Shoreham teen Carter Rubin, who earned a place on pop star Gwen Stefani's team on the NBC singing competition "The Voice" Monday night, recalls that what he felt most after performing for her and her three fellow coaches wasn't joy or pride or a sense of accomplishment, but rather something else.
"Honestly, I was just so relieved," says Rubin, who turned 15 this month after performing over the summer for Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and Blake Shelton. The audition, he tells Newsday, "was very intimidating, because you're all alone on that stage and there's no audience this season, just a virtual audience," due to the COVID-19 pandemic, "and the backs of four chairs that you're performing to," referring to how the stars begin each blind audition facing away from the singer, and turn their chairs around to guarantee the contestant a spot on the show.
"You're just waiting and hoping that the chairs will turn," says Rubin, a sophomore at Shoreham-Wading River High School. In his case, first Legend and then Stefani did so. And though Legend supportively critiqued Rubin's performance of Lewis Capaldi's moving ballad "Before You Go," the teen chose Stefani, a mother of three who had stressed her nurturing qualities.
"It was a really tough decision," says Rubin, who had auditioned unsuccessfully for "America's Got Talent" at age "11 or 12," he says. "I chose Gwen because she talked about being a motherly figure and wanting to help me with my stage presence, my style, all the things I really want to work on as a performer. And she just seems so sweet and so genuine and she really just kind of drew me to her."
Rubin has sung publicly since age 7 and comes from a musical family. His older brother, Jack, and their father David, who works in corporate sales, both play drums. His mother Alonna's father, Ric Mango, for years fronted the nine-piece Ric Mango Orchestra, and he was briefly an unofficial member of the '60s group Jay and the Americans ("This Magic Moment").
"He was a temporary replacement," Rubin explains. "Someone had to leave and he performed with them for awhile. And he's still good friends with [frontman] Jay Black." His grandfather, Rubin says, "has been helping me sing since I was a little boy. He’s been truly my inspiration. I could not have done any of this without him."
"We're just so proud of him," Alonna Rubin, 46, founder and president of the autism advocacy nonprofit group Families in Arms, says of her son. "His talent is what everyone sees, but what I loved about his audition," and the mature feeling he instilled in Capaldi's poignant song about a loved one's suicide, "was that little insight into his good heart."