The Voice 2012: Exclusive Exit Interview With Mathai

Adam Levine used to be my favorite coach on The Voice. I loved his duet with Javier Colon last season and his critiques are just that, critiques meant to help whoever he is talking to. He doesn’t just offer praise for the sake of giving compliments. With that being said, I was absolutely stunned by his decision to eliminate Mathai on Tuesday’s results show. I was absolutely positive that American would vote Tony Lucca into the semifinals (which they did) and that Adam would save Mathai. Instead, Adam picked Katrina and Georgia’s favorite female on the show was eliminated.

I was rooting for Mathai from the beginning of the show initially just because of her background (she is one of the few Indian singers to advance on a reality singing competition show, which only includes Sanjaya Malakar and Anoop Desai both from American Idol), but also because of her incredible talent.

When I was at the show last week, I had the chance to interview all of the artists from Team Blake and Team Christina, but I missed the chance to talk to Adam and CeeLo’s artists. Luckily, I had the opportunity to talk to Mathai at the NBC Summer Press Day last week. We joked about our traditional parents and how we both are pursuing careers that are outside of the norm. I joked with her that the easiest way to see a brown guy is to see if they carry their cellphone in a holster (then I looked at myself, and sure enough, I was wearing one). Hilarious. I didn’t interview her at the time because I was certain that she would sail into the finals, probably against Lindsey Pavao from Team Christina. Instead, Adam shocked me and the world with his decision and I wanted to catch up with Mathai to get her perspective on it.

Murtz Jaffer: Ready to rock? This is going to be the greatest interview of all-time.

Mathai: Okay good. It better be!

MJ: You know, there was only one other reality show singing elimination that affected me just as much as yours and that was when Sanjaya left American Idol. What do you think happened and were you surprised?

M: I wasn’t surprised. Well, okay. I was shocked but I wasn’t surprised.

MJ: What’s the difference?

M: Of course it took the wind out of me when he said that because you still never believe it but on the inside, I knew it was going to happen because I saw how Katrina lit up that stage. We all saw it. We all saw how she was full of light and how she grew. Her story was that she was sick and she didn’t get to sing for so long. I have talked to her and her not singing kind of took the life out of her. Finally being able to sing again, you could see it coming back into her, the joy that she has. She’s also older than me. It was more important for her to make it forward than it was for me to make it forward. As sad as that makes me, I’m going to be honest, I am sad. I miss everyone. I miss the high of being on stage on national television. There’s nothing like it. But it’s right for her to move on.

MJ: Do you think that sympathy had anything to do with the decision. You said that she couldn’t sing for a long time, did that effect Adam’s decision? If two people are really good but I have to pick one and I find out that one is sick and the other one isn’t, I am probably going to give it to the sick person. Did sympathy play a role or was it just Monday’s performances.

M: I don’t think it was sympathy at all. Maybe if it was Blake, I would think that but with Adam, he keeps it real. It doesn’t matter who he likes more. If you did better, you did better and he is going to respect that. Katrina did better.

MJ: Wow, so you really think that she did better than you?

M: I think… I think a lot of it was song choice. She had her big moment while I didn’t have my big moment on the same day. When you compare a person who had their big moment to a person who didn’t have their big moment, the person who had their big moment is obviously going to take the cake. I didn’t get to have that moment where I just sang the perfect song and everyone was like ‘okay, this is what it is for this girl.’ When Katrina sang “Jar Of Hearts,” you could visualize her as an artist and I haven’t had that moment where people understood who exactly I was as an artist. I think the thing that was closest to that was my blind audition and that’s okay because everything happens for a reason. I am only 19. Just because I am not on TV, doesn’t mean I am going to stop doing what I love.

MJ: Speaking of song choice, do you regret going with “I’m Like A Bird” and how much involvement did you have and how much involvement did Adam Levine have in picking the Nelly Furtado track?

M: The thing with that is that I had like 10 songs that I had prepared that I wanted to do but for various reasons all of them got knocked off. We couldn’t do them. We settled with the song and Adam surprised me at rehearsal by giving me “I’m Like A Bird.” At that point, I was just guessing that he knew what was best as a coach. I don’t regret it. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I didn’t compromise anything on this show which is something that makes me really happy. It’s a good palette. This whole show is a good palette for what I want to do in the future and it will be a good stepping stone for what comes next.

MJ: I have always wondered about strategy in terms of coach selection. I remember from your blind audition, you had so many choices and you went with Adam. When I compare you to somebody like Jermaine (Paul), I didn’t really see him and Blake getting along and yet he chose Blake and I almost felt like he thought he could get farther on Blake’s team. Did that kind of strategy factor into you choosing Adam at all and do you regret picking him since he’s the one who ultimately sent you home?

M: Blind auditions, I was in this “I’m just going to have fun” kind of mode. I decided to just go with the flow and pick Adam because I felt like it. I didn’t think about it and after I thought about it after, I was like ‘yeah, that was a good choice’ because he could take me farther because I am a singer singer. I wasn’t a theatrical person. Although I did learn along the way that I was kind of theatrical and I was a performer and I didn’t know that I was to that extent before.

MJ: You went with Cowboy Casanova as your exit song, why did you choose it?

M: That is a song I don’t regret. I just thought it was high-energy and so fun, I was able to just be so fierce on it! I thought it was perfect. If I left, I am glad that I left with that song.

MJ: Now here’s the question that I have been dying to know the answer to. What is the first thing your parents said to you after you were eliminated. If it was me, I almost feel like the first thing my parents would have said ‘we told you that you shouldn’t have done that, you should have stayed in school!’

M: Your parents would have told you that?!

MJ: Haha, yeah. We talked about this at the press day! I totally curious as to how yours reacted.

M: I am really proud of my parents, they didn’t do that at all. They said that they were proud of me. My mom is not really good with consoling. She feels for me but she doesn’t know how to comfort. That whole idea of patting someone’s back or rubbing someone’s hair while they cry, that’s kind of like a foreign concept to her. It’s not her fault. She loves me and she feels for me, she just doesn’t know how to express it. My dad was all over me and he was like “I’m so sorry” and “everything will be okay.” They haven’t put any stress on me or to go back to school. They are letting me have my chill time right now. I am sure we will talk about these things soon but they’re giving me a break right now which I really do appreciate.

MJ: What’s next for you?

M: I am going to keep doing this. We are going to start putting out originals. We don’t have enough to put the CD together but for people who subscribe to my website, and get the emails and stuff, they are going to get sneak peeks and have the exclusive rights to buying a small three song CD of originals and hopefully that will be enough for now. Then we’re just going to keep working until I can put my CD out and go about this in a typical artistry kind of way. I am going to be doing a lot of travelling between Atlanta, Dallas and LA in the next few months.

MJ: I have to tell you that as the world’s foremost reality television expert, I didn’t see it coming a mile away. I kept saying ‘what is Adam thinking? WHAT IS ADAM THINKING?!’

M: You didn’t see it coming?!

MJ: Not from a mile away. I thought it would be you and Tony for sure. So to console myself after your elimination, I have been working on my Mathai impression and it basically involves singing Adele songs with my hand on my hip in a very confident manner.

M: Hahahahahaha. I think you got it on point man. I feel like everyone keeps calling out my hand on the hip singing motion.

MJ: I wish we were doing this interview in person so I could show you because I think you’d crack up laughing!

M: (Laughs).

MJ: I am actually doing it right now as I do this interview.

M: I can’t wait to see it! Oh dear lord!

Mathai: “I’m Like a Bird”

Last Chance: Mathai’s “Cowboy Casanova”

The Voice airs Mondays at 8 p.m. and Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC and CTV.

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