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Alumna Finds Fame With NBC's 'The Voice'

University of New Haven alumna Kristen Merlin '07

Incredible Run on 'The Voice' Puts Merlin on the Map

Updated May 14, 2014 by Katie Deslandes '15 M.S., Communications and Public Affairs Graduate Assistant

Alumna Kristen Merlin's meteoric rise as contestant on NBC’s The Voice – as lauded weekly by the superstar coaches – was no surprise to Michael Kaloyanides, one of Merlin's former instructors at UNH.

"She was totally committed to doing her best, and as a result she was always at the top of her class," he remembered. "That same commitment and passion was evident in her outstanding performances throughout The Voice competitions. Everyone in the Department of Music is so proud of her, and we not surprised by her success."

Merlin's incredible run as a contestant on The Voice ended on Tuesday night in the semifinal round.

Despite the disappointing outcome, she is excited for the next chapter of her blossoming music career. "Beyond thankful for everyone's support throughout this whole journey on The Voice!" she wrote on her official Facebook page on Wednesday morning. "For me, this is a start to a new beginning! Let's keep going strong and see what's next."

What's next could be a spot on the 2014 Voice Tour that will take place this summer. The artists on the tour will be selected through fan voting. Individuals can vote once a day through Monday, May 19, at 1 a.m.

Merlin certainly went out with a bang, as her performance on Monday night of "Foolish Games" by Jewel reached number two on the iTunes country music chart and number five on the general charts.

"That is the most connected I've ever seen you with a lyric," said country music star and The Voice coach Blake Shelton. "You dumped your heart and soul into that performance, which was truly moving."

"I think that you absolutely rocked the stage, you're a rock star," said Grammy Award-winning artist Shakira, Merlin's coach. "You've come so far, and I'm so proud of you. You represent all the minorities out there as well as everyone who doesn't believe they can make it as far as you have, and you just proved that you’re an amazing artist who is so unique and hardworking."

Her first performance on Monday night was a rendition of "Gunpowder and Lead" by Miranda Lambert, which she dedicated to her fans back home in Hanson, MA.

During Tuesday's results show, Merlin found herself among three contestants competing for the last spot in the finals via the "Voice Instant Save". She performed “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood, hoping to be selected by viewer votes to continue on.

Despite the final result of the voting, which saw another competitor through to the finals, Merlin was universally praised for her performance.

"It's been amazing to see what's happened between you and Shakira as artist and coach," said Shelton. "It's been magical."

Kristen Merlin '07 Advances to Semifinals, Top 5 on NBC's 'The Voice'

Updated May 7, 2014

One of Kristen Merlin's favorite songs to perform during her shows is "I Drive Your Truck," a selection by Lee Brice that she describes as a "tug-at-your-heartstrings" kind of song that explores how an individual copes with the loss of a loved one killed in combat.

After a recent performance, two gentleman grieving the loss of a young soldier approached Merlin to thank her for singing the song.

"I usually thank them for their service, and it just reminded me of why I do this," she said. "My dad was in the Army, and I have a tremendous respect for the men and women who serve. This is such an important story to tell."

She had an even bigger platform on Monday, performing the song live on NBC's The Voice. Hanging in the balance was a shot to move forward to the competition and continue her quest to win the top prize of a recording contract. Just like in weeks past, she embraced the opportunity.

"I'm so moved," said global superstar Shakira, who serves as Merlin’s coach. "This was so beautiful. I know how much this song meant to you, and I know that you really wanted to give your all, and you did. You were unbelievable."

"From the blind auditions to right now, you have made a believer out of me and probably all of us on this panel," said Blake Shelton, a country music artist and a judge on The Voice. "You just keep getting better and better every week."

"I'm obviously not an authority on country, but when it's good it's good," added Usher, a Grammy Award-winning artist and The Voice coach. "Wherever you are headed in that truck you are headed on the right track."

The following night, she was selected as one of the final five contestants to move on to the semifinals that will take place on Monday night. Voting, which will again be based on texts, tweets, phone calls, votes cast online and the number of downloads on iTunes of each performance, will open at the conclusion of the show and continue until noon the following day. UNH will host a viewing party on Monday that will begin at 8 p.m. in the café in Bartels Hall.

"All the work that we put in together would all be worth it," Shakira said on Tuesday night's results show minutes before it was revealed that Merlin had moved on. "And it would mean we would have to work so much harder next week. She was great last night. It was a sad song, a song about morning and losing somebody, and it meant a lot to her. And I thing she delivered a really sentimental performance. I have faith that America will keep her with us because she's so great."

Kristen Merlin '07 Advances to the Top 8 on NBC's 'The Voice'

Updated May 1, 2014, by Katie Deslandes '15 M.S., Communications and Public Affairs Graduate Assistant

Throughout her incredible run on NBC’s The Voice, Kristen Merlin has exclusively performed songs by country music artists. This week, she stepped out of her comfort zone a bit to sing "Let Her Go," a trendy indy-pop song by Passenger.

