RANDOLPH, N.J. - Everyone loves the underdog; The quiet, humble, hard-working kid who makes it big.
For Randolph’s Brendan Fletcher, the foggy, windy road he has been traveling has suddenly opened up like an empty 3-lane highway on a clear. sunny day.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be where I am today,” said Fletcher.
Where Fletcher is today is soaking in a sudden burst of attention as one of the more popular candidates on the hit TV show “The Voice”. After early auditions earned him a spot on the recorded shows, Fletcher impressed all four music superstar judges and ultimately chose to join Adam Levine from Maroon 5 to be his coach.
“I never really knew what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’,” said Fletcher. “I kind of wandered around a lot in life, I’ve lived in Boston, Brooklyn, Charleston, and now I’m back in Brooklyn, searching for something. Once my journey on ‘The Voice’ began, I knew for the first time in a long time, that I was on track to something great.”
Fletcher has been nothing short of great on the show so far, earning glowing compliments from the judges, including Alicia Keys, Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus, and of course Levine. All have praised the depth and uniqueness of his raspy, soulful voice.
After advancing further in the show by winning his ‘battle round’, Fletcher will appear on another taped episode Monday, Oct. 31. If he advances again, he moves on to the live shows, and the voting from there is up to the TV viewers. That stage will certainly will be a long ways away from Fletchers' days singing Edelweiss as Captain Vonn Trapp in the Randolph High School musical The Sound of Music.
Influenced early on by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix, Fletcher decided he loved to sing around age 14.
As he grew older, he started listening to more soul and blues music from artists such as Percy Sledge, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Joe Cocker, along with songwriters like Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Bob Dylan.
Fletcher called Randolph a very unique place to grow up for kids who had a love for music.
“There was a huge music scene that my friends and I helped create,” said Fletcher. “It was sort of bubbling beneath the surface. Places like ‘The Outhouse’, that was where I saw my first shows with local bands playing their own original music. I also have many fond memories at the VFW hall across from Brundage Park where high school kids could let loose a little and listen to music created by their classmates.”
At the time, the Outhouse was the Randolph Teen Center, located in the rustic stone house building currently occupied by Art Works Studio, next to town hall.
The Randolph recreation department ultimately decided the Outhouse was too small to be a teen center, stating, “When teen bands played there, the facility became extremely overcrowded.” The VFW hall became the new location for the Teen Center.
Fletcher added, “There were many times we would organize shows in our friends cramped basements, which was way more fun than it sounds. I had my fondest memories in these places.”
Fletcher lived the typical Jersey teenager life. Some of his favorite memories in Randolph were going to concerts and shows, hanging out with friends, going on hikes to Buttermilk Falls, lighting bonfires, and of course, going down the shore to Seaside Heights in the summertime.
He quickly added, “But mostly playing shows in bands around Randolph.”
Like every good Jersey teenager, Fletcher also visited the state's most famous outdoor summer music venue. His first concert was Blink 182 at PNC Bank Arts Center at the ripe old age of 12.
Fletcher recently played to his hometown fans at Morris Tap and Grill on Rt. 10 in Randolph this past Wednesday, Oct. 26. Even though he currently resides in Brooklyn, MTG is a venue he has been coming home to play at for a few years now.
After thanking all in attendance for their love and support, Fletcher said, “Randolph is close to my heart. Growing up here, it was a special place for me and will always be my home.”
There is a deep, “old soul” sound that resonates in Fletcher's voice, one that perfectly matches his subtle on-stage persona. There is no boast or bravado in Fletcher's performance. Everything about him is genuine and oozes “It is all about the music”.
When asked if he could sing with any band or musician past or present, who would it be and why, Fletcher answered Ray Charles.
“There is desperation in his voice that affects me to my core,” said Fletcher. “He is the epitome of what a singer should be for me.”
This whirlwind of a place he currently finds himself in didn’t come easily. Countless nights were spent honing his craft, and singing for the love of music.
Places such as Hops, Sushi Lounge and Dublin Pub in Morristown, The Stanhope House, Table 42 inDover, MTG, Poor Henry’s in Montville and Poor Herbies in Madison were frequent stops for planned gigs, or open mic nights, where Fletcher could do what he loved most.
To all those young dreamers who watch on TV and envision being in his shoes one day, Fletcher offered some advice.
“I would tell them to treat their dreams like a job," he said. "Wake up every day and do something that gets you closer to your dream. If it’s singing, sing, and sing in front of people. Go to open mic nights as often as possible. Just never give up, even when things seem impossible.”
Being on the most popular singing show on TV, and being coached by Adam Levine from Maroon 5, probably seemed impossible to Fletcher just a short time ago.
“A year ago I was sleeping on a couch in an apartment in Charleston, and now I’m on this crazy ride,” said Fletcher.
Tune in Monday, Oct. 31 to see Fletcher on “The Voice”, NBC channel 4 at 8 p.m.