Katie Kadan is taking The Voice by storm in season 17. The 38-year-old Chicago native wowed the judges with her blind audition song of Aretha Franklin’s “Baby I Love You,” earning four chair turns, though Kelly Clarkson was blocked from going after Kadan by fellow coach Blake Shelton.
After choosing John Legend to be her coach, she went on to defeat fellow powerhouses Destiny Rayne on Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” in the Battle Rounds and Max Boyle in the Knockout Round (though Boyle was stolen by Clarkson and also advanced to the live shows).
Now as the live shows begin, here’s everything you need to know about Katie Kadan, who is definitely one to watch on season 17 of The Voice.
1. Katie Got a Late Start
According to Katie’s bio on The Voice’s official website, while she did sing in church as a child, she never had the confidence to sing her own. As she told the coaches during her blind audition, she felt like “a chubby chick living in a skinny girl’s world.”
“I was afraid to do it, I didn’t know how to get my start … [but] this is the only thing I’m really good at,” she tells local Chicago talk show the Jam TV Show, adding that a local open mic night thought she was so good at the first session that they told her to come back every week.
Finally, at the age of 30, she slowly began to overcome her shyness and accept her gift. “Now I’m OK,” she tells the coaches.
2. She’s a Soul Singer, But Her Range Runs the Gamut
Since that fateful day when she performed live at the age of 30, Katie has been an up and coming blues/soul performer in the Chicago music scene. All you have to do is listen to her cover of Aretha Franklin to know that Katie has soul in spades.
On Katie’s official website, her voice is called a “force of nature” and her sound is described as a “blues-infused style of soul-bearing belting” that showcases her “roots in the church” … “she can easily flip from R&B to gut-wrenching rock to songs of longing angst.”
3. Katie is Spreading a Message of Body Positivity
Katie was really self-conscious about her size when she was a teenager, so she adopted her signature style to be different, but she got made fun of for it. So when she hit her 30s, she decided to bring back “all the things [she] thought was cool” and she says, “Now I’m super dope.”
In an inspirational Instagram post from long before her time on The Voice, Katie writes that she has had her emotional ups and downs just like everyone else, but she knows that she can overcome the haters.
“I look at myself in the mirror and say I’m STRONG, I’m SMART, I’m TALENTED, and I’m as SEXY as I’ve ever been,” writes Katie. “No one can tell me different anymore. Those haters can take seat! … I know I can do this! I’ve received messages from you guys that have made me cry tears of joy, and made my heart melt. I thank my family, friends, and people I don’t know who support me. I love all of you and I humbly thank you for your encouragement.”
4. She Has Released Some Music On Her Own
Prior to The Voice, Katie recorded a self-titled album that fans can check out on her website, Spotify and Apple Music. It features 11 original tracks, including some rousing numbers called “Got You to Blame,” “Dancing On the Floor” and “Take Me to the River.”
She writes on Facebook that her compositions come from “experiences [that] speak to her soul.”
But Katie doesn’t stop at vocals. She is also a classically trained pianist, much like one of her biggest influences, Carole King. Her piano teacher, Dennis Nuccio, tells the Chicago Tribune that he recognized her talent immediately.
“How can I forget her?” Nuccio tells the Tribune. “When she came to me she could already play, she played by ear mostly and improvised and hit the pocket really good. Some of those things you can’t learn with lessons.”
She also cites Billie Holiday and Gladys Knight as huge musical influences as well.
5. For Katie, Music is a Family Affair
Katie’s official Facebook page says that family jams have always been a big part of her life and her cousins and sister have been a huge influence on her music.
“Her vision to expand her musical influence is shared with her two amazing cousins, Ray Bleth and Joshua Paul, and her amazing sister, Sarah Kadan,” reads the Facebook post. “Of course, she wanted them to be a part of sharing her art. Playing with them has been such a blessing for Katie.”
But it goes on to say that she had to expand her musical partners outside the family as well, to Ryan Cassell and Anthony Torres, whom she calls “impeccable artists” that are “like having two more amazing members of my family.”
If you’re in Chicago, head on down to Mati’s Cafe and Lounge Monday (Nov. 11) to cheer Katie on at her official watch party. If you can’t make it, The Voice airs live Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.