tuned in, turned up

Austin native Suzanna Choffel lends her sound to The Voice

Austin native Suzanna Choffel lends her sound to The Voice

Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_1
Suzanna Choffel Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_2
Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_4
Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_3
Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_2
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_4
Austin Photo Set: News_Meredith_Suzanna Choffel_oct 2012_3

Reality TV talent shows serve as launching pads for many successful careers. Austin native Suzanna Choffel hopes being a contestant on The Voice this season will help expand her fan base across the country and give her more freedom to travel regularly as a full-time musician.

“I have one big goal…Just being able to constantly sustain and support myself to where I can just keep doing what I love which is writing, performing and recording,” Choffel says.  

Choffel, born and raised in Austin Texas, wrote her first songs on a Casio keyboard as a child and developed a passion for guitar as a teen. She attended music school in Sante Fe for a few years, studying audio production, music performance and composition. When she returned to Austin, she recorded her first album, taught at the Austin School of Music and spent years building a following while performing at live music venues including Antone's and the Saxon Pub.  

“I'm so fortunate to have grown up [in Austin] because I was able to see that you can make a living and do what you love playing live, and you don't have to be some famous crazy pop star.”  

 “I'm so fortunate to have grown up [in Austin] because I was able to see that you can make a living and do what you love playing live, and you don't have to be some famous crazy pop star.”  

She's appeared on ME Television and performed on the Blues on the Green and Austin City Limits Music Festival stages. In 2009, Choffel, who describes her music as indie/soul/pop, won the Austin Music Award for Best Indie Performing Band.

Last year, she decided to move to New York to try to expand her reach as an artist.  Choffel stays busy, regularly performing her original material in New York City clubs.  During the day, she supplements her income by teaching voice and guitar.

She explains when she was first approached about auditioning for The Voice, she wasn’t sure appearing on a reality singing show was for her.  “I’m not a cover artist. I’m a songwriter and I wasn’t sure how I felt about digging into that world.”

But after learning more about the show, she decided to give it a shot. “I really liked the concept and so I did some digging around and thought what do I have to lose?”

Choffel started the audition process during SXSW last March and had two chairs turn for her during the blind auditions in L.A. (taped in June), landing her a spot on Team Blake with country music star Blake Shelton as her coach.  

“I knew from watching the show that I really liked his whole vibe, his personality, and he seemed like a very down to earth guy. I like that he’s married to a real firecracker female songwriter, Miranda Lambert. I thought that kind of makes him special. He obviously has a respect for female musicians.”  

 “It's pretty cool. You know you take everything they say with a lot of respect because you know they've been through a lot in the industry.”

Choffel says she’s learned a lot from Shelton and is trying to absorb all of the coaches' comments and advice during this unique opportunity.  

“It's pretty cool. You know you take everything they say with a lot of respect because you know they've been through a lot in the industry.”

On last week's Battle Round, she went toe to toe with Lelia Broussard, singing Florence and the Machine's “Dog Days are Over.” With her raspy tone and commanding performance, Choffel emerged victorious and will have to survive another round of cuts to make it to the live shows, where America starts to shape the competition with their votes. In a show recap, Rolling Stone described Choffel’s performance, stating, “...her dulcet, honeyed voice has a quiet control to it that many of the younger singers this season do not. All the judges are taken with her. Choffel is the understated dominator.”  

Choffel is thankful for the high praise and says the show, with its bright lights and viewing audience of millions, has already helped her hone her performance skills.

“I feel like its made me work really hard at taking my performance into account and how I might be perceived…It's easy to get into your head when you're performing in a normal show - you can kind of do that a little bit....but TV is a whole other thing and you really need to put yourself out there on the stage.  I think if anything it's taught me how to perform better."

 “Teaching I love, but if I could basically become full-time to where I'm not having to teach anymore to make ends meet, I would love that…it's something special but I'd love to just do the musician thing.”

She says her participation on The Voice is steadily increasing her fan base, as evidenced by her jump in Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

“It's pretty awesome, all the new fans coming in. What I'm hoping to gain is some great exposure. If I win, obviously that's amazing. But I'm just kind of going into it with just giving my all and whatever happens, happens.”

Choffel says she ultimately wants to hang up her teaching hat and to be able to support herself as a full-time recording and touring artist.  

“Teaching I love, but if I could basically become full-time to where I'm not having to teach anymore to make ends meet, I would love that…it's something special but I'd love to just do the musician thing.”

Choffel is hoping a music tour in Europe is in her near future. She’s also making plans to come back home in December for a visit.

“I'm looking forward to getting back that way and getting back to the Austin fans.”  

Until then, you can follow Suzanna Choffel’s journey on The Voice Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC.

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Choffel isn't the first artist from Austin to garner attention on The Voice. Blues singer Nakia made it to the semifinals in Season 1. He spoke to CultureMap in July about his reality TV experience and his budding music career.