Unwinding after The Voice, the York-based chanteuse foresees a busy future. First up – a return to the Pullo Center in York on Friday.
DaNica Shirey is exhausted. After nearly a year of constant rehearsals and live performances on NBC’s The Voice, she’s finally home. And she doesn’t want to get out of bed.
“I didn’t realize how crazy my schedule had been or how hard I’d been working until it all just stopped,” Shirey says. “I feel like I’m going through some sort of detox.”
She no longer squeezes in 10-minute interviews between voice lessons, iTunes recordings and sound checks. Instead, she lets out a few relaxing sighs before fondly recalling her time on the show and looking excitedly toward her future.
The 25-year-old York County native is giving herself an extra-long winter break. She kept her Christmas tree up a little later. She spent cozy, snow-filled afternoons playing with her 4-year-old daughter, Aslynn. She struggled with the idea of getting out of bed some mornings because it was just too comfy.
The soulful singer, best known on the show for her performances of Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me,” Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” and Radiohead’s “Creep,” isn’t ready for people to forget her.
She made it through to the Top 8 of Season Seven before being eliminated from The Voice. The crushing blow of that loss was tough for Shirey to take, but she’s not one to wallow in what might have been.
As a member of Pharrell Williams’ team, Shirey left the show with a promise from him that he would guide her into a bright future.
At home, she’s still waiting to see if he’ll follow through.
“I finally had the chance to show people that this is who I am and this is what I can do,” Shirey says of her time on the show. “I don’t want to stop now. That’s not an option for me.”
Her father, Joseph, first introduced Shirey to the power of music. He bought her a karaoke machine, and together the two would belt out their favorite songs. He was the first to notice his daughter’s talent. Even as a kid, he drove her to local venues where she would participate in singing competitions.
At age 12, Shirey met Holly Gumke and her husband, Dale, while their son was playing in local band As 1. The couple worked as her managers, even recording her first songs in their home studio.
“We have known for so long how talented she is,” Gumke says. “We would watch her sing on a street corner at a festival and always thought, ‘Someone has got to recognize this talent.’”
Shirey’s journey to The Voice was scattered with rejections and failed attempts to get beyond the initial audition and in front of the judges. After auditioning for three seasons of American Idol and two seasons of The Voice, Shirey wasn’t sure she would try again.
When her father died of cancer nearly three years ago, she almost lost her spark. He wasn’t there to push her and to tell her to keep going. When Shirey auditioned a third time for The Voice, she did it with her father in mind. She thinks he’d be proud.
“It’s not over for me. In a lot of ways, it’s the chance to start again.”
– DaNica Shirey
The Gumkes found out pretty early on that Shirey had made it onto the live shows, but they were sworn to secrecy. Holly Gumke, a special assistant at the Commonwealth Campus for Penn State University, had been in touch with producers at The Voice long before Shirey’s first performance at Penn State York’s Pullo Center back in December. When they got the OK that Shirey could perform, the tickets started selling out.
“We had 1,016 seats in that theater, and not one was empty,” Gumke says. “We had DaNica brought in on a fire truck and interviewed before the masses. But she was so gracious. She stayed and signed autographs for every single person that was there.”
There have been many others who helped Shirey in her career – something that became obvious to the young star when she was working on The Voice.
Whether it was Pharrell Williams encouraging her or countless others backstage who helped Shirey with song selection, makeup and vocals, Shirey always felt the love.
“You realize people aren’t just doing it because they want to be rich or famous,” she says. “There are people who just love music so much that they want to be part of it in any form they can be. I think that’s really beautiful.”
Even after Shirey returned from filming in California, she wasn’t ready to let go of the friendships that developed on the show. She spent Christmas day – less than a week after seeing everyone – sending well wishes and love to her former competitors.
“We kept each other sane on that show,” she says. “It seems like such a long process when you’re going through it, but then it’s done. It’s over before you realize it, and you don’t want it to end. But you also want to see where the experience takes you.”
Shirey is waiting to see what comes from her time on The Voice. She hopes to get called out for the yearly tour that features former competitors. She hopes the exposure was just the start of her career.
Until then, she’s preparing to take the stage for her local fans – the people who voted for her time and again and wanted to see her succeed. She’ll sing for them again at the Pullo Center with Columbia-based band Shrimpboat, for a full concert performance on Friday.
This time around, she’s bringing a new set of her favorite covers to the hometown fans that are hungry for more. Instead of a sample, they’ll see everything Shirey has to offer.
“It’s not over for me,” Shirey says. “In a lot of ways, it was the chance to start again.”
DaNica Shirey plays the Pullo Center (1031 Edgecomb Ave., York) on Friday, February 6. Shrimpboat opens. 7:30pm. $40/$28. Click here for tickets.