Arts & Culture

Iowa native puts hometown of Salem on the map with 'The Voice'

Cali Wilson lands spot on Team Blake

Cali Wilson Facebook page

Cali Wilson, 28, of Salem, was featured on NBC’s “The Voice” this week. She will advance in the competition under the tutelage of country singing star Blake Shelton, one of three celebrities who liked her voice well enough to offer to coach her.
Cali Wilson Facebook page Cali Wilson, 28, of Salem, was featured on NBC’s “The Voice” this week. She will advance in the competition under the tutelage of country singing star Blake Shelton, one of three celebrities who liked her voice well enough to offer to coach her.

Dreams are for coming true for Salem native Cali Wilson.

The 28-year-old was featured on NBC’s “The Voice” on Monday night singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and earning a “chair turn” from three of the four judges.

“The Voice” is a singing competition where the contestant sings for four celebrity judges — Blake Shelton, John Legend, Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson — whose chairs face away from the stage. If the judges hear a voice they like, they press a button to turn around their chair, adding the singer to their team.

“When I saw those names light up and they turned their chairs and I saw their faces, it was a surreal experience,” Wilson said.

The best part of the experience was looking over at her mom and girlfriend celebrating for her offstage, she said.

“That was a moment I’ll never, ever forget. It was incredible,” she said.

When she went on the show, Wilson had hoped to join Blake Shelton’s team, but when he, as well as John Legend and Gwen Stefani, all turned their chairs, the decision on which team to choose was suddenly more difficult.

When Shelton began talking about her hometown, and that he had been there a few times, Wilson recalled seeing him at the gas station. They bonded immediately, which helped her decide on having him coach her through the remaining competitions.

“I went with my gut at the end, and I don’t regret it at all,” she said.

To appear on the show, Wilson first sang for a pre-audition and was given the green light for the blind audition.

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Wilson said she was quite scared before her blind audition. But when she saw how nervous her mother and girlfriend were, it helped settle her and give her confidence.

“Right before I went through the doors to walk onto the stage, I was oddly calm. I felt a wave of relief that I got to that point,” she said. “I just knew that something good was going to happen when I was on that stage.”

The nerves quickly turned to adrenaline when the music started and she began to sing “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. The song was originally written by Stevie Nicks, who Wilson calls her “musical hero.”

Once Wilson was on stage, she said her body went on autopilot. She channeled her energy and passion into her music, hoping to see a chair turn.

Being on “The Voice,” she said in an interview, was never something she aspired to, though being a singer has been her lifelong dream.

“I’ve been singing since I could talk,” she said.

She took inspiration from her mother, a singer, and fell in love with the idea of being able to tell a story through music.

Growing up in Salem — a Henry County community of 400 in southeast Iowa — she performed in local talent shows and eventually solo shows where she worked on her stage fright. Leaning to play a guitar helped her though that.

After school, Wilson moved to Nashville, where a friend mentored her and helped her. And that led to “The Voice.”

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Wilson said she is thankful for her small-town roots and also thankful for the opportunity to try something new.

“I tell everybody it seems like a dream because it felt like one,” she said. “It was something that dreams were made of, being on that stage.”

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