To many serious musicians, reality TV singing competitions — American Idol and all the variants trailing in its wake — don't rank highly.
And Miami's Karina Iglesias considered herself very much a serious artist, gigging around town since 2002 with as many as eight different bands, hustling both the covers and original circuits to support herself as a professional musician.
By night, she performed with as few as two and as many as 20 people backing her up, lighting up both clubs and corporate events with her bold, soulful voice.
By day, she composed her own material, bilingual fare that spanned from singer-songwriter ballads, to pop, to straight-up rock and roll.
By night again, she gladly reinterpreted other songs, enlivening the usual stale cover-band routine with serious vocal chops. Making a decent living in a field in which few could, the ever-positive Iglesias figured she would keep grinding, honing her craft and seeking new opportunities the old-fashioned way.
But then the fate of a fellow musician friend would eventually and indirectly change hers too, rather dramatically.
“A good friend of mine and colleague, Laura Vivas, was on season three of The Voice, and she's also a local artist from Palm Beach. She was telling me how amazing her experience was,” Iglesias recalls.
Though she had previously auditioned, if a little half-heartedly, for shows like Idol and The X-Factor, the premise of The Voice appealed to her. Would-be contestants sing for a panel of three celebrity judges, with the twist that said celebs sit with their back to the singers. That means they can't judge them based on appearance or perceived marketability, a la the infamous Simon Cowell of Idol.
On The Voice, if judges like what they hear, they spin their chairs around, and a singer can choose from among them to compete for the remainder of the season as part of his or her “team.” It all culminates in a series of live performances, with judges evaluating all of the competition, as well as thinning their own team's herd based in part on audience voting.
The difference, really, is that The Voice is seen as more of a break for real indie musicians, rather than as a prefab pop-group factory. Proof?
After submitting her YouTube videos for consideration, Iglesias landed in the current, fourth season of the show, on a team headed by Shakira. She lasted through 10 episodes, standing out for performances of Melissa Etheridge's “I'm the Only one” and Rod Stewart's “Forever Young” (with Rod the Mod) before Shakira somewhat unceremoniously eliminated her this past May 8.
Still, Iglesias, who is of Honduran descent, feels like she connected with Shakira on both a sort of Latin-cultural and genre-chameleon level.
“She never lost who she was, but if you go back to the beginning of her career, from her look to what she was writing, she's done so much,” says Iglesias. “She's done so many genres of music and has been successful, but she's still Shakira, and I like to put out records with a little bit of everything.”
Now, Iglesias is back in Miami — and, ever the optimist, says she's happy to be on home turf again. After all, she credits the city with helping her develop a full-time career and providing ample support, a claim you won't hear from many independent musicians in the area.
“There's a big network of musicians locally, and we all support each other and work with each other,” she says. “I think it just boils down to people in general. I attend the Unity Church in Miami, and going there and singing there in the choir when I was 25, that's a big key to why I decided to pursue this full-time. If you surround yourself with good people who support you and tell you how great you can be, then everything else falls into place.”
Since appearing on the show, Iglesias has returned to her roots on the local circuit as she plots her next move, assembling “Team Karina” and looking for the best representation in the wake of her TV hype.
That means fans can catch her performing soon, on Sunday, June 30, at Blue Jean Blues, a fairly unassuming but cozy venue in Fort Lauderdale. Soon, too, she'll head to Spain, to perform on a private music cruise promoted by a fan at her church.
“So, how many amazing things are happening? I'm still pinching myself, even though I wish I was still over there [on the show],” she says. “But I know something good will come out of this.”
Karina Iglesias and the Nu Thang, 8 p.m. Sunday, June 30 at Blue Jean Blues, 3320 NE 33rd St., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free, but table reservations are encouraged. Call 306-6330, or visit bluejeanblues.net
Check out Karina Iglesias online here on her official web site, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.