The Vandalia Leader

Follow Us On:

Ruby Leigh had a good time getting to know the other contestants on ‘The Voice’

Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2024 at 9:15 pm

Editor’s Note: in this week’s installment of “An Interview With Ruby Leigh, And Her Family,” the runner-up on “The Voice” talks about the first time she met the eventual winner, Huntley, which songs were her personal favorites, and what 1980s rock band she bonded over with her teacher in California.

Ruby’s entire family, including her father (Casey), mother (Terri) and sister (Sandra/Grumpy) joined her for the interview.

By Gregory Orear

Journal Publisher

Casey (Dad): You should probably tell him about the first time you met Huntley.

Ruby: Yeah, first time I met him, it was before the auditions, and it was the first day we got there. The hotel has, like, a 9 a.m. quiet time. Like, hey, shut up. No noise. So, OK. I got in there, it was around 10:30. And I’m singing “Cowboy Sweetheart,” which is loud because you can’t quietly yodel. So I’m yodeling and yodeling, yodeling and singing the song over and over and over again at least a billion times that day.

And I finished it, and I heard bang, bang, bang on the door. And I’m looking at my Dad, thinking uh-oh. So, I just knew it was a noise complaint. I was ready for bed. I’m in my pajamas from Christmas from two years ago, in the middle of June. So, I’m walking in the door, and … I open it slowly in case someone’s going to punch me in the face and it’s Huntley. And he says, “I’m from f***ing West Virginia, and I never heard nothing like that!” He’s screaming, I mean screaming in the hallway. I’m like, oh, my gosh. I had no idea he was on the show. I didn’t meet anybody, any of the contestants.

Greg: And for added affect, Huntley looks like a cross between a grizzly bear and a Viking.

Casey: And he pounded on the door.

Ruby: Yeah. So, I was just like, “Oh, thanks so much. I appreciate it.” Close the door. And then it was the next day. No, it was after the blind audition and we go to a different hotel, and everyone that made it is there. And I saw him. I’m like, no way. I said, “You’re on the show?”

You were supposed to keep it incognito. We have a fake name. My favorite thing, honestly, was a fake name. Like, we had this fake name we’re going by, so to figure out contestants, you’d be in the elevator with someone, you’re like, hey, are you here with blah blah blah, this fake name? And they’re like, no. What’s that? And then I’d be like, I got to make it something super, brainy. I’m like, it’s neuroscience. You sound real cool, I’m wearing this band t shirt. Neuroscience. So, yeah, that was probably my favorite part. It was a great experience.

Greg: Well, you mentioned John (Legend) turned his chair first before you even yodeled. I noticed that, too. And I thought, man, that’s bizarre. And as soon as you yodeled, the other three turned within 10 seconds of each other. But John was your first fan, and at times, based on the comments that aired, it seemed like Niall (Harron) might be your biggest.

Ruby: Niall, he said, was my absolute biggest fan. He came off backstage after the knockouts, when I was singing “Blue,” he came out, and I was standing there and said “Ruby, I’m your biggest fan. Please give me a hug.” And I was like, what? You’re in One Direction. I grew up listening to you. What do you mean? I felt like we had to switch places for a second. I’m thinking I should be your biggest fan. But he was really cool. John and Gwen (Stefani), they were all amazing. John and Gwen both told me that I’m their favorite on the show. Gwen said it in an interview with “Entertainment Tonight” with her team. She still had her team and said I was her favorite. She said it backstage, too. This was after “A Long, Long Time.”

John and Gwen, they came out, and it was after “A Long, Long Time,” and they came out and they were hugging my Dad, and I was with the contestants because this is backstage. Everyone’s all there. Like, all their teams are all there. So I went up to my Dad. I’m like, “Dad, you can’t be hugging all the coaches.” And my Dad says, “Well, they started hugging me.” Then both of them simultaneously turned to me. It was kind of creepy. They both at the same time looked at me and Gwen said, “Ruby, we just want to tell you that me and John both agree that you’re our favorite on the show.” And I was like, they’re just being nice. I said, “Oh, thanks, guys. I appreciate it. But you guys got your own team.”

