After putting her career as a backup singer for the likes of John Legend and Christina Aguilera on hold to raise a family, Sasha Allen auditioned for The Voice in hope of making a comeback. After the blind auditions, she nabbed a spot on coach Adam Levine’s team, only to be cut during the battle rounds after losing to Amber Carrington. That’s when Shakira scooped her up with a steal – and Allen wound up keeping Team Shakira alive week after week, becoming a fan favorite before being eliminated from the competition earlier this week alongside Carrington – one week shy of the finals.
Allen called Rolling Stone from her native New York to talk about what it was like working with Shakira, how she managed not to cry when she was eliminated and who she thinks will win the whole shebang.
Were you shocked by your elimination or did you see it coming?
I kind of prepared myself every week to go home. I made sure I was ready and not going to make a scene on TV. [Laughs]
Yeah, it seems so stressful. How do you not cry or otherwise freak out during the results shows?
I cried when the eliminations first started happening. It felt very emotional. But then I brought myself back to reality. You know, nobody’s dying here, and we all have had an amazing opportunity to be seen by millions of people.
If you could do it over, would you have picked something other than Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” to perform this past week?
Well, I don’t even really know which song necessarily did me in. There’s so much music in the world that, yes, I’m sure I could have found a different song, but what I did on the show was a nice, beautiful ballad and then something fun and funky [with Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls”]. So I don’t think I would have picked something else.
What was it like working with Shakira?
She’s so smart and supportive, and her drive is hardcore serious. I think all those things are great examples for anybody when it comes to success – it doesn’t even need to be in the music industry. She’s constantly thinking about what to do next and how to look. All these things that are consuming her mind, it reminds me why she’s so successful.
Of all the songs you performed, which best exemplifies how you see yourself as an artist?
I think “Next to Me” [by Emeli Sandé], and how I approached it, is a good example because it’s soulful, it’s fun and it also has pop appeal. I think I want to do pop music, but more like soulful pop.
Is there an artist that you’d like to emulate career-wise?
As far as artists that are out right now, Bruno Mars has something really special going. He’s doing real songs with live music and it’s still fun and it’s of today, he’s not doing something retro. I would love to collaborate with him.
Who do you think will win now that you’re out?
Now that I’m scratched? [Laughs] I think Danielle [Bradbery]. She’s been going pretty strong the whole time, and I hear she does amazing on iTunes every week. Danielle is so much fun and so sweet, and I think she’d be a great country artist. We’d be able to grow up with her and see her develop into a woman, which would be amazing to watch.
Did you find it frustrating to compete against so many country acts?
I didn’t find it frustrating as much as I guess I didn’t realize how popular it is. I’m a New Yorker, born and raised, and I was like, “Really?” I guess I was living in a bubble – a bubble of, I guess, East Coast-West Coast. But the Midwest is filled with country superfans that will support an artist all the way.
Last week you performed Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” Did you feel pressured to do a country song to stay in the competition?
No, I just thought “Before He Cheats” is a good, fun, sassy song that tells a fun story and would be fun to perform. There were songs I had to stand still during because they’re such hard songs to sing, but then I could do fun songs where people saw some stage presence and a lighter side of me. I just wanted to make sure that before I left I had shown everything I could have possibly shown, and I think I did.
Did you wish you had stayed on Team Adam?
I mean, the initial feeling of moving was no fun – ’cause it means you lost. But after that, I think Shakira was the perfect fit. It’s what needed to happen for me to have gone this far. She was someone who I felt I could really talk to about everything from nail color to song selection. I enjoyed being able to talk to her about every little thing.
How much interaction did you actually have with her?
We had our on-camera rehearsals, and there was lots of emailing back and forth. Then, if we still hadn’t figured it out, I’d go to her trailer. Sometimes we wouldn’t need that much time together and sometimes we would, so it varied.
Did your kids watch the show?
My seven-year-old daughter did. My 18-month-old son didn’t really know what was happening. It’s kind of like he sees me in this box, the TV, and he doesn’t get why I’m in there. But for my daughter it was a lot of fun, and probably nerve-wracking for her, as well. Because, you know, nobody wants to see their mommy not do well.
How hard was it being away from your family versus how rewarding it was being on the show?
There are more rewards being on the show – well, I’m hoping that there are; I have no proof yet. But what I’m hoping for is more and better opportunities, and to really start my career. You know, I could have stayed home with my kids but I would not be setting an example for them, which is to follow your dreams and to show what hard work can get you. And I wouldn’t be better off. I would be at the same level that I was before. I always try to keep growing and do better so that my kids can live better – and so they’ll also see that growth doesn’t stop.
What have you learned from this experience?
That it takes a huge team to put a product together. So once my contract [with The Voice] is done, I’ll need to get my own team, my own village, because it really does take a village. There are so many people behind the scenes, just to make you look good when you step out on that stage. It was a good learning lesson. You really can’t do it by yourself. It’s impossible.