Local family, fans cheer on ‘Voice’ star

Morgan Myles was a rising Nashville music star in her own right before becoming one of just eight remaining contestants on NBC’s star-making hit series “The Voice.” Now, the world is seeing what many people — including family members and fans in Columbus — have always known.

“It sounds crazy, but ever since she was 3 years old, she always had something in her hand like a spoon or something, using it as a microphone,” said Myles’ mother and Bartholomew County native Karen (Thompson) Pinsonneault.

For Myles, her performance in the show’s semifinal on Monday will be poignant. She’s dedicating the song she will sing to a cousin, Mackenzie “Mac” DeClue, formerly of Columbus, who died of glioblastoma on Dec. 9, 2018, at age 33.

“I think it’s one way to continue to celebrate his life, and the song really spells out the good times, and remembering such wonderful people,” Myles said. She said the song she’ll sing, which she can’t disclose until the live performance, also will honor the memory of her late grandfather, Luke Pinsonneault of Columbus, who also died of brain cancer in November 2010.

Myles is no stranger to Columbus and Brown County, noting she and her parents, formerly of Columbus but who also now live in Nashville, Tennessee, usually come home for the holidays to visit her “Mimi,” grandmother Betty Pinsonneault of Columbus, and other family members in the area.

“I’ll be there for Christmas, most likely,” Myles said in a phone interview Friday.

Meanwhile, her mother Karen spoke from the road in Oklahoma on Friday as she and her husband, Dan Pinsonneault, drove to visit and stay with another daughter, Meghan, who lives in Pasadena, California. That’s handy, because on Monday, the proud parents will be nearby, watching in the studio audience in Hollywood as Myles sings for a spot in the season 22 finale of “The Voice.”

Also watching and rooting from afar will be Myles’ aunt and the late Mac DeClue’s mother, Elaine DeClue of Columbus. She said her niece will have quite the local cheering section. “Both of Morgan’s grandmothers live in Columbus, as do her three aunts, five cousins and multiple second cousins,” DeClue said in an email. She remembers watching her niece perform onstage as far back as grade school musicals.

The singer’s parents, Dan and Karen Pinsonneault, were “high school sweethearts” at Columbus North High School, Myles said. She was a cheerleader and he a defensive tackle on the Bull Dogs’ conference champion team their senior year — 1975. After Karen went on to Indiana University and Dan to Xavier University in Cincinnati, their lives together took them to Pennsylvania, where they raised their family.

Karen said they’re proud to be in Music City, helping their daughter navigate what can be a daunting career as a musician.

“It takes a village,” Karen said.

After briefly studying music in college, Myles earned a business degree from Belmont University in Nashville, but she always had a career in music in mind, her mother said.

Dan described her daughter’s style as “country soul,” in the vein of singer Chris Stapleton. In fact, Myles sang and played acoustic guitar on a cover of Stapleton’s hit “Tennessee Whiskey” during a recent Top 10 performance on “The Voice.”

“She knows how to play with a band and lead a band,” Dan said, noting the instances he’s watched his daughter out front crushing it on vocals, leaving band members “all smiles.”

“I’ve seen her do that so many times,” he said.

Myles, 35, has a wide stylistic range. For instance, in her performances on the show, she has covered Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” and the Dionne Warwick classic “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” among others.

Having performed professionally for 17 years, as a touring musician, she’s opened for such artists as Reba McEntire and Hank Williams Jr. But it hasn’t always been easy. Myles said her star turn on “The Voice” comes after a career that at times has had its struggles.

After some management problems impeded her career, she was finally able to release her album “Therapy” to critical acclaim in 2020. But COVID put a dent in touring, and planned shows were canceled. Then last year, a tornado ripped through Nashville. “We got hit kind of hard. I was at my wit’s end,” Myles said.

But not long after, she got an email that led to an audition for “The Voice,” and she thought she had nothing to lose.

While she said she hasn’t had time to process how her appearance on “The Voice” will impact her career, she said she is grateful.

“This is obviously where I’m supposed to be right now,” she said. “… I feel blessed. I enjoy working with the entire production here, and it’s been good.”

In addition to her talent and experience, she brings to “The Voice” stage a dedicated fan base. In her “Myles Across America” tour, she played more than 115 shows in virtually every state just last year.

Many of those fans also have hosted “The Voice” watch parties — including some locally. This also has helped build Myles’ support in the competition, which relies on votes from fans during and after weekly broadcasts.

Karen said her daughter has later shown up to perform in person for some of those watch party fans. “She’s just such a genuine, kind person,” he mother said. “She just wants to use her music to give back to the world.”

So far, Myles, who is on celebrity coach Camila Cabello’s team on the show, has made it through a field that began with 56 contestants. Karen notes her daughter is the lone contestant still in the competition out of a number who came from Nashville. Myles is also the only member of Cabello’s team still on the show.

Myles said what fans won’t see is how performers on the show sacrifice to polish their craft for competition. As soon as one show ends, preparations begin for the next. Like other cast members, she’s been living in a hotel, seeing virtually no one but show cast and crew members for the past several months, going through rigorous practices and preparations.

Excited as she is for the coming semifinal competition, she admits she’s looking forward to wrapping it up. “I just want to relax and drive my car and cook in a kitchen and walk my dog and work out and all that normal stuff,” she said with a laugh.

Monday, the show’s semifinal episode will air with each of the eight artists performing and viewers voting for their favorite.

On Tuesday’s episode, the four performers with the most votes from Monday’s show will automatically advance while the other four artists will perform, competing for votes for a fifth and final spot on the season finale the following week, Dec. 12-13.

“I think she’s got a really good chance of making it through next week,” Karen said of her daughter’s chances. “No matter what happens, either way, she’s gained so much exposure.

“There are going to be so many things that come from this experience,” she said. “I think it’s her time.”