Grumpy (sister): That are right there.

Ruby: Right there, mind you. “You guys got your own teams. I appreciate that.” Gwen says, “No, don’t get us wrong. We love our teams, but you’re our favorite on the show.” And I’m thinking you can’t put a band aid on that. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. Their teams are right, right there. And I’m like, all right, so that was very embarrassing.

Grumpy: “See you all at dinner!”

Ruby: Right. Gwen also said when we walked out, they didn’t air it, which is dumb, I really wanted them too, but she said, “Ruby, I hope you know how much that we all love you. Every time that we see your name is next on the list, we all get super excited. We can’t wait to hear you. He said, “You’re the one that we look forward to the most.” This is on stage in front of the crowd. They’re recording. I’m like, oh, OK. I really wanted them to air it, but they didn’t.

Grumpy: I think it’s because it’s, sort of biased. Yeah, it would have been nice to have that, obviously, but, yeah. There’s so much stuff they said on stage that never got aired that I wanted to air so bad. Actually, Niall and I made a really funny video after I got done with “Blue.” Do you have it?

Grumpy: No, wait I got it. (Plays a video on her phone.)

Niall: Hello? It’s me. Who are you?

Ruby: Yeah, it’s me. I found him randomly.

Niall: You’re not fair to everyone else that ever sang the history of music. It’s just not fair. You stay away from me.

Ruby: But yeah, Niall was my biggest cheerleader on the show. Honestly, I was telling everybody. I’m like, I don’t think he would have cared, whoever won. I think he was just happy for whoever won. But, you know, Niall, out of all the coaches, Niall is, like, the most involved with his team. He’s super involved, very involved. With him in a boy band, you’re like, is he really going to be a great coach? But very hands-on. He was there for all of his team members. He was there for me, gave me great advice. I’m like, oh, thanks. I didn’t pick you, but thanks. But, yeah, he’s trying to get me tickets to his show. He’s coming to St. Louis.

All the coaches had great things to say. John, this is actually just kind of funny. After “Desperado,” I came off the stage. Now, technically, you’re only supposed to hug your coach because it’s your coach, right? It was my last performance. I’m like, I’m going to hug them all. I don’t care. I’m hugging them all. I might not get a chance to hug them ever again. So, I was like, you know what? I’m going to do it. So, I’m walking upstage and I tell Reba (McEntire) thanks. Because, you know, they follow you with a camera of you walking off and you’re like, yeah. But I was like, no, I’m going through all the coaches, so they’re expecting me to go this one direction, and I do a hard left and I’m going to Niall’s chair. And then he was crying from “Desperado.” He hugged me, like, twice within one second. I’m like, “Are you OK?” He said, “This is my favorite song of all time. You smashed it,” or something. I’m like, thank you. And then I turn to go to Gwen’s chair because she’s next in line, but instead, there’s John. He’s literally touching the tops of my toes. He’s right there and he’s leaning forward. He’s like, “great job.” I’m falling backwards. Literally. I’m like, falling into Niall. And he kept going. He’s saying great job. And I’m like, thank you, John.

Grumpy: She says this to me, the way she tells me is she’s like, “Oh, he is such a hugger.” And she said “he’ll hug you.” He’ll be saying great job and you’ll think OK, the hug’s over. And lean back. And he says, “And I must tell you.

Ruby: Exactly! And obviously, then I went to Gwen, and she has some really exciting things to say to me, but, yeah, that was really exciting. That was, like, one of my favorite moments. Thanks, guys.

Grumpy: Are you going to talk about “Desperado?”

Ruby: Yeah, “Desperado.” Actually, I had to get personally signed off by Don Henley.

Greg: Really?

Ruby: Yeah, because when I put the song down, I’m trying to make this short. I know I might talk forever, but I put down “Desperado,” because you make a list of songs you want to sing, like, three songs. Like No. 1, No. 2, No. 3. My number one was Patsy Cline, but I couldn’t get that for some reason. So number two was “Desperado.” So I put it down, and the …

Casey: Music director said, “there’s no way you’re going to get that one.”