The genre was different, but the performance was just as impressive. She is now among the final eight contestants on NBC's The Voice who are competing for the top prize of a recording contract.

"I was almost afraid that the microphone would go out on you again this time, but I’m so happy that it didn't," said Maroon 5 lead singer and The Voice judge Adam Levine, alluding to the technical malfunction that happened last week. "You showed amazing courage under pressure tonight. It’s always the same for you, a great performance, and you did another great performance tonight."

A night after her performance, she was the third of eight contestants selected to advance to the next round of live performances, which will take place on Monday. Voting was based on texts, tweets, phone calls, votes cast online and the number of downloads on iTunes of her performance. Her rendition of “Let Her Go” made it to number two in the iTunes country music chart and number 16 on the general charts.

The next live performance round will take place on Monday night. Voting – using the same format – will open at the conclusion of the show and continue until noon the following day. UNH will host a viewing party on Monday that will begin at 8 p.m. in the Programming Space in Bartels Hall.

Merlin is the last team member left from Grammy Award-winning artist Shakira's team going into next week’s live performances.

"I loved what I just saw and heard, you've grown so much in such a little amount of time," said Shakira. "You’re peeling off your layers and showing us the real you. I am so proud of you and everything you have accomplished."

"Even though 'Let Her Go' is not a country song, it is my favorite performance from you thus far," offered country music star and The Voice judge Blake Shelton. "Each day you seem you’re becoming more and more comfortable on stage."

The day after the performance, Merlin wrote on her official Facebook page, "Thank you for all the support" and "Thank you for keeping me alive."

Kristen Merlin '07 Advances to Top 10 on NBC's 'The Voice'

Updated April 23, 2014

Kristen Merlin '07 was nearing the completion of her first live performance on NBC’s The Voice on Monday when she encountered some technical difficulties. She was singing her heart out, performing Sugarland’s "Stay," but her microphone died with about 22 seconds left in her two-minute performance.

Undeterred, she kept singing. The audience watching on TV couldn't hear the end of the song, but the studio audience and the four recording artists serving as judges could – and they responded by giving her a standing ovation.

"You had to overcome something bigger and scarier than anyone in your position would have to face, and you handled it so gracefully, it was as if nothing happened," said Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5 and one of four judges on the sixth season of The Voice. "Well done. I would have been in a puddle of my own nerves. I might have run off stage. That was really inspiring to see you be cool. Ice water in your veins. I loved that. It was fantastic."

One night later, she was the third of 10 contestants selected to advance to the next round of live performances, which will take place next week. Voting was based on texts, tweets, phone calls, votes cast online and the number of downloads on iTunes of her performance.

Her rendition of "Stay" made it to number four in the iTunes country music chart, and she was the only contestant on The Voice to earn a spot in the iTunes top 10.

The next live performance round will take place on Monday night. Voting – using the same format – will open at the conclusion of the show.

The day after the performance, Merlin was a guest on the Today Show. She recalled that when her mic went out, she "just wanted to run off and cry in a corner." But the audience was none the wiser to her nerves, and she kept singing until host Carson Daly gave her his mic – just in time for the last word of the song.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance," she said on the Today Show. "For me, rocking a show, I don't think I'd ever really stop. I'm always in life just always going, always trying, never giving up, and I think that kind of just proved it."

Shakira, the Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter who is serving as Merlin’s coach for the competition, predicted even before she stepped on stage for her first live performance that Merlin’s talents would resonate with the audience. "I think America is going to love Kristen when they discover the nuances and the many subtleties that her voice has," she said.

By all accounts, Merlin’s performance was off the charts.

"Your performance was so heartfelt and so moving," said Shakira. "I was just lost in this moment, and I think the audience was too. We were just memorized by what you were delivering. I am so proud of you. You have grown so much since we started working together. You should be so proud of everything you have accomplished here. You are unbelievable."

"I loved it," added Usher. "Great."

"You keep getting better and better every time you step out here," offered Blake Shelton.

"She suffered – but soared through – a microphone outage during her performance," wrote the Hollywood Reporter in its recap of the show.

Merlin took to Facebook to thank her fans after learning she earned a spot in the top 10. "Thank you all for believing in me and voting!!!!"

Kristen Merlin '07 Advances to Final 12, Live Shows on NBC's 'The Voice'

Updated April 15, 2014

Alumna Kristen Merlin’s remarkable performance on NBC's "The Voice" continued on Monday as she was one of three artists chosen to represent Team Shakira in the show's live performance phase, which begins next week. Merlin is one of 12 contestants competing for the top prize of a recording contract. The winner will be chosen by audience voting.

Merlin's performance of Carrie Underwood’s "Two Black Cadillacs" received rave reviews.

"You are at the top of your game right now," said Adam Levine, the lead singer of Maroon 5. "This is the real deal. Definitely your best and one of the best I've seen this season."

