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Josh Kaufman savors his journey from obscurity to 'The Voice' semi-finals

Josh Kaufman
Josh Kaufman
Tyler Golden/NBC

It wasn’t that long ago that Josh Kaufman was performing at the Chatterbox on Mass Avenue as well as other small gigs and working as a SAT prep tutor. But now, the married father of four finds himself on the national stage via the hit NBC 6th season show “The Voice.” Originally the four-chair turnaround contestant was on Team Adam but was stolen in the second of battles by Usher after Levine chose another performer to move on to the playoffs. Now Kaufman has made it through to the semi-finals which will broadcast live on NBC Monday, May 12 and Tuesday May 13 at 8 p.m. EST.

Recently spoke by phone with Kaufman from L.A., while he was on a break from a rehearsal, and chatted briefly about the show, his Indy fans and the future.

How does it feel to be Indy’s favorite son?

It’s crazy. The support I have gotten from everybody is so much more than I expected. I knew coming into this that people would get behind me but the feedback I have received has been so good and just overwhelming. It’s amazing how much people have been saying stuff about the competition on social media and telling me that they are voting and telling other people to vote. It’s been great.

Any idea how many votes you received this last time around?

I try to keep track of what’s being said online and what fans have done, organizing viewing parties like the one WTHR held downtown and the Smiley radio show has put on. I’ve gotten things from my kid’s school. They’ve gotten their classes together and taken pictures and stuff.

Does the fact that you are from a large TV market give you advantage over the other contestants who don’t?

I’m not sure. I don’t see what everybody else has going on but pretty much everybody has had hometown support and people tend to get behind them, but I really can’t compare. I think it is different how it works out because several of the contestants have been from really small towns and they don’t have as many people, but you have the whole town.

I posted a comment on my Facebook page informing friends that I was interviewing you and asked if they had any questions for you. One of them was “Ask Josh if he remembers entertaining the lunch crowd at the Potbelly Sandwhich Shop on Monument Circle.”

Oh, I did that up until I started this whole process of getting on “The Voice.” I was doing that a couple times a week. Playing a couple of hours during lunch. I had been doing that for over a year. It was fun. I got a good response. A ton of people come through there every day. Actually I got a lot of other gigs out of that because people would see me there and say “Hey, can you play my wedding or can you play this event?”

I think the question my Facebook friend asked was in reference to the irony of your transitioning from the Potbelly to national television. Could you have ever imagined this happening?

(Laughs). No. Absolutely not. I did this hoping for the best but the way this has turned out is so much more than I could have imagined and yes, that’s what I was doing before…playing little gigs like that and I loved it because I enjoy playing music but to go from that to this in such a short amount of time is pretty unbelievable.

Is your family with you right now?

They were out here Monday and Tuesday but they’re back home now. They probably won’t be able to come back for the semi-finals but if I make it through they will definitely come out for the finale.

How are they dealing with all the hoopla?

I think it is kind of overwhelming for them. My wife is kind of like me in terms of personality. She’s kind of reserved and an introverted person. She actually got recognized in an airport in Denver when they were on their way back to Indy recently. Someone came up to them and said “Hey, are you Josh Kaufman’s wife?” (Laughs). They had just seen them on TV. It’s kind of overwhelming but at the same time they are having fun with it. My kids love being able to see me perform on TV and being able to come out here and see the show and they’re really excited. They have been 100 per cent supportive. I couldn’t have done it if my wife hadn’t been totally behind me.

Do you think you would have been able to handle this success as well as you seem to be if you were younger than you are?

It would have been totally different. I honestly feel like right now, at this point in my life, I am a lot older than a lot of people in this competition. I think it’s perfect timing for me because like you said I am in a position to handle it all better and see it for what it is and understand how big of an opportunity it is and really take it seriously. And yes, it would have been a totally different situation had it happened 15 years ago.

Are you staying in the moment with all of this? Are you thinking about what you will do, win or lose?

You know, at this point, I am just waiting to see how this all pans out because that will obviously determine what my options are, but I am certainly looking forward to some extent because I do want to turn this into something, regardless of what happens. I just don’t want it to be a one-time experience and go back to doing what I was doing before. I want to keep going with music. I want to keep playing in some capacity and turn this into something. I do think about the future but have to wait until I get the end of this to see what my options are.

If you win, no doubt you will sign a contract with the network, but in the meantime, are you being approached by agents and managers wishing to represent you if you don’t?

Yes, I have definitely made some contacts with booking agencies and people who want to do that sort of thing, but right now I just have to say “let’s see how all this goes. I will weigh my options and once the show is over, I will take it from there.” But like you said, if I win I am already under contract so you kind of have all that stuff lined up already.

It would appear win or lose that you are going to have a successful career one way or another.

I think so. I really hope so. I think things have played out pretty well so far. No matter what happens I think I’ve put myself in a good position to turn this into something that is more of a career.

You’ve really done a great job with song selection. A lot goes into that process, right?

Absolutely. It’s kind of a back and forth. I come up with ideas and the coaches come up with ideas. Yes, it really is a thought out process because it does make a difference. It’s not just how good of a singer you are but has to do with “are people going to relate to this, are they going to like it?”

I take it you are already hard at work on your upcoming performance?

Oh, yes, in a few minutes I will be going in to rehearse.

What would you like to say to your fans back home in Indy?

First of all, I am so grateful for the support I have already received and I deeply appreciate it. I hope that people will continue to watch and if they like what they see I am going to need those votes now more than ever. So vote and buy the iTunes if you like it.

Follow Josh on Facebook or twitter. For more information about “The Voice,” visit

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