Ruby: Yeah. The music director was like, you’re not going to get that. Almost 100 percent of the time, it never gets cleared because there’s only one original writer left, and it’s Don Henley. So they’re like, “you’re not going to get that song. I hope you know that. Pick another one.”

Casey: It’s only been done one time on the show.

Ruby: Yeah, it was only been done one time on the show because one of the mega mentors knew Don Henley personally, and they got him to sign off on the song. So it’s only been done one time, which is why you don’t hear a lot of Eagles music in movies or TV shows. “Desperado,” specifically. And obviously, the reason why is because they don’t want someone to ruin this song that everyone knows and they think of this awful version.

Casey: There was an article by Don Henley that said he doesn’t even like the way he sings it.

Ruby: Then I reached out to one of my friends who I thought played for Don Henley, but he played for Don McClain. So, I got them mixed up. But he’s friends with Vince Gill. Like, good friends with Vince Gill. I know Vince Gill, but he’s good friends with Vince Gill and Vince Gill plays with the Eagles. So, we asked him, “hey, would you ask Vince if he could get him to sign that song?” He’s said yeah. So he asked Vince, and Vince responded back, and he’s like, “I love you guys so much but that’s not a cage I’m willing to step into.”

Casey: “That’s not a lion’s cage I’m willing to step into.”

Ruby: Yeah, that’s right. So he’s like, he’s going to say, no. So I’m thinking, dang it … so now what? It ended up, I sent a video of me singing the song to Don Henley personally, and he signed off on it by hearing me sing it. And we were all shocked. The music director said, “I don’t know how you got this.”

Grumpy: We pulled this one off.

Ruby: Yeah, exactly. So we ended up that he signed off on it, and that’s how I got to sing “Desperado”. Second time it’s ever been done in the show history. So they said it was like being handled a gold bar because nobody gets it ever.

Greg: That’s great. So let’s go back to the finals. They’re listing off the final five, and then they announce Mara’s third. You’re sitting there with Huntley on the stage, and they cut to commercial, naturally. Longest two minutes of your life? What’s going on behind the scenes.

Ruby: So when the ads come on, they start playing house music for people to be excited, EDM type. And then I’m up there. Me and Huntley both start dancing. So Huntley, which makes me laugh every time because he started, like, fake twerking. They keep making fun of me because I did the wave.

Grumpy: She’s wearing a dress and a jacket doing the wave.

Ruby: It’s my go to. It was really funny, though. I was just sitting there, and it’s even weirder to be so close to the coaches. Like, coaches are close. The chairs are close to the stage. They make it look like there’s, like, this football field in between, but they’re, like, right there.

Greg: So, it’s later revealed then you lost by the slimmest of margins, 31- to 30% is the numbers I’ve read. Is that a situation where ignorance is bliss and you really didn’t want to know you were THAT close to winning?

Ruby: Not really. Honestly, it makes me feel even better because I was so close, right? Because, like I told you, Niall’s team I knew is the one that had to be beat. And going through my demographic is, you know, older people. They got all these younger people, and they get on there and vote. They know social media, how to use it and apps and stuff like that. My demographic is like older seniors. And I had some people that were messaging, it’s not funny to laugh at, but it is. It’s kind of funny. But they would reach out to me and they’d say, “Hey, we really want to vote for you. How do we do that?” And I’d tell them so you go to the App Store and you download The Voice app and they’re like, “can I buy that at Walmart?” That’s why it’s funny. It’s not funny, but it’s funny.

Casey: Another one said, “Where’s the App Store at? Is that in a mall?” No, It’s on your phone.

