Randallstown native and singer Joe Maye made an energetic entrance to NBC's singing competition series "The Voice" on Tuesday, performing a soulful rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins that inspired judge and songstress Christina Aguilera to join him in an impromptu duet. Needless to say, Maye was given an open-armed welcome into the comforts of "Team Christina."
"I did not in a million years think that I would sing with her. When I watched it on TV, I didn't even know who that was," Maye said in a phone interview Wednesday. "There was literally something that took over me."
But the contestant, who auditioned for the show three times, hasn't always been so comfortable in the spotlight. Maye, who has a background in theater, has always had a passion for performing. Singing solo, however, was something that he had to learn to love.
As a performing waiter on Spirit Cruises in the Inner Harbor during high school, Maye said singing solo parts for cruise guests terrified him at first. He avoided them any way he could.
"They would be looking for me. They would call my name, and I would literally hide," said the 24-year-old, who often hid from co-workers and management in linen closets until his part was over.
But when he couldn't escape, Maye duly performed, soon noticing the approving and positive reactions from his audience. His fears began to melt away.
"I would think, OK, maybe I'm not that bad at this," the singer said. And the more engaged he was in his solo performances, the more tips he got.
"It motivated me to perform even more. I really started performing really hard and going all out. I always had it in me," he said.
Maye built his confidence working with producers and recording studios in Washington and eventually gained the gusto to try out for Season 8 of "The Voice" in Philadelphia in 2014. He didn't make the cut but tried out again for Season 9 in Los Angeles.
He made it to blind auditions, but to his dismay, the judges didn't show interest. Looking back, Maye said he focused more on performing than on singing, a disadvantage in a competition in which the judges can't see you. But yet again, he was motivated to return.
"It lit up a fire up under my behind, and it made me just want to come back and fight even harder," he said. And the third time was a charm.
Maye focused his attention on his singing, preparing with a series of vocal exercises, and sought support from former contestants Ellie Lawrence and Mark Hood, whom he met during Season 9.
Maye won over Aguilera, who was the first judge to spin around in her chair Tuesday. Blake Shelton, the only other judge to turn around, was next.
"It was life changing. It was amazing. I couldn't believe it," Maye said. But that wasn't the end of it.
Aguilera joined Maye onstage for an impromptu duet of "I Put a Spell on You," which Maye chose for its "spookiness" and dark vocals.
Maye's family back home on the East Coast was even more excited than he was, he said. Relatives from Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina gathered at Mount Washington Tavern in Baltimore to watch his performance Tuesday. Every time he appeared on the screen, they would scream, he said.
"This has taught me so much. I do music in hopes that I can inspire everybody else," said Maye.
Maye said he's focusing on growing as a singer and creating more "wow" moments in the competition — though his duet with Aguilera will be hard to top. As for Baltimore, which Maye still calls home, he said he hopes to make a mark on the city's music scene.