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The Voice(s) of Des Moines

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Lights. Camera. Action! The stage is set and millions of Americans anticipate the newest recruits of 2017 Emmy-winning singing competition, The Voice. With hundreds auditioning and only a limited amount of spots on each team, the pressure is on to be the best. The hosts, Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, and Blake Shelton, all wait anxiously for those exceptional enough to make the cut. In this season of NBC’s The Voice, two very talented individuals caught the eyes of Iowans as they represented Des Moines with their jaw-dropping performances. Chris Weaver and Jon Mero took the stage with their iconic auditions and swept the crowd by receiving all four chair turns from the coaches. While both of them received the same accomplishment, each had a different reason as to how they made it to Los Angeles.

 

Chris Weaver:

At the age of three, Chris Weaver had already begun his career in singing in Long Island, New York. Taken by his Godmother to church, Weaver would listen to the songs and sermon that were done and go home to re-enact it to his parents. This was the beginning of a much bigger picture. Weaver continued to sing and take part in church throughout his childhood. In 2006, he moved from New York to Pella, Iowa to attend Central College. After graduating in 2010, he then moved to Des Moines.

In Des Moines, Weaver began to sing again at Lutheran Church of Hope with the help of John Cheatem (Jon Mero). “I moved to West Des Moines and always picked up The Juice and it had a section in it of people you should know and John Cheatem was in the People you should know section,” he explained. “I looked him up on FB and told him that I just moved to WDM and was trying to get hooked up with music. I asked him if he knew people I could contact to get involved and he put me in contact with different people who connected me with Hope. John Cheatem is actually the reason I was at Hope.”

After being at Hope for three years, Weaver attended two open call auditions in Chicago and New York. After a year and a half, he was ready for something bigger. “I was kind of done with cattle calls,” Weaver confessed. Finally, he had a friend who encouraged him to send in an audition video for The Voice, which he sent in on the last day. Weaver received a call and found out he had made the cut for blind auditions in LA.

As many would think, a blind audition in front of four highly influential artists is very nerve wrecking. Well, not for Chris Weaver. “You have one chance when you get on stage and this could be the life changing experience for you so when you get on stage do it like this is what you want to do for the rest of your life,” he expressed. “So when I got out there on stage I told myself get out there and do this like this is what you want to do overnight for the rest of your life.  And hopefully this will be the smallest arena that you ever perform in front of again.” Weaver’s rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding impressed the judges, so much that they all four turned around in an attempt to be his coach. At the conclusion of his performance, the crowd was on their feet and the judges were in awe.

With little hesitation, Weaver announced his choice for coach as Jennifer Hudson. “She grew up in church, she was a glorified drag queen in some shape or form and she was who I am so for me that was the best fit,” explained Weaver on his choice. Following his performance, Weaver also revealed he is a drag queen back in New York. Weaver is the first contestant in 13 seasons of The Voice to do drag. “This was a history making moment!” Weaver beamed. “If I can help somebody else, even if it is just one person who sees this show who says because of you I decided to be who I am, then I’m satisfied.”

For the filming of the show, Weaver and all of the other contestants moved to LA to be close to the set. The teams have all become close and keep in touch with each other via social media and group chats. Weaver is looking forward to what else is to come in this season on The Voice and finished with one last piece of advice. “You only have one life.  Please learn to live it. I think failure is not a bad thing because it means that you gave it a try. You never know what dreams you can achieve or what could come from some of the ideas you have unless you pursue them.”

 

Jon Mero:

 

Unlike most artists, Jon Mero did not begin his career in singing until around the age of 14. Mero grew up in Des Moines and was an active member of band playing instruments such as the piano and trumpet. It was not until he watched the movie, The Preacher’s Wife, that he wanted to learn how to sing. Whitney Houston starred in the movie and her voice sparked an interest in Mero. “When I heard her singing, up until that point I was instrumental, but when I heard her voice, I knew I wanted to do that. That was how my desire to sing started.” Mero began teaching himself how to sing but was not the performer he is today. “I was screeching, it was absolutely terrible,” Mero recalled. “You could ask my mom and she’d tell you how bad it was.” Despite his lack of ability, Mero persisted and continued to grow as a singer with the help of his musical knowledge. “What saved me was that I was a musician already so knowing when I was off key really kept me on track,” he revealed. He also gives credit to Whitney Houston as being his main reason for singing, considering her almost like a vocal coach to him in some ways. Mero continued to take part in music, both vocal and instrumental all through high school.

Following high school, Mero played the keyboard at St. Marks Lutheran Church in West Des Moines. When listening to the radio one night, he heard of a youth gathering called Emersion that took place at Lutheran Church of Hope. At the time, he would hang out by himself most of the time and wanted to try something new, so he attended the group. At Emersion, Mero had three people come up and introduce themselves to him and really bring him into the group. He began attending regularly. In February of 2008, Mero was approached by worship leader, Ryan Buck, who had learned of his singing abilities. Buck asked Mero to join their praise and worship team, sending Mero over the moon with excitement. “When I started I was so wild,” Mero laughed. “Like I was running back and forth across the stage to like “How Great is Our God”. I was young and had a lot to learn.”

After taking part at Hope and having lived in Des Moines his whole life, Mero decided to move to Atlanta, Georgia to take his passion to the next level. While living in Atlanta, he met a man named Lamont Leak who worked at Verizon Wireless. Following his own dream, Leak ended up moving out to Los Angeles to become part of the music industry. Earlier this year, Mero received a call from Leak saying that he wanted him to audition for The Voice. Leak had taken a job for a company that recruits for the show and one of his roles was to cast contestants. Originally hesitant, Mero finally agreed to send in tapes of him singing for them to watch. Before he knew it, he was on his way to LA.

To many in Des Moines or who have known Jon for longer, he is known as John Cheatem. However, he decided to take up the stage name Jon Mero to give his business a name and make it more marketable. “A lot of people have asked me why I changed my name. I didn’t change it, I’m still John. But someone starting a business wouldn’t name it their own name. Me changing my name is not me changing MY name, it’s me becoming a business entity,” Mero stated.

Taking the stage as Jon Mero, he sang his version of “Versace on the Floor” by Bruno Mars and wowed the judges with four chair turns. Following his performance, he was faced with the decision of choosing one judge out of the four available. “I originally wanted to pick Blake [Shelton] as my coach,” Mero recalled. “But what they didn’t show was Blake telling me that there was nothing he could do with me. Not that it was bad, but that I was too far out of his league to coach.” So with four judges to choose from and nothing to lose, Mero chose Adam Levine to be his coach. “So far, it has really been awesome. That dude is such a bro! He is just the class clown and everyone loves him. I knew it was going to be a good pair and he is willing to be on your level wherever you are.”

Since making it past the blind auditions, Mero has felt nothing less than blessed for his experience on the show. “This has been one of the greatest opportunities that I was lucky enough to be a part of,” Mero gushed. “I feel like this is exactly where I am supposed to be and I could not be more grateful.” Mero considers his newfound team like a family already. Staying in touch constantly, he believes this season’s contestants are the best ones yet. “Everyone is just so supportive of each other and it really doesn’t even feel like a competition. I have grown really close to a lot of my teammates and have made such great connections with them. Though in competition against some he now considers his closest friends, Mero shows grace and encouragement towards each opponent and continues to feel blessed for the opportunity that he was presented.

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Voice(s) of Des Moines”

  1. Amelia on February 6th, 2018 9:07 AM

    Terrific job finding these people for the story! Such an interesting story! 🙂

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