Ruby: So we had a lot of that, but we had a lot of votes for my demographic. We must have had, like, a sea of people voting for it to get that close with as many fans to …

Casey: … overcome Mara, because Niall’s social media following is larger than all the other coaches combined. And just what Ruby said, they’re right in the wheelhouse of the voters. So, to overcome Mara was just something really incredible. And second place is a great place to be because you’re not hung up in a big, old, ugly contract. You see no tears, you see no resentment. When they said Huntley, we’re like, whew. WE didn’t think there was any way we were going to overcome Niall. And then it’s like, all these people, billboards and all this stuff, and I’m like, man, did we awaken something here with all these people. They figured out the apps.

Grumpy: It was just a comment on Facebook and Instagram, and I don’t know how true it is, but someone said it was off by three votes.

Casey: It had to be more than three.

Grumpy: Well, I don’t know. Like I said, it was just a Facebook comment, so there’s no credibility to it.

Terri: Yeah. She has billboards up all over the state of Missouri.

Grumpy: Travis Fitzwater was helping put them up.

Ruby: I never even got to see them.

Casey: Yeah, she’s going to the Capitol building and she’s got a lot of great stuff going. Lots of fairs and festivals.

Greg: Now, on the show itself, you sang as part of the competition eight songs. So of those eight songs, looking back on them as a whole, which ones would you pick out as your top performances?

Ruby: Definitely, “Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and “For a Long, Long Time.” Those are the ones that I got the most recognition from. I think they were all great.

Casey: They said you went viral on those two.

Ruby: Yeah, that’s why I would say those two. They were my favorites. I was the only contestant to go viral this season, which I did it twice. So with “Cowboy’s Sweetheart” and “Long, Long Time,” I’d probably say those two because those are everyone else’s favorites, too.

Grumpy: “Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” that’s the one you went on Billboard magazine, right?

Ruby: Yeah. And 26 worldwide on YouTube. And that’s a 100-year-old cover song.

Casey: Trending on Billboard with a cover song.

Grumpy: It’s pretty powerful.

Casey: That was something else during the show. The first time we met with Peter, who was the second head vocal coach, what they do is they print out lyric sheets for everyone. Reba gets it first. Then it goes from Reba to Paul, the band director, then the first head vocal coach and then to Peter. And what they do is they all put their notes on it. You know, you need to do this, need to work on this, you come in too late, whatever, any kind of notes for the performance. And this was for her audition song.

And we go in with Peter and he’s got a stack of papers for all the contestants and he’s rifling through and pulls this paper out. He’s looking at it. He sets it down. He goes on through, flaps the stack back down. He goes through it again, puts it back down. He goes through it three times and he looks up and he says, “Ruby, I’ve not heard you, obviously, I’ve just met you. But I can already tell you are absolutely incredible.”

And Ruby kind of looks at him and he said, and he’d been there since day-one. And he said, I’ve never had a sheet come back blank. He said, there’s no notes on this. He said, I knew this here was a double print. I went through my stack three times. I’ve never seen this. Anyway, he’s, he’s telling Ruby how incredible that is. And he says, go ahead and go ahead and sing for me. And so Ruby sang her song and he just sat there and he’s shaking his head the whole time.

And he goes, “Wow. I see why there’s no notes. What can you say about that?”

Greg: Now, looking back on the entire experience there on The Voice, when you tell people stories about the experience, what are some of the things that surprise folks the most about The Voice based of what we see on camera?

Ruby: Oh, I already know. The buttons do nothing. Literally, they do nothing. You don’t hear them. They don’t make the chair turn. They’re literally just a prop. They do nothing.

Casey: They signal a guy to turn their chair.

Ruby: Yeah. So there’s this guy with a control panel behind that big black curtain, and he’s back there, and this light starts flashing. He has to be on time to hit it as soon as they hit it without this huge lag to make it super obvious. And how close the chairs are to the stage. Another thing is the coaches are not there as long as people think they are.

Casey: A pretty good gig for $16 million for about a week and a half of work.

Ruby: 30 minutes a day that they’re there, and they make $16 million a season, and they’re there for about a week, like, altogether for six months that we’re there. They’re there for about a week.

Grumpy: I said, put me on. I’ll be the best coach I’ve ever seen.

