It is often said, “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success,” and that timeline proved to be true for Joei Fulco, 23, of Lancaster, California, when Blake Shelton and Nick Jonas of “The Voice” turned their chairs for the young artist, while she performed Cher’s “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” on March 2 during the blind auditions.
“Stepping onto the stage was amazing—so amazing, it still seems surreal,” Fulco said after her performance. Putting a lot of heart and hard work into her audition, she grew more and more nervous while nearing the end of her song and no chairs were turning.
“It was definitely nerve-racking!” she said. “I finally see Blake hit his button and it was like a wave of relief that washed over me. It was only until then that I could settle into my performance and really enjoy it.”
Jonas turning around was an extra bonus. “To see that he was blocked—it was just a series of overwhelming emotions in that whole few seconds,” Fulco said.
To merely be chosen to step on the stage of “The Voice” has perhaps been every singer’s dream since the show first aired in April 2011. The $100,000 grand prize is a great motivator; however, the dream of going further is colossal.
Fulco’s performance had a mysterious allure. Shot mostly from behind with quick cuts of silhouettes, her face was not fully revealed until Shelton turned his chair.
Obviously stunned by her youth, coach Kelly Clarkson commented that Fulco’s voice sounded “weathered” when she eventually did turn her chair. Shelton and Clarkson bantered back and forth about Fulco’s voice sounding “seasoned and mature beyond her years.”
“So, you’re calling her an old lady?” Shelton teased.
As a young girl, Fulco didn’t think she had a place on stage as a vocalist, since her voice was deeper than any female she had heard, but at least she could still play guitar.
“Cher was my first encounter of someone who has made it with a similar voice to me, so I looked up to her my entire life,” Fulco said. Touring the world with her family, she said she never really felt settled down. “I can relate to that song [“Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves”], it really hits home for me!”
At the age of 2, Fulco joined her father, Joey Fulco, on stage, and she has been singing ever since.
“My dad has always been my greatest mentor and guiding light through this whole journey,” Fulco said.
“I noticed at a very young age there was something very special and powerful in her voice,” her father said. “She has always been very disciplined and determined.”
There is so much more to this shining star than her beautiful brown locks, beaming smile, and rich voice.
When Disney needs to cast a new princess for its next blockbuster, they need to look no further than Fulco. She embraces the best features of our beloved characters; beautiful, kind, caring, free-spirited, strong, adventurous, determined, and definitely talented.
When asked years ago why she didn’t try to compete in music shows, she said she wouldn’t want to play without her family.
“I’ve been a musician all my life, it’s the only job I have ever had,” she said.
Although her family was looking on, “The Voice” was the first time she has ever performed alone in public.
The tight-knit family formed their own band, “The Fulcos,” and have often been referred to as a modern-day Partridge Family. Recently, their family dynamics have changed and gave them the opportunity to explore new venues. Her brother Jesse, 21, plays bass, guitar, sings, writes, acts, models, and dabbles in video production. Tyler, 14, plays drums, guitar, piano, and sings. Her father plays guitar, piano, sings, records for other musicians, and also writes music. The revised family band now includes Matt Fullove on drums and Loren Riley on piano and keyboard.
‘Home Away From Home’
Big Shotz, a local bar and restaurant owned by Stephen Morreale, is their favorite place to play in Southern California’s Antelope Valley. Serving some of the best New York pizza by day, the venue turns into a roadhouse at night. Located in the Mojave Desert about 80 northeast of Los Angeles, it is also known for its musical diversity.
“It is our home away from home. We play there all the time,” said Joei Fulco.
The Fulcos host a sold-out New Year’s party at the restaurant serving up a huge buffet, often prepared by chefs flown in from New York. They also host open mic and jams weekly, at the restaurant and throughout the Valley. Anyone is welcome to perform with the band or they can take the stage by themselves.
With the encouragement of her father, who was Mr. Teen USA in 1979, Fulco took up bodybuilding and has placed in every competition she entered. She trains with Jesse Strader, a pro MMA fighter. Strader is not only her best friend and boyfriend, he is also her rock and came into her life exactly when she needed him, she said.
One of Fulco’s greatest honors is to perform the national anthem at special events such as the Special Olympics, air shows, rodeos, and honoring veterans. “Pure, unadulterated as it is intended to be sung,” has often been said and written of her genuine, heartfelt performance.
When the world seemed to become politically divided, the family put their creative juices together and wrote “Star Spangled Through and Through,” uniting all walks of life. With the help of friends, they produced a grassroots, pro-American music video.
The family distributes money from tip jars and donations to the homeless, along with food, water, and clothing on holidays and in harsh weather. Seeing another need, they rallied the community to help clean up several of the “not-so-pretty areas” throughout the Antelope Valley.
“The community has always been there for us, especially when we needed them. It’s our way of giving back. We are so thankful for every one of them and their support,” Fulco said.
For “The Voice” battles, Fulco went up against Todd Michael Hall, 50, singing Tina Turner’s “The Best.” And the best, they both were. Fulco won the battle and Hall was saved by Shelton.
“We are a very close group, we live together 24/7 for days. It’s a competition but at the end of the day, you don’t want to see anyone go home,” she said. She can’t speak for other teams, but says Team Shelton is tight-knit and has a prayer circle, lifting each other up before performing. “Everyone says a little something, it is very cool.”
During knockouts Fulco sang Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved” against Levi Watkins, 14, who sang “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” by Waylon Jennings. Although it was said that both gave perfect performances, Blake chose Fulco once again, saying that he wants to continue exploring her country/rock edge. Both contestants said having guest coach, James Taylor, was another unbelievable experience.
Part of the success and popularity of “The Voice” is not only the talent revealed, but the stories and dreams shared from all walks of life across America.
No matter how far Fulco goes on “The Voice” or obstacles she encounters in life, as always, she will rely on her faith and continue sharing her talent, heart, and voice.
Linda KC Reynolds began her photography career in the United States Air Force. After serving six years, she worked full-time for Northrop Grumman on the B-2 Stealth Bomber and now freelances for various aerospace companies and other venues. She is passionate about free speech, musical production, and sharing peoples’ stories.