Millions were glued to their televisions Monday as the final Battle Round of “The Voice” opened with Sacramento’s Larriah Jackson, 16, and Carter Rubin, 14, in a duet of Meghan Trainor and John Legend’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” Both are Team Gwen, and the pair received a standing ovation as Legend — who admitted to being a bit “judgy” when it comes to songs that he records — was “thoroughly impressed” with their delivery of the song. So much so that he nominated Jackson over Rubin to advance to the upcoming Four-Way Knockout round, despite Rubin being his initial choice in blind auditions.
Ultimately, Rubin won the final Battle Round by Stefani’s decision. As Jackson tearfully thanked the No Doubt frontwoman for “instilling information in me that I did not know about myself” and graciously exited the stage, Stefani hurriedly pushed the big red button to use her one and only “save” to keep Jackson in the competition.
So who is Larriah Jackson? How did such a young, gifted vocalist from Sacramento catch the ears and hearts of three-time Grammy Award-winning artist Gwen Stefani and the entire country? Larriah’s story begins at the age of 3 and continues to evolve as she shares her life-changing moment on “The Voice,” balancing fame, musical influences, and the long-lasting legacy she wants to leave behind.
Q: You said you’ve been performing since age 3. Three-hundred fifty performances since then? Is that correct?
A: Since age 3 until now, I’ve done over 350 performances. Probably more. We really can’t count them all.
Q: You’ve opened up for Yolanda Adams, Marvin Sapp and Angie Stone. What’s been your most memorable experience before making it on “The Voice?”
A: Honestly, I feel that every performance has its own feel to it. Every performance offered something different. I have sung many, many songs, and you know I might do one show one day and another show another day but sing the same songs but every time it’s different. So I really don’t know which one is most memorable. They’ve all taught me so much and they’ve all made me the person I am today so it would be hard picking one.
Q: Congratulations on being Team Gwen! She was the first to turn around. Actually, she turned around fairly quickly so it appears she fell in love with your voice immediately.
A: Right. Yes!
Q: She described your voice as rich, warm and dreamy and made a statement saying she “knew it was meant to be” when she chose you. How would you describe your emotions in that exact moment and how would you describe her as a coach?
A: When she turned and I basically locked eyes with her, my initial response was “I made it.” Then when she finally got to talk to me, I got to have an insight into her personality. It just made me feel like this person was truly meant for me. I feel like our personalities are a lot alike. She’s very bubbly, she’s very kind, and she wants to see people succeed, which I truly appreciate. As a coach, she is very down to earth. I know when we were working with her, it just didn’t feel like I was working with Gwen Stefani the superstar. I felt like I was working with my coach and that was all. There was no real downside to it. I feel really really blessed to have her as a coach. She has definitely been a pillar in making me grow on the show.
Q: So every musical success has a compelling story behind their journey. You’re so young and you have so much ahead of you, but you’ve also achieved so much. You’re also a Sacramento native. Before “The Voice,” how would you describe your background and upbringing that kept you on the right track to living your dream of singing?
A: From age 3, I said I’ve been singing. So from such a young age, I’ve loved music and I was fortunate enough to be brought up by people who fostered my talent — my parents. My mom and my grandmother, they have been there for every performance. Everything I ever wanted to do, they always said yes. The word “no” when it came to singing was not really a word. I got really really lucky to have someone who wanted to see me succeed and who wanted to see me go somewhere in life with my voice. They didn’t necessarily see my passion as something that wouldn’t take me somewhere. They just saw it as, “what she wants to do” and we’re going to support her in every way.
Q: You are incredibly beautiful and gracious. Your personality is amazing and you’re very talented! That would be considered a triple threat within this industry. In terms of your family, what type of role do they play in keeping you grounded and keeping you humble as you elevate in your success?
A: I was always taught to be grateful for the experiences that I have. Not just with singing but with school, and with meeting new people. I’ve been taught to be grounded and just to always be grateful for things that you have. Not to let things like fame go to your head. I’ve also been taught to cherish my talent and not take it for granted, which is very easy to do in this field of work. My mom and my grandmother have taught me how to have two worlds, if that makes any sense. The world of singing, the world of talent, and the world of working and pursuing your talent; but also the world of being a kid. Also cherishing your family and your friends. Keeping those worlds separate while also bringing them together. I’ve been fortunate to have a support system.
Q: With your newfound success, how do you find your balance and stay disciplined with what matters personally?
A: It’s definitely a work in progress. Even now. I know when I was doing “Hairspray,” a show I did at ARC, there were many many nights where the cast, who were all adults, were staying up until one and two in the morning and I was this little fourth-grader who had to go school at eight o’clock the next morning. So just comparing those times and how we coped with that when I was in fourth grade and then comparing how I am managing “The Voice” and school, and my personal life and just kind of managing all these things it’s always a work in progress. There’s not a science to it. You have to assess what you want to do. You have to assess things you have to sacrifice.
Q: I’ve seen you on YouTube and I’ve also seen you on your social media performing different covers. You also have your own single out called “Talk” prior to you making it to “The Voice.” How did your vocal register become so diverse and would you credit this to your musical influences?
A: Yes. I credit many of my musical influences. Especially Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Michael Jackson. These are people I have listened to from day one and still listen to to this day. I want to mimic their passion. I think my range has been something I was blessed with I believe. It has grown since age 10. I think for a while I was kind of fearful of my voice. I think that coming to “The Voice” definitely showed me my true ability with my voice and what holding back does for me; and that’s nothing.
Q: There are many young people who look up to you. Any advice you would give to someone who wants to succeed in music?
A: One piece of advice that I would give to others looking up to me is that this is not easy. This process is so much fun. It has been so amazing and exhilarating. Behind the performance, behind the clothes, behind the makeup, behind “The Voice,” there is work that has to be done. I would also say, make sure this is your passion. Although this singing world is something that every kid wants to do, everyone wants to be a rock star, and it’s more to it. You have to assess the true feeling behind everything. You have to make sure this is really what you want to do.
Q: If you could leave any imprint on this world with your gift and influence, what would it be?
A: I would like my imprint to be that you can do anything you put your mind to. I feel like that’s my story. A little Sacramento girl who wanted to sing on the biggest stage ever is finally doing it. It’s such a climb from singing at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento to now singing in front of John Legend, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani. That’s what I would like to leave here. Although it’s not easy, you can do anything you put your mind to.
Larriah Jackson is scheduled to appear again on “The Voice” Monday, Nov. 23 on NBC. You can follow the young singing sensation on social media (Instagram: @larriahj, Twitter: @larriahjackson) or online at www.larriahj.com.
Carter Rubin vs. Larriah Jackson – Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” – Voice Battles 2020
Larriah Jackson with Mariah Carey’s Version of Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” – Voice Blind Auditions
By Dominique Morris | OBSERVER Correspondent