Country music artist Blake Shelton lamented the fact that he did not pick Merlin to be on his team earlier in the competition.

"That was my favorite performance of yours so far," he said. "You clearly deserve to be here. It is really good."

"You are one of the strongest voices in the entire competition," added Grammy Award-winning judge Usher.

Before selecting Merlin as the second of her three team members to compete on the live shows, Shakira described Merlin as "someone who has been so receptive and has grown so much. What this artist did here tonight was remarkable.

"Kristen just killed it out there," Shakira continued. "You've made me so happy. You were so in control. The way you work the stage, you were dead on."

Alumna Kristen Merlin Among Final 20 Contestants on NBC's 'The Voice'

Updated April 2, 2014

Kristen Merlin '07 delivered another impressive performance on NBC's The Voice, and she is now among the final 20 contestants on the show competing for the top prize.

She teamed up with Emily B. to perform "I Can Love You Better" by the Dixie Chicks as part of "The Battles Round 2." Merlin was chosen the winner by her coach, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Shakira.

"Super pumped that I’m moving on to the playoffs!!!," Merlin wrote on her Facebook page after the performance. Her rendition of "I Can Love You Better" is up to number 112 on the iTunes Country Charts.

The final 20 contestants will participate in the playoffs, the live performance phase of the competition, which will begin next week.

In the playoffs, the television audience votes to save its favorite artists, and the two singers with the lowest number of votes will be sent home each week. In the end, one will be named "The Voice" and will receive the grand prize of a recording contract.

Kristen Advances After Battle Round

Updated March 26, 2014

Alumna Kristen Merlin's impressive performance on NBC's The Voice continued this week as she advanced to the next round of the competition. She sang "Turn on the Radio" by Reba McEntire with fellow contestant Lindsay Bruce.

Less than 24 hours after her performance, Merlin’s rendition of the song had risen to number 78 on the iTunes Country Charts after premiering at number 102. Her selection was ahead of songs by such notable artists as Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood.

Merlin, a 2007 UNH graduate, is one of 32 participants remaining on The Voice. The second “battle round” begins next week.

"Thank you for all the support!!!," she wrote on Facebook. "Can't wait for the next round!!! #MerlinNation you are incredible, and you're keeping me smiling!"

A licensed EMT, Merlin said in a recent Boston Globe story that although she once wondered whether she was chasing a pipe dream, she is living her dream right now. Being on "The Voice," even if she doesn’t make it any further on the show, is a "great platform to jump off. The national TV recognition just may give me that one-up," she said, to keep her dream going.

Original Story

This story was originally posted in February, 2014

About 10 years ago, Kristen Merlin '07 enrolled in UNH's music and sound recording program expecting to focus on the production side of the industry. But before long, she "found herself on the other side of the glass, pouring her heart and soul out through the microphone," according to the bio on her official website.

Performances at monthly Beanhouse events, open mic nights sponsored by UNH's Student Committee of Programming Events (SCOPE), provided a springboard for her blossoming music career.

According to her bio, "It was there that Kristen let loose and performed her original music. Each time she took the stage, she captivated her audience. It was then that she realized how badly she wanted to make this her career."

She stepped onto the national stage earlier this week when she appeared on the sixth season of The Voice, singing "Something More" by Grammy Award-winning country music duo Sugarland.

"I had a blast up on that stage!" she wrote on her Facebook page shortly after her breakout performance.

The reviews have been off the charts. "Kristen was amazing," wrote one commenter on Facebook. "I'm not a country music fan, but I was definitely dancing in my seat! AWESOME!"

After a "bidding war" between The Voice coaches Adam Levine and Shakira, Merlin chose to work with Shakira to prepare for the second round of the four-round competition. The winner will receive $100,000 and a record deal with the Universal Music Group.

"This is just the beginning of my journey of making my dream come true," wrote Merlin on her Facebook page.

Merlin was first discovered at an open mic night shortly after graduating from UNH. By 2009, Boston Nightlife Awards named her the South Shore’s "Best Acoustic Solo Act."

In 2010, Merlin was among the top 100 out of 7,000 auditioning to be on American Idol. In 2011, she sang the national anthem at Fenway Park, and in 2012, for the second year in a row, she was in the top 150 out of 8,000 competing for a spot on The Voice. In 2012, she won a competition to sing with multi-platinum recording artists Sugarland in Las Vegas.

A Hanson, Mass., native, she is recording her first album with Barefoot Productions and 37’ Productions.

While it may be hard to believe after watching her perform on national television, Merlin was more reserved as a student at UNH, remembers Michael G. Kaloyanides, chair of the music department. But from the beginning, her talent was clear.

"Kristen was a very serious, dedicated and hard-working student," he said. "I know all the faculty loved having her as a student in their classes."

You can follow Kristen's journey on The Voice every Monday and Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC or catch up on past episodes and performances on