Did you catch the trio Sheer Element’s gorgeous rendition of Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” for their Blind Audition on the NBC competition “The Voice”? The group harmonizes seamlessly, and sole female singer Izzy Kaye has a deep Idaho connection.
Sheer Element singer Jej Vinson came to love coach Kelly Clarkson when he competed as a solo artist in “The Voice” season 16, where he met and worked with Clarkson. The trio includes Sandpoint, Idaho native Kaye and Tabon Ward, who became friends at USC in Southern California.
The Sandpoint native spoke with the Idaho Press about her experience and why she wonders how they would have done with Chance the Rapper or Niall Horan becoming their “Voice” coach. The Voice coach-mentors Blake Shelton, Clarkson, Horan and Chance the Rapper saw the talent in this group and how they used their voices to project a wall of sound like five or six vocalists and not three people singing at once. But her Sheer Element peer Vinson is 100% Team Clarkson, who turned her red chair at the last second to ask them to pick her to mentor. Jej’s enthusiasm and Clarkson’s overwhelming support of them, combined with her stressing that song selection for Sheer Element was critical, sold Kaye on the former American Idol. In 2002, Clarkson went through a similar process in front of live studio audiences, winning a contract with RCA.
Their road to the stage began with a bit of a lark effort; they recorded themselves and put it out there in the world online. The three made a video of Ariana Grande’s “Only 1,” which went viral, and the group was off to the races with over 733,000 streams of their songs in 2022, making a name for themselves until this season 23 when the whole world would see how incredibly gifted they were. As a result, Sheer Element’s TikTok account has raked in over 1.3 million likes. Their “How Deep Is Your Love” cover has over 1 million views.
Kaye and Sheer Element may sweep “The Voice” for NBC. Team Kelly’s trio is a soulful and harmonious threesome that makes an impression.
The Idaho Press spoke exclusively to Kaye ahead of all this exciting competition ahead of her group, Sheer Element.
When did you know you had this big voice that was so on point?
Izzy Kaye: My parents always say that I started singing before I could talk. I would be a little toddler in the grocery store and sing throughout the store. I always sang, but I only realized that I had a talent and that it was what I wanted to do once I was in middle school.
I joined a Christian rock band, and I started as a background singer in the band. Our lead singer quit, and I took her place, and that was when I realized that I loved performing and could do it.
Did you have a particular teacher or mentor that said, Hey, listen, you’re destined for bigger stages than Idaho?
Izzy Kaye: So I went to USC because my mom went there, and they have an excellent music program. So I was excited to get an education there. But I had supportive teachers in high school. My choir teacher, Mr. Brownell, was always supportive in telling me that I would go places.
And then my drama teacher, Mrs. Hunter, was supportive, and they helped me get out of my shell because I had stage fright in middle school when I started performing.
The first musical I ever did was in my first year of high school. And it was all still very new to me because I started to sing seriously in middle school. So they helped me get out of my shell and believed in me from the first when I first got to high school.
You’re the third famous person out of Sandpoint I have interviewed recently. What’s the coolest thing about your city? Is it a little creative hot spot?
Izzy Kaye: There are a lot of cool things about Sandpoint. It has a lovely creative community there. But I don’t know, and it’s just a cool town, about 10,000 people, but that might have changed.
We have a ski resort, a lake, and a farmers market during the summer, and I just really enjoyed growing up there because it’s a little town, but there’s so much to do, and yet there’s such a big community there.
Tell me about your Sheer Element peer Jej. He was on “The Voice” before. He was team Kelly from the outset. Were you friends with him before or after he had been on “The Voice”?
Izzy Kaye: Fun fact, I was actually at his audition, me and Tabon, the other guy in our group. We were with his friends and family—we were already best friends with Jej then.
And we were backstage watching him audition, so we have been friends since about 2016. So we’ve all been close for a while, and we started the group two years after Jej was on “The Voice.”
When you decided to submit as a group, did you send them a video of yourselves together, or what was that process like?
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Izzy Kaye: Yes, we sent a video of us singing a few songs we already had. Luckily we already had released some songs, so we just sent them a few of our favorite ones to sing. Then we had online interviews talking about our story and giving them an idea of who we are. So that was how the process went.
When NBC and The Voice producers accepted you, what happened on that exciting day?
Izzy Kaye: I wasn’t with Jej and Tabon. I was actually in New York visiting a friend, and I got a call that we were going to blind auditions, and I was freaking out. It was crazy.
If I remember correctly, they called like all three of us on the same call. So we were all talking together on the phone. But, yes, it was incredible. And then I had to go out to my friend’s family and pretend that nothing had happened because I had to keep it a secret.
That had to be difficult. So you guys all picked Kelly Clarkson to be your coach mentor. Why Kelly?
Izzy Kaye: Yes, that was a tough decision. And I mean, there are still parts of me that think, ‘oh, what would’ve been like to work with Chance or Niall?’ But ultimately, we chose Kelly partly because Jej had already worked with her, and he had such a great experience with her. We were like, we know that Jej loves Kelly so much, so it would be fantastic to work with her.
And then one thing that stuck out to me and was kind of the deciding factor for me, and I think part of the deciding factor for the other two boys, was when she said that song selection is going be something that she cares about, and something that she’s going to prioritize with us. So Jej has a history with her, but she also talks about how song selection is essential for us because we like to stay true to our genre.
You do a lot of R&B covers with beautiful harmonies. Do you also write your original songs?
Izzy Kaye: So I have some original music under my name. Then we are working on original music and plan on releasing it later this year, which I’m excited about. So we have yet to get it out, but it’s coming.
Who are some vocalists that speak to you and your group that you admire?
Izzy Kaye: Everyone from Sandpoint would know that Ariana Grande was my huge inspiration growing up. I was such a huge Ariana Grande fan I dyed my hair red to look like her in high school. People from my hometown would laugh at that.
Growing up, she was my inspiration when I was learning how to sing and how I wanted my voice to sound. And then we, as a group, the Bee Gees were a big inspiration. Boyz II Men is a huge inspiration for us. Destiny’s Child, there are so many incredible groups out there.
Is there a genre of music you tend to avoid?
Izzy Kaye: The two genres that we likely would never do are country and hard rock. But some of the music we like to sing has elements of that. There are folk-country songs we want to sing, and then there is some pop-rock that we like.
You all did the legwork and broke yourself in the music world. Then, as a result, you created Sheer Element’s fame. But, of course, it was different back then; record company A&R people did all that work.
Izzy Kaye: It helps to have three people there (in the group). It helps to have people even though we’re doing all the artist part too. It helps to have people to help decide what our look is and what kind of vibe we want as a group.
And we’re all there to share our input. So, I don’t know. We all have similar tastes in music, and we all have similar styles, so it came naturally.
But it was a lot of work. I work a full-time job right now in technology, so my schedule is an entire workday; then I go over to Tabon’s apartment, and we film a video, and then I go home at 11 p.m., and it’s the same thing the next day.
So it’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m so happy to have that opportunity.
And after the last week of blind auditions, Kelly will choose us to battle another person on our team. So you’ll see who we battle, what song it is, and what happens afterward.
Season 23 of The Voice launches on Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. New episodes will stream on Peacock the next day.