Sitting in his parents’ basement surrounded by his family and friends, Paul Pfau, 26, a Shepherd University graduate, watched his long-awaited audition air, Monday, March 9, on NBC’s hit TV show, The Voice.
“I have 90 seconds to make my wildest music dreams come true,” Pfau said in the prelude to his performance of “Fly Me to the Moon,” by Frank Sinatra.
As Pfau waited off stage for his chance to perform, he recounts the calming silence.
“Right before I went on, I peeked through the crack in the door and believe it or not, it calmed me down. I just remember how quiet it was when I walked on stage,” Pfau said.
Just after an audience change and as Pfau took his mark on stage, the audience cheered.
Pfau said he was just doing what he loves and wasn’t nervous.
Pfau described the night in a telephone interview Tuesday from his parent’s house in Myersville, Md. A Los Angeles publicist arranged the interview.
“I remember everything that happened,” Pfau said about his performance. “I saw Blake turn and now I have a superstar staring at (me)…Pharrell turned around, I was happy, not a play on words.”
During Pfau’s performance, Adam Levine attempted several times to turn his chair, but was not able to because his team was full.
“Man you are really good,” Christina Aguilera said, after Pfau’s performance.
“I pushed the button because I heard a flawless performance,” Pharrell Williams said.
Pfau said he stood on stage for approximately 10 minutes attempting to make a decision between Shelton and Williams before ultimately choosing Williams.
Pfau is a 2010 graduate of Shepherd with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in psychology.
“Shepherd is where I grew up. It is the first time I was out on my own…I made a lot of mistakes,” Pfau said. “Shepherd has a very supportive environment, especially for artists, whether it is theater or visual arts, I have seen some of the most off-the-wall music (at Shepherd).”
That is the beauty of Shepherdstown, a town where people are not afraid to take chances, mixing stuff together that would never normally work and that is an important thing for a creative environment, according to Pfau.
Two Shepherd University professors stand out to Pfau.
“I had some of the best teachers I could have hoped for,” Pfau said.
“Dr. Shultz, he is the coolest dude and knew how to relate to kids…I thought he was awesome,” Pfau said. He was referring to Dr. John A. Shultz, an economics and finance professor.
“Dr. Merz is another professor that stands out…he was a no bullshit kind of guy,” said Pfau. “I have had conversations with these two in and out of class.”
“That voice…how could I forget Paul. He is going to do it,” Dr. Joseph Merz, associate professor of psychology, said. “Paul is more than talented. He was amazing in and outside the classroom. Just a fine young man.”
Merz describes Pfau as incredibly talented and is going to do great things.
“We are going to see this kid in concert,” Merz said.
Music talent and self-teaching runs in the family; Pfau, a self-taught guitarist said he got his musical talent from his grandma, a self-taught pianist.
“My grandmother totally taught herself, which is the path I took myself,” Pfau said. “She watched the Price is Right like it was her job, during the commercials she would play along with whatever music was on the commercial.”
Growing up Pfau’s grandmother had a record player and always had music playing in the background, according to Pfau.
“I never really liked it, but it burned a hole into my brain and when I started learning music, it all came together,” Pfau said.
Pfau first performance incorporating playing the guitar and singing was during a senior showcase at his high school.
“I went to the senior showcase in front of three hundred people and totally choked…forgot the words,” Pfau said.
Pfau said even with the incident, people still came up to him after the show and complimented him on his work.
In the beginning Pfau said the genre he sang and performed was blues.
“Putting labels on it limits it, when you call it something before you hear it, you already judged it,” Pfau said.
“Working with Pharrell…he has this thing about being other, incorporating folk, pop, country, and creating something that is genreless,” Pfau said.
Pfau had a setback in 2014 when he was diagnosed with a nodule on his vocal cords.
“It took me out of the loop for about six months. I had to cancel everything. I moved back in with my parents and scaled back a lot,” Pfau said.
Pfau’s plans for touring and promoting his new record had to be canceled. While Pfau was off, he said he did rehab with a speech pathologist and played guitar with other bands to keep his skills sharp.
“Never stop practicing, never stop taking on new things and continue working on your craft. I had to fight through my vocal cord nodules, through the hundreds of shows that I lost money or no (audience members) showed up to,” Pfau said.
Pfau was raised in Myersville, Md., a small town in western Frederick County and was a 2006 graduate of Middletown High School.
“Stay true to yourself as a musician. I want to represent myself. I stuck to my guns and kept doing things that defined me as a person and an artist,” Pfau said. “Pharrell would always say this is about you, stay true to yourself as an artist.”
Pfau made it through the blind auditions and will continue with Team Pharrell. Winning the Battle round Tuesday night, Pfau will continue to the Knockouts, according to Lisa Bustamante, publicist for Pfau. If he wins his Knockout round, he will go onto Live Shows, which start in April.
The winner receives $100,000 and a “record deal” with Universal Music Group for winning the competition, Bustamante said in an email.