitar playing at various open mics and venues.
The audition took place and the agents told her “they loved how raw and Rock and Roll I was,” she said. The next step: Go to Los Angeles where Formica would play for the show’s four “coaches”: Miley Cyrus, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Jennifer Hudson. She was one of 100 people chosen to participate. All expenses would be paid.
After another audition, which turned out to be the show’s first round, Formica was one of 48 to make it through to the “Battle Round.” Each of the singers was given a list from which they chose a song and provided with rehearsal time with the studio band. Each singer was also chosen for one of the 12-member teams that each coach led. Cyrus chose Formica for her team.According to the show’s rules, the singers were all in competition not only with singers from another team but also within their own team.
Subsequent rounds would eliminate singers until there was one winner. Among the songs Formica chose or was assigned were “Crazy on You,” “American Woman,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” and “World Without You.”
Because she made it through to the fourth round, Formica spent most of last summer in Los Angeles.
“It was my first time in Los Angeles, and it was very different than the East Coast,” Formica said. “But there was never a moment to sit around. We had only one day a week off. We were practicing or rehearsing, or given stage rehearsals or work on my movement, or doing wardrobe to come up with my look.”
There was some free time.
“We all lived together in the same hotel. And Team Miley was an all-female team, the first time in the show’s history,” Formica said. “We’d have group dinners, go bowling, do ice cream, and I met my best friend. It was very intense but interesting. We came from all over the country — I think there was only one other from New York. There were different accents. It was cool.”
Formica was also not alone. Her mother, Donna, was with her.
“I could not believe Moriah had been chosen,” she said. “We [she and her husband, Josh] had known from a young age that she wasn’t going to be a local singer. We knew she’d be big one day, that she had a huge talent. And Miley adored Moriah. This experience was all really cool, and she got such great friendships.”
All the early rounds were pre-recorded with only snippets shown once the final two rounds were broadcast. Formica especially loved working with the band.
“They were awesome,” she said. “I think they liked that I really played guitar.”
Then came the live shows.
“All the rounds were nerve-wracking,” she said, “but on live television you can’t mess up. I was confident and knew I could do it.”
But Cyrus chose someone else because she wanted a singer who had more of a country style.
“I was voted off and wasn’t happy,” Formica said. “I was confused, shocked and hurt … sad and angry, too. But it didn’t last long. I picked myself up. I knew you couldn’t win at everything, and I’d done the best I could.”
Social media blew up in protest over the vote and her mother said she herself was devastated.
“Moriah is a shy person and had put herself out there, had risked her insecurities,” she said. “But she moved on. She did not take it personally. It built up her stamina.”
By the time the two got home, gig offerings began pouring in. Just in the past few weeks, Formica has performed in New York City; New Orleans; Fargo, North Dakota; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Poughkeepsie. She plays Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park on April 13. And her summer is booked for festivals in Florida, South Dakota, and Texas. Her dad is her manager.
“It’s been an exciting, busy time,” he said. “’The Voice’ gave her name recognition and there are now a lot of bookings.”
Formica is taking it all in stride.
“I’m living my dream,” she said. “At times, it’s a little stressful as I’m not used to so much attention what with performing and going to school. But my classmates are awesome. They’re happy to be going through this with me. It’s been super positive, uplifting. They’re very supportive.”
Formica little thought when she taught herself how to play guitar at 6 by listening to Aerosmith that she’d actually have a chance at a music career.
Her parents aren’t musical, although one of her two brothers does sing and play piano. But she started taking voice lessons at 10 at Modern Day Music in Clifton Park and began writing her own songs. Her role models were Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and Amy Lee of Evanescence.
“The Voice” experience has affected her songwriting, too. More positive thoughts are creeping into her lyrics.
“You know I’m a teenager and it’s all the end of the world stuff,” she said with a laugh. “But my new song ‘I Will’ that I collaborated on with a country artist I met is different. People like it. It’s a cool song. It’s an anthem for life.”
Most of Formica’s songs, including her album “Bring it On” that she recorded at 14, are available on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or GooglePlay, she said.
A music career now beckons.
“I’m going to dive in and give it all I have,” she said. “I’ve done a decent job with passion and drive and it should take me somewhere. The beauty is that it’s not too late to go to college if it doesn’t work out. I’m giving it maybe five to seven years.
“I see myself worldwide with a name that everyone knows and loves. Right now rock is not number one. When you turn on the radio all you hear is pop. I feel the music industry is stuck in the pop culture. I want to share the rawness and bring the realness of my music. I want to bring variety back to music.”
With Madison Vandenburgh, Margo Macero, Sydney Worthley and Katie Louise
WHEN: Friday, April 13, 8 p.m. (doors open 7 p.m.)
WHERE: Upstate Concert Hall, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park
TICKETS: $10 advance; $12 day of show; ticketweb.com, the club box office 371-0012 and 51 Vape, 1321 Central Ave., Colonie