Kristen Merlin returns to UNH

Elissa Sanci

Kristen Merlin wasn’t going to try out for The Voice initially—after being shot down two previous times, she figured it wasn’t worth a third shot. She had a gig planned for the day of the tryout, and figured she’d only go to the audition if she found someone to cover for her.

Kristen Merlin performs at UNH’s Fall Fest (Photo by UNH student John Marden)
Kristen Merlin performs at UNH’s Fall Fest (Photo by UNH student John Marden)

Luck and fate were obviously on Merlin’s side that day; not only did she make it past the first round of auditions, but she made it all the way to the big stage, where both Shakira and Adam Levine turned their chairs around for the University of New Haven alumna.

Merlin, one of the finalists on NBC’s reality TV singing competition, came back to her alma mater Fri. Oct. 3 to perform during SCOPE and the Music Industry Club’s Fall Music and Arts Festival.

Fall Fest began at 2 p.m., where MIC held acoustic sets until 4:30 p.m. The concert, held on the Bartels Student Activities Center patio, began at 6 p.m., featuring Ian Biggs, Sparks and the Rescue and ASTR, closing with Merlin.

“It’s awesome being back at UNH,” Merlin said. “So many things on campus have changed but it’s cool because you walk down memory lane; it’s like ‘I dormed in that one, I partied in that one!’”

Merlin, who attended UNH from 2003 to 2007, lived in Botwinik, Sheffield and Winchester Halls during her time on campus and graduated with a B.A. degree in music and sound recording.

Merlin said her favorite UNH memory was playing in SCOPE’s open mic Beanhouse events, where she had the opportunity to play her original music.

“The only difference [between playing for small audience and playing for large-scale audiences] is the energy in the room; the more bodies, the more energy you feel but the excitement was kinda just the same,” she said. “It was as fun for me to have that intimate crowd as it was to perform at the much larger scale.”

The Voice, which is currently in its seventh season, is based purely on a contestant’s voice; a blind audition involves the four judges listening to contestants with their chairs turned so that they can concentrate on their voices rather than their appearances. The show’s tagline—Close your eyes. Open your ears.—says it all.

“I’m always judged for looks before anything else, so it was really cool and funny to see Shakira’s reaction—she was wicked shocked to see what she turned around to,” said Merlin, who hails from Hanson, Mass. “It’s a great premise; I love the idea of The Voice, especially for me, because I fit the exact premise of it.”

Merlin said that because she was so nervous during her audition, she didn’t realize that both Adam Levine and Shakira had hit their buttons, signifying they both wanted her for their teams and guaranteeing her a spot on the show.

“It really wasn’t setting in until the end of [my audition] when I was like ‘Oh sh*t! They turned! That means this is it, I’m on! Now I get to choose.’”

Merlin initially wanted Blake Shelton as her coach, and after he didn’t turn his chair, had decided to go with Levine. She shocked herself by choosing Shakira. “As I was saying ‘I choose Shakira,’ in my head I was like ‘Whaaat?’” Merlin explained.

Merlin enjoyed working with Shakira throughout her time on The Voice, where she placed fourth. “At one point, I actually ended up mentoring her; she freaked out when we had to do a song together,” she said. “She was freaking out, saying ‘It’s not going right,’ and I was like ‘Shak—take a moment. You are Shakira; I don’t know if you know this—you can do anything on stage and people will go crazy. You’re going to be fine.’ I had to, like, talk her off a ledge for a minute.”

Merlin remembered watching artists like Matt Nathanson performing on campus during her time as an undergraduate and said that she aspired to tour campuses and perform for students too. “And here I am,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome.” Merlin plans to travel to Los Angeles, Calif. soon to record an EP; she writes all her music and plays acoustic guitar as well.

“Music is my life—I’m sickly addicted to music,” she said.

“Kristen was very personal,” Chariot Yearbook Editor Annalisa Berardinelli, who photographed the event, said. “She literally hopped over the wires of the BSAC patio and danced with the crowd; she was very cool and down to Earth.”

“Don’t ever give up; always chase your dream,” Merlin said to anyone looking to pursue a career in music. “No matter how big or small your goal is, jump at any opportunity you can take. Timing is everything, that’s for sure.”