Indianapolis teen gets "do over" on NBC's "The Voice"
NBC's hit singing competition show "The Voice" has made a Hoosier teen a household name.
Brandon Mahone gave Eyewitness News an exclusive look at his love for music, how he got on the show, and why the judges believe he has a special gift that could make him a star.
Mahone, 18, was in a middle school talent show when he sang "I Believe I Can Fly." Now, he's living it on the hit TV singing competition show, "The Voice."
"When people would tell me I couldn't do it, my mom would just be the one to say you can do whatever you want to do," Brandon said.
"The Bible says a man's gift makes a room for him in places before great men. I think that's happened," said Brandon's mother, Keishana.
His family says the gift of music happened when he was three years old.
"Every time we got in the car, he would say, 'Pop Pop, play my song'," said Brandon's grandfather, Arthur Mahone.
"He would go and emulate it and just started singing and my husband would turn the volume down and just let him go at it," said Althea Mahone, Brandon's grandmother.
"The song was 'Turn Your Love Around.' That was George Benson," Arthur said.
That's when music became Brandon's life, in Chicago. A church play foreshadowed his future.
Brandon was a very popular student as a standout athlete and singer at Perspectives. But his family began to see quite a change in him emotionally.
"I study him. I watch him. I started to see the spark leave out of his eyes," said his mother.
The single mother says they needed to leave.
"I just went on a whim. I went on faith," Keishana said.
So they headed south to Indianapolis.
"I needed to go somewhere where my child could graduate from high school," Keishana said.
Brandon enrolled at John Marshall High School.
"They even paid for my prom, my junior prom, because I came the last three weeks of my junior year," he said.
"Indianapolis just embraced us. It was like he had been there all four years. They loved him, they took care of him," Keishana said.
Brandon's new classmates soon found out that he could sing. He took that sound back to Chicago for an audition in 2011 for "The Voice."
"My confidence was way down here and so I was very nervous," Brandon said.
And he didn't wow the judges.
"Trying to sing it from here, it was all bad and they were, like, you know, 'That's good, but you're still young, you do so good, but you should probably come back next year'," Brandon said.
His uncle, Louis Mahone, was in the room when the judges made their decision.
"I was disappointed, but I whispered in his ear, 'Okay, well, you know what you did. It's all about preparation. Think when things don't happen, you get another chance, you always get a do over'," Louis said.
"I don't ever give up," said Brandon.
And he didn't.
Just a few months before graduation, Brandon took his newly-found swagger back to Chicago a year later, for a do over. He auditioned for "The Voice" with John Legend's song, "Ordinary People."
"It was like, 'Girl, I'm in love with you, this ain't the honeymoon, pass the infatuation phase, right in the thick of love, at times we get sick of love, seems like we argue everyday," he sang.
"It was so much confidence and it was beautiful, it was perfect and I was like 'Wow.' This is the moment, you could just feel it, you felt it, it was all in the room," Brandon's mother recalled.
Brandon made it to the moment that few get the chance to experience, the blind audition. With a nod to Motown, where his love affair with old school music began, all thanks to his grandparents.
"We're just proud," said Arthur. "Whatever he does in life, he's gonna be our superstar, whatever he does, because I know he's going to represent the family well."
Mahone had to wow the four judges on "The Voice" to get on the show. It was the sound he grew up with, thanks to his grandparents, that got the judges wanting to hear more.
"When he was a baby, I would play Motown. I love the Temps," Arthur Mahone said.
"I'm just the type of guy that all I need is for one person to believe in me and then it skyrockets. Adam (Levine) turned around in the first 19 seconds," Brandon said.
Two more judges turned around next, including Cee-Lo Green, then Christina Aguilera. Brandon's mother and uncle were cheering for him, along with the audience.
"When he got that first note, I was like 'Ah man, he got it.' He looked so confident to me. He looked confident, he just looked so good on camera. I was just so proud of him," said uncle Louis Mahone.
Brandon made a stunning coach choice, going with Levine.
"He said I can be next in line in far as Motown and that was like icing on the cake," Brandon said.
Eyewitness News caught up with Brandon and his family in Chicago, where he was born and now lives. But he credits his choir teacher, Mr. Jackson at John Marshall High School, for taking his voice to the next level.
"He showed me, he put his hands on my stomach and told me how to tighten up and sing and that helped me because he gave me those instructions right before I went to the first audition," said Brandon.
But the second round - "The Battle" - would determine if Brandon stayed on the show. If Levine didn't pick him, there was also a chance for a steal. Cee-Lo says the show's new twist adds suspense.
"It gives another opportunity to say, 'Hey, I saw something in you. Maybe I can do something different with you, so if you like, you know, you can come to my team and let's see if we can go forward," he said.
Brandon didn't win the battle round, but he takes away some lessons from Levine to help him perfect his voice.
"Sometimes I try to do a little too much and he was, like, sometimes simple is good," Brandon said.
Another one of Brandon's coaches, R&B singer Mary J. Blige, also gave him a tip.
"She told me that, you know, I have to stop being so nervous," he said.
Now, Brandon and his family relish in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with no regrets.
"That is the only grandbaby we have and we wish him the best," Althea Mahone said.
"He's always gonna be our superstar. Always," his grandfather added.
"Everything worthwhile is hard. You have to put your foot to the pedal, keep it working, apply discipline, and keep it moving.@ And a lot of love. A whole lot of love," said Keishana.
So it won't be the last time you'll hear from Brandon.
"I just love to sing. God gave me this talent," he said.
He says the best way to succeed is to keep on singing.
"You just got to see the positive side about any negative," Brandon said.
Brandon is waiting for another call back, possibly, from "The Voice." In the meantime, he's still pursuing his dream of becoming a solo artist.
Follow Brandon on Twitter: @brandonsdreamz
Brandon gets his chance