When budding singer-songwriter Rozzi Crane enrolled in the Popular Music program at USC's Thorton School of Music in 2009, she had no idea that she'd leave with a record deal—to Adam Levine's newly-minted label, no less. But, as it turns out, during her freshman year, she was put in touch with Sam Farrar, bass guitarist of Phantom Planet and touring member of Maroon 5, after one of his former bandmates sat in on her songwriting class. "He sent Adam a YouTube video of me, and he immediately responded," she tells InStyle. "He didn't have a label at the time, but he said he'd love to sign me. Fortunately for me, he's definitely someone who knows what he wants pretty instantly."
Four years later, the now-23-year-old has released her debut EP, Space (with a full-length album to follow later this summer), collaborated with Maroon 5 on "Come Away To The Water" for the Hunger Games soundtrack, and just wrapped her third national tour with the band. So basically, she nabbed The Voice gig without ever competing on the actual TV show—with the exception of her guest appearance on Tuesday night. We caught up with Crane at our N.Y.C. offices to talk about what it was like working with Levine, touring with Maroon 5, and her stint as a background vocalist. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:
Is it true you've done backup vocals for Don Henley?
Yeah. That was during school too—one of my teachers set me up with that gig. Before that, I was a background singer for Sérgio Mendes. I had to sing in Portuguese, even though I don't speak it! I would literally drive to his family's house in the Valley on the weekend and his wife would teach me how to pronounce everything.
What's it like touring with a van full of guys?
It's amazing. They're like older brothers to me. We have this big RV, but we find ways to amuse ourselves. They love to play this betting game: You put in a dollar and roll a dice, and if you get the same number, you win. I only do it if they spot me, though.
Any crazy fan encounters?
One time this 9-year-old chubby [boy] came up to me and asked me to sign his forehead. I was like, "Are you sure? This is a Sharpie!" But his mom said it was okay. It's different with my fans, because I don't have an album out, and I'm not on the radio, so I feel very attached to them because they've been loyal in this whole other way.
Let's talk about your duet with Adam on "Painkiller." What was it like recording with him one-on-one?
It was really scary because it was literally the second time I ever met him. He invited me to Denver and he was writing with Ryan Tedder [lead singer of OneRepublic] who wrote "Bleeding Love" and "Halo". I was just there to observe mostly, but then he played us "Painkiller" and told us that it was meant to be a duet and asked us if we wanted to record it, right then and there. We had about 45 minutes because we had to get to the airport. Watching [Adam] in the booth was pretty crazy. He's really, really good at singing.
Have you ever thought about going on The Voice?
Ultimately I have so much respect for people who do that show. It's like, "Tonight is the night to prove to the entire world that this is your dream." That in and of itself makes me feel stressed out. I don't think I personally could really handle it, so I think it's really impressive that people go on there and kill it. I was approached for the first and second season—the first season I couldn't because I was on tour, and the second one I was already signed to Adam. In a way, I'm on The Voice every day.
Listen to "Painkiller" below, and buy Space for $3 on the iTunes Store.