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St. Louis singer Neil Salsich shines in the national spotlight on ‘The Voice’

Neil Salsich sings and plays guitar
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Neil Salsich, a guitarist and singer with the Mighty Pines, performs on Sunday evening during the Benton Park Summer Concert Series kickoff.

St. Louis singer Neil Salsich gained national fame over the past several months as a participant on "The Voice," the NBC reality show that pits singers against each other for a record deal.

He joined St. Louis contestants Kennedy Holmes and Joanna Serenko, who excelled on the show in previous seasons. Salsich is no longer a contestant, as he was cut from the competition just before the show entered the live performances.

Salsich isn’t new to music. He founded his band the Mighty Pines with Gerard Erker, John Hussung and Mike Murano. The band hits the road this summer for a string of concerts.

'St. Louis on the Air': ‘The Voice’ shines a spotlight on St. Louis singer Neil Salsich

St. Louis Public Radio’s Chad Davis talked with Salsich about his time on “The Voice” and his music.

Chad Davis: If you could describe your time on “The Voice” in one word, what would it be?

Neil Salsich: Successful. I got what I wanted out of it. I think people got what they come to the show for, which was to just see exciting performances. And so it's a win-win.

Davis: Why did you audition for it?

Salsich: I was watching these great singers sing these great songs and I really thought, I think I can do that too. I wanted to sing in front of people like John Legend, who I was watching Joanna sing in front of, or Kelly Clarkson or just these amazing, amazing celebrity musicians. Just the idea of standing in front of them and singing was very exciting.

Davis: I would love to know how you even got started on your musical journey. When was that and how did that even happen?

Salsich: If I got in trouble, my mom would take my Walkman away, and I couldn't listen to tapes anymore. I just soaked in all this music for a long time and came back to St. Louis after college, had never really done anything serious with music, and spent the last 10 years just in the school of hard knocks, learning how to play by just playing, meeting great musicians, playing with better musicians, playing all over the city, playing all over the country and just kind of learning that way.

Davis: Who were the artists that really kind of stood out to the band and kind of influenced the sound that you all have propelled forward?

Salsich: We started being really influenced by bluegrass music. In college we were listening to a lot of jam bands and there’s a subset of that genre where it's like bluegrass jam bands and it's just amazing stuff, amazing synthesis of genres.

As the years progressed, I think we all wanted to express something else with our music too and that's why I call us rock and roll, because we present acoustically but we play electrically.

Davis: How did they feel about you being on “The Voice”?

Salsich: They were incredibly excited for me which I'm so happy about. It meant so much to me to feel their support and excitement. They were just happy for me as friends and excited for me as my friend but also as bandmates.

Davis: Could you kind of take us back to that moment when you were eliminated? What was going through your head at that exact time?

Salsich: This season was such an abrupt cut from 20 people to eight people for the live performances.

It was a disappointment, but not a defeat and not anything crushing. It just happened in the moment, and I was prepared for that if it did happen, and it did, so just kind of walked offstage. From that moment, all the fanfare of the show at least on set is kind of over. You walk off, they put you in a van, you're back at the hotel, and you have your plane ticket in your email and I was home the next morning.

The Mighty Pines perform on Sunday, May 21, 2023, during the Benton Park Summer Concert Series kickoff at Benton Park.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The audience listens to the Mighty Pines perform on Sunday evening during the Summer Concert Series kickoff at Benton Park.

Davis: You were kicked off the show right before the live performances started. Was it weird to have to keep a lot of the season a secret from others who had no idea what was happening?

Salsich: It was trippy. There were times where I would be walking around St. Louis and almost forgot that I had done this thing, at least up until the show premiered. Once it premiered and people saw my four chair turn and all this excitement was in the air, I already knew that I was off the show that whole time.

Davis: What do you want people to take away from your time on the voice and your music career so far?

Salsich: I want people to be proud of St. Louis, that was the most meaningful part of this experience for me, just seeing and hearing from people how proud they were and how my performances made them feel proud of themselves and their community, that just moves me to no end.

I want people to be proud of the music history here, and I want people to feel excited about what's happening right now. There's something happening right now like embers of a fire. You can watch it and you just know something's about to catch flame. So I think it's going to be a really exciting couple years in St. Louis for music.

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.