by Mike Mettler
“A true Renegade. That’s great! Go Braiden!” That’s Tommy Shaw’s reaction upon hearing Braiden Sunshine was voted through to the next round on The Voice on Tuesday night (November 17), a day after the 15-year-old high school freshman from Lyme, Connecticut sang Styx’s signature song “Renegade” with undeniable poise and conviction. Fans of the show clearly agreed, as Braiden’s “Renegade” shot straight up to #1 on the iTunes Rock Chart — and Styx’s original version of the song climbed into the Top 21.
And the aforementioned Tommy Shaw, the Styx guitarist/vocalist who also happens to be the songwriter of said “Renegade,” is very much looking forward to seeing what Braiden will do next on the show: “I believe in him.”
In a Styxworld exclusive, your resident Styxologist was able to speak with Braiden right before he was called into wardrobe to get ready for Tuesday evening’s The Voice Results show. Needless to say, we all think Braiden is one young Renegade who’s got it made.
Mike Mettler: So, Braiden — everybody was pretty happy about your performance of “Renegade” on Monday night. How did you feel about it?
Braiden Sunshine: I thought it went well. There were a lot of things that go into doing a rock song on that stage, so that was fun.
Mettler: How did the “Renegade” song choice come about?
Braiden: This one was my choice. I had been thinking about a couple of rock songs I wanted to do throughout the show process, but if I got the chance, I knew I wanted to do this song. I had it in mind for a while, and when the chance came up, I thought this might be a really cool time to do it.
Mettler: Do you remember when you first heard “Renegade” as a kid?
Braiden: My dad gave me an old boombox and a box of cassettes, because I would look around and find the cassettes that he had, and I always wound up getting into his heavy metal stuff. He actually had to put them away, because that’s not the kind of thing you want a 5-year-old listening to. (both laugh)
“Renegade” was on one of the cassettes he gave me, and I started listening to it over and over.
Mettler: What was it about the song that grabbed you? What got you into it?
Braiden: I don’t know — the song is just pretty badass. (chuckles) Right? It’s just a pretty cool song.
Mettler: I can’t argue with that. Those vocal harmonies grabbed me the very first time I heard it as a kid. I couldn’t believe how people could sing like that.
Braiden: Oh yeah. It starts nice and quiet at the beginning, and then, all of a sudden, it springs into this awesome rock song.
Mettler: Totally! You’ve seen what Tommy Shaw said about your performance. How did it feel when you read that?
Braiden: Oh yeah yeah yeah — pretty cool! That was really cool, because he wrote the song! You know, you’re always afraid that people are going to judge you. I never would have thought that he would reach out to me, let alone hear it, because I didn’t think he would have even paid attention to it. It’s just a little clip. But the fact that he took the time to send something and say something about it is really cool. And the fact that he liked it is even cooler! He wrote the song!!
Mettler: He sure did. What happened was, the band was getting ready to go onstage in Thunder Bay, Ontario when you sang it live on Monday night, but they all knew about it within minutes of getting offstage after playing “Renegade” themselves, at the end of their encore. Then they all watched it again on the tour bus when they were on their way to Winnipeg in the wee hours.
Braiden: That’s so cool!
Mettler: Tommy was impressed that you took on his vocal arrangement of the song, because it’s pretty tough to sing, even for him.
Braiden: Well, I mean, there was a voice crack or two…
Mettler: Even so, you had to go for it to really nail it! Tell me about the process. How did you first bring up the song with your coach, Gwen Stefani?
Braiden: She had first come up with a Michael Buble song for me to do, because she felt that would work best for the demographic of the show. And I said, “I don’t know. I don’t think it will come off as well as me doing a rock song on a stage like this. Just give me a shot with it, and we’ll see how it goes.”
When I started singing it in rehearsal, she started getting excited about it and said, “Let’s see what you can do.”
Mettler: So once you started singing it, Gwen was OK with it?
Braiden: She knew the song, but she was skeptical about me singing it, because it’s a full-on rock song, and I’m just me.
Mettler: Well, I’d say that was pretty brave of you to stand up to her and say, “This is what I want to sing, because this is what I feel right now.” That had to be tough to do.
Braiden: I mean, it’s scary at first, but it’s just like talking to a teacher. And it’s an education, too — to be able to convey what you want to learn, and I really wanted to learn this aspect of how to sing a rock song.
Mettler: What did you learn while you worked on the song with The Voice band?
Braiden: We had to cut it down, and they gave me a weird cut, so I decided to cut it myself so that it would fit in the timing [i.e., the length of time artists have to perform songs on the show — which, at this point in the competition, averages under 2½ minutes]. It was kind of funny. That little thing at the end [the big “hey-yeah!!!” finish] — they didn’t expect me to do that. They kind of screwed up a bit in practice, but then they said, “Wait a minute — that sounds cool. Let’s do it!” So that’s where that came into it.
Mettler: And that totally worked out for you, because everyone was impressed with where you took it. You know, if you keep going further along in the competition, you may be able to ask Styx to come to the show and perform a song onstage with you.
Braiden: Yeah? Hey, that would be a lot of fun!
You can watch Braiden’s official “Renegade” performance from The Voice here on YouTube.
And if you like what you see, you can purchase Braiden’s “Renegade” on iTunes by following this link: Renegade (The Voice Performance) - Single by Braiden Sunshine.