Ruby: I’d do it for $1 million, I could sit in the spinny red chair.

Terri (mom): You did sit in the chair. You just didn’t get paid millions of dollars for it because the teachers put you in there.

Ruby: Yeah, I wasn’t supposed to be in it. They don’t let you sit in the chair, and my teacher …

Terri: They do make you go to school out there.

Ruby: Yeah. But they only let you sit in it if you make it to the end. They don’t let everyone for the audition sit in the chair. So, it’s like, most of you are going to be gone. So it was after the battles, I believe, and my teacher was there for my stage rehearsals because she has to be there because I’m a minor and I have to do six hours of school a day, which is ridiculous.

It wasn’t bad, though. My teacher was great. So, we’re there, and she said “Hey, didn’t you say you want to sit in one of the chairs?’ I’m like, “yeah, I did.” She says, “Go get it.” Huh? She’s like, go get it. “Right now?” She said “yeah, go get one.” I’m like, OK. So I’m running over to Reba’s chair. There’s people in there, too. It’s not just me and her. Everyone was there, and I’m going over to the chair, and then I sit down. So my Dad’s taking these pictures, and they’re like, hey, she’s not allowed in the chair. And then my teacher, Wendy, she says, “I said it was OK. It’s my fault.”

Casey: Wendy loved you.

Ruby: Wendy was super cool. She asked me, so what do you like? And I’m like, “Well, I love Def Leppard.” And then she says, “I like Def Leppard. That’s one of my favorites.”

Grumpy: I don’t think she was expecting that from a 16-year-old kid.

Ruby: (laughing) So we were listening to Def Leppard in class, writing down problems. She was absolutely great.

Casey: Tell him about the most important thing.

Ruby: What?

Grumpy: She took you on a trip?

Ruby: Oh, yeah, actually, I will share this, though, real quick. One of my favorite things is history. I love learning about history. And I was telling her, I’m like, yeah, I’d love to learn about World War I and II and the Holocaust and things like that, right? And she said, “Oh, really? You know they have a Holocaust museum that just opened up at the presidential library.” Oh, my gosh. I was like, “I would love to see that.” And said it’d be really cool to go see it. And it was right before the ending of the show.

Casey: But we can’t go any further from around the hotel, more than 10 minutes away.

Ruby: We’re not allowed to have a car.

Grumpy: The restaurants sucked around there. We got a call, “We need something. Send us something to eat.” So we were sending out boxes of the little cups of macaroni and cheese and, like, Rice-A-Roni to them. UPS is asking, “What are you guys sending?” “It’s just, rice, mac and cheese, some fruit snacks, beef jerky in there. Sending them, like, these care packages.”

Terri: Their Walmart is, what, three times smaller than our Wal-Mart?

Ruby: I kid you not, it had three frozen aisles. That’s all their food. It’s ridiculous.

Grumpy: You had to pay extra to get the microwave, too.

Ruby: So, I told my teacher, but the presidential library is 30 minutes away. So I was like, yeah, I’d love to see that. She said, well, maybe someday. And then we’re sitting there, and I could tell she was thinking. And then she looked at me, she’s says, “You want to go?” I’m like, yeah. She’s said, “You know what? I think I can get us to go. How about today?”

Grumpy: And your online school was shut down, too, that day, so it was, like, working out.

Ruby: Yeah, my school was shut down, too. So she got the show to pay for this trip to go there because she told them this was a school trip for history to get me to go there. So she got the show to pay for this trip to go to this presidential library. Got us a ride there right back from the show. Tickets to the museum were paid for. She pulled it off as like a class field trip.

Grumpy: When they say her school was shut down, it was online. The computer. They were redoing the website.

Terri: We say Ruby’s homeschooled. She does Ignite Christian Academy online. But when you go to California, even if you’re done, you just have to, if you’re a minor, you still have to go to the class. Just sit with her. You still have to go there.

Editor’s Note: Next week, in part four, Ruby and her family talk about plans and life after “The Voice.”