MTSU grad plans more career excitement after ̵...

MTSU grad plans more career excitement after ‘The Voice’ exit

MTSU grad Austin Ellis isn’t letting an early exit from the NBC singing competition “The Voice” slow his 2014 career path.

The 2009 recording industry alumnus already has a Kickstarter campaign underway for a new album after his reality-show experience ended at his first “battle round,” ironically singing Pharrell’s ubiquitous “Happy” with fellow contestant Josh Kaufman.

Austin Ellis

They were two of 12 singers chosen by Maroon 5 frontman/judge Adam Levine to be mentored as part of his “team” for the show’s sixth season, which premiered in February. The “battle rounds” force the mentor to cull his team by choosing only one of the singers, but the show’s other celebrity judges can “steal” the one not chosen for their teams.

The judges praised Ellis’ vocals and enthusiasm — Blake Shelton called him a “solid singer” and Usher enthused over his “powerful” voice — but Levine ultimately chose to keep Kaufman.

NBC The Voice graphic web“Celebrating an incredible moment! So much to look forward to! Thank you @NBCTheVoice for giving me the stage to launch my career. All Love!!” Ellis tweeted minutes after the decision aired Monday night.

He then tweeted, “We are launching a KickStarter Campaign to raise funds for my new album! I’d really appreciate the support!”

The episode was recorded last fall; live performance shows don’t begin airing until later in the season. You can watch Ellis and Kaufman perform here.

Ellis, a native of Maryland, focused on commercial songwriting with a minor in entrepreneurship during his MTSU tenure and was on the Dean’s List. He’s continued his music career since graduation, becoming a finalist in the Mountain Stage Newsong Contest and Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and touring the United States and making some international stops to support his independent CD releases, “Coming of A.G.E.” and a self-titled EP.

He made his “The Voice” debut March 10 singing Dobie Gray’s classic “Drift Away” during the show’s first “blind audition,” when the celebrity judges can only hear, not see, the contestants. You can see Ellis’ audition for “The Voice” here and learn more about him at his website,

This marked the second year that “The Voice” has chosen an MTSU alumnus from among thousands of hopefuls to compete for $100,000 and a recording contract.

Kris Thomas

Kris Thomas

Kris Thomas, a 2008 MTSU graduate with a degree in psychology, surprised the celebrity judges during “blind auditions” for NBC’s “The Voice” fifth season with his smooth tenor rendition of the Whitney Houston classic “Saving All My Love for You.”

Thomas made it to the show’s top 10 in 2013 before he was voted out by the viewing audience. The Memphis native returned to MTSU that fall to sing the national anthem before MTSU’s football game against the University of Memphis.

Curtis Holland

Jonathan Allen

Ben Briley

Another MTSU alumnus, advertising/public relations grad Ben Briley of Gallatin, Tenn., made it to the top 11 artists on Fox’s “American Idol” before the audience and judges sent him home March 13.

MTSU vocal performance major Jonathan Allen sang himself into the 2013 semifinals of “America’s Got Talent” at Radio City Music Hall before that opportunity ended.

Recording industry major Curtis Holland tap-danced his way past hundreds of other hopefuls to make the Top 20 of Fox’s 2013 “So You Think You Can Dance,” but a shoulder injury eliminated him from the competition.

— Gina E. Fann (

MTSU alumnus Austin Ellis, left, sings “Happy” with fellow contestant Josh Kaufman during a “battle round” on NBC’s “The Voice.” (Photo courtesy of Tyler Golden/NBC © NBC Universal, Inc.)