Hamilton's Cunningham sisters preparing for battle on 'The Voice'
Macie and Marie Cunningham, Hamilton teenagers who have been singing gospel music all of their lives, are getting ready for the Battle Rounds starting Monday Oct. 11 on NBC's The Voice.
Macie, 14, and Marie, 15, made their TV debut Sept. 28, when they picked coach Kelly Clarkson over fellow Ohioan John Legend during Blind Auditions for The Voice cast.
"You all have amazing voices. On your own you could have careers," Clarkson told the girls on the show.
Clarkson, the first American Idol winner (2002) and syndicated talk show host, promised to teach the girls how to harmonize.
"You have to learn how to blend, and to let the other shine in a moment – and I am really good at that," Clarkson said.
The sisters come from a long line of gospel musicians. Their father, Marc Cunningham of Hamilton, sang and played drums for the Holy City Travelers, founded by his grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Sr., of Hamilton, and the Franklin Sisters, a gospel group comprised of his mother, Daronna Franklin Simmons, and her sisters, according to Butler County's Journal-News.
"Our main experience has been signing together in church," Marie said during an introductory feature on the Sept. 28 telecast. "Music just always has been a part of our lives."
And their lives in Hamilton, as biracial teenagers, has not been easy. Their mother is "a white red head," and their father is "an albino Black man," Marie told NBC. They have