“Literally a year ago, I was planning on becoming a pharmacist,” Arnold said. “And in a year, I’ve gone from singing before 16 people at Cuppy’s Coffee in Kennesaw and West Cobb Diner to being on national television and singing for 16 million people. I thought that would never happen.”
“The Voice” features three stages of competition: the blind audition, which is all that has aired to date, a battle phase and the live performance shows. During the blind auditions, the celebrity coaches hear the singers perform, but their chairs face away from the artist. If a coach is impressed by the artist’s voice, he or she pushes a button to select the artist for his or her team and their chair turns around.
Rarely do all four coaches turn their chairs around to vie for a singer, but in Arnold’s case that’s exactly what happened. The power then shifted to Arnold, who got to decide which coach he wanted.
“I’ve got time and attention,” Aguilera told him.
Shelton, the country music star, smiled.
“When she wakes up before noon she has plenty of time,” Shelton said of Aguilera.
Green also tried to convince Arnold to join him.
“You got an old soul, Pip,” Green said. “What a cool irony to turn around, and it’s you so young and fresh-looking. You did a great job, and off that alone I felt that this guy knows his music and what a great song choice and a great delivery, and I really enjoyed it.”
Levine praised Arnold’s attire, decked out as he was in bowtie, white suspenders and orange sneakers.
“It takes a real man to wear a bowtie,” Levine said. “And in a way, you are what epitomizes the show because I had no idea what to expect when I turned around, and that’s always my favorite thing, to turn around and see someone who is the exact opposite of what I expected. That’s the kind of person that I want to work with. You seem like you’d be a chameleon. You can do pretty much anything and affect people and impact people, and that’s why I think I’d be great for you, I really do.”
Arnold opted to join Levine’s team.
As he told the Journal on Wednesday, “It was very tough. You think about each of their styles, each of their talents, each of their connections, where they are, how many records they’ve sold, everything is flowing through your mind at a million miles an hour, but my gut reaction was how much Adam sold himself to me,” Arnold said. “It wasn’t just complimenting me. It was telling me where he could take me. It was telling me he knew what he wanted to do with me.”
Born in Kennestone Hospital, Arnold is the son of Jim and Chris Arnold of Marietta. His mother is a seamstress and his father is the facility manager for St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marietta.
He was dragged into the world of musical theater when he was 3 or 4 years old by his sister, Eileen Johnson, 12 years his senior. When she would perform at Marietta High School and the play called for a young child, she cast her baby brother, she said.
The story behind Arnold’s first name is traced to his 3-year-old nephew, who couldn’t pronounce “Phillip.” When his friends learned he was being called “Pip,” it stuck.
As a student at Kennesaw Mountain, Arnold played lacrosse his freshman and sophomore years before devoting his energies to the choral and drama programs. During his junior year he helped start a variety show at the school called “Cabaret and Coffee.” He was president of the choral program his senior year as well as class treasurer of the student government.
But worried that singers are a dime a dozen, Arnold decided to put his love of singing on hold and major in something “practical” at college. It was his first semester as Samford that a friend encouraged him to try out for the open auditions in Dallas for another reality show called “The Glee Project” in January 2011. After making it through several auditions, he appeared on the first show of that program before being eliminated.
“One of the things they told me was I was a little too drab, boring for this kind of industry,” Arnold said. “Back then, I didn’t have the bowtie. I just looked like a regular kid. I think that process has helped me so much in doing ‘The Voice’ because I have sort of marketed myself. I’ve worked with a stylist and made this whole look for myself that I’ve custom created to make sure that it’s me, but it’s also something that’s going to pop and stick in some people’s minds. Really I’m trying to take the Southern gentlemen’s style but then give it a modern twist with the bright colors and craziness.”
Returning home from “The Glee Project,” Arnold decided to enroll at Kennesaw State University.
“I was kind of reassessing where I wanted to go with my life because I had seen that I could do something and get far and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know if I want to do pharmacy, then if I can actually pursue my passion and dream and get into this,’” he said.
After three weeks at KSU, he and his mother had a heart-to- heart.
“Me and my mom sat down and we were like ‘look, I don’t think school is for you. I think we should focus entirely on your music career,’” he said.
Arnold has been a fan of “The Voice” since it debuted last year, and when 11 Alive advertised that it was holding a mock competition for “The Voice,” he sent in a video and was chosen to participate.
He went on to be one of the winners in the mock competition, which enabled him to move to the front of the line when “The Voice” had open auditions in Atlanta last August.
After several more auditions before producers, he was invited to L.A. in September, where he spent another two weeks practicing songs.
Arnold settled on “Rising Sun” because it was a song his mother used to play on her guitar when he was a child.
“It was just a song I grew up with,” he said.
Arnold also chose to remain in L.A. and share a house with another singer who auditioned for “The Voice,” Nathan Parrett. Coincidentally, Parrett is now on Levine’s team as well.
Arnold described what it was like before walking on stage to perform before the world.
“I was like pacing around backstage, a thousand things going through your mind,” he said. “But honestly I was the most prepared for none of them to turn around. I had prepared myself so much for none of them to turn around that I knew exactly what I was going to say — the whole ‘thank you’ spiel. I was like, you know, this has already happened once where I got really far and didn’t make it, so I did not prepare myself for all four of them turning around at all.”
When Levine turned his chair around, Arnold was stunned.
“Honestly, you almost go blank ’cause you’re like, ‘this is a dream. This is not real life, and he turned around, and I was taken aback a little bit, and I realized I hadn’t prepared myself if someone had turned around. And then one by one they all turned around, and the more they turned around the more nervous I got ’cause I was like this is happening. I’m actually going to go on now.’”
His next performance will be televised sometime in March, although he is not allowed to go into details.
Levine will now coach Arnold on the secrets to being a music sensation. Contestants will be pitted against each other and eliminated until a final winner is chosen, “The Voice.” The winner will receive the grand prize of a recording contract.
Since his performance aired Monday, his fan base has exploded.
“Already the exposure I’ve gotten just from Twitter and Facebook and everything blowing up, my Twitter followers has quintupled,” he said. “I mean, I went from 300 followers to 6,000 followers in two days. Facebook fans are going crazy. Which is crazy being on TV for just 10 minutes.”
For the moment, Arnold said he is single.
“I am an eligible bachelor,” he said.
He is also a man of faith as a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church and passionate about mission work. Last summer, his best friend’s father, New Zealander Stewart Hay, another believer in mission work, died of brain cancer.
“It was a very trying time for all of us, especially the family but through their faith and their church, it was so uplifting to watch them — not be OK, OK is not the right word — but have comfort in knowing that he’s in heaven,” he said.
Arnold wears a black wristband with the silver fern of New Zealand etched on it in Hay’s memory. He is in the process of forming a charity to sell the wristbands to help finance his mission work, he said.
With such core convictions, Arnold doesn’t see the darker temptations of Hollywood being an issue.
“I think you have to be true to yourself,” he said. “You have to stick with what’s deep down inside of you. If you’re really true to yourself it’s not much of a problem.”
See the audition here: