Many can relate to the rollercoaster that was Hunter Plake's 2016.
The Frost native married June 10 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, wife Bethany's hometown. After a two-week honeymoon in Seattle, the couple settled into a home in Denham Springs. Six weeks later, the August floods heavily damaged that home, and they moved in with his parents in Lafayette. In October, the 20-year-old pop singer who had previously only sung in church walked on the stage of NBC's "The Voice" in Los Angeles.
"It was nuts," said Plake, now 21, of the flood fallout. "When stuff like that happens, it just rearranges your life for you. We tried our hardest to have fun with it, just make the best of it. It could have been worse for sure. I'm glad we didn't lose anybody, we just lost things."
Auditioning for the reality singing competition series was a nice distraction. Making it on to Team Alicia (Keys) was truly exciting, Plake said.
On the show, potential contestants sing for four music celebrity judges/coaches who have their backs to the contestants, thus the tryouts are referred to as "the blinds." Once the performance starts, any interested coach can turn his/her chair around, signaling their interest in having that singer on their team. If more than one chair turns, the singer gets to choose from among those coaches.
"If I would have gotten four chairs, I would have still picked Alicia at the blinds," Plake said. "You know, I was just really wanting to be around her, she's just so positive and awesome, not that the other coaches aren't … It was cool that she turned around."
That first performance was, to say the least, nerve-wracking, he said.
"After I saw that Gwen (Stefani, another judge/coach) had turned, I was thinking to myself, 'OK, I have a chair now so I'm going to be making it to the next round regardless, so I can just focus on doing my best with the song and see if I can get some more chairs now," he said. "But after that, the nerves, after you get the chair, it's a lot easier because you know, 'OK, I have nothing else to prove. I'm moving on.'"
Plake sang the band Fun.'s uplifting anthem, "Carry On," for his audition.
"I just thought the song fit the story (of the flood) really well," he explained. "Really I just want to see all of Baton Rouge, through all of this stuff we're going through, just move on to the brighter future that I know the city has ahead of it. The song is about, you know, even if you have bad times during the journey, there is a brighter future, the best is yet to come. I really sang the song for Baton Rouge."
Plake returned to L.A. in January for the next round of competition, the battle rounds, which pit team members against each other in a duet. The coach decides who goes and who stays, while the other coaches have the option of "stealing" any eliminated singers to fill our their teams. Those episodes began airing last week, and continue this week.
Rapper/record producer DJ Khaled mentored the Team Alicia contestants for the battles, but that's all Plake can say about his return trip to "The Voice" stage as show rules prohibit them from sharing details of episodes that haven't aired.
"It's a long time to keep a secret," he said. "You come back home and it's like it didn't happen. So that was a pretty crazy thing, to go hang out with Alicia Keys, and then come back home and say, 'OK, well I can't talk about it.'"
Keeping him busy in the interim is his work leading worship at Crossroads Church in Lafayette on weekends, and teaching music lessons during the week.
"I was thinking, 'I'm going to do what I can to get on the show, and if I do that, everything is going to be fine," he said. "And I can figure out what I'm going to do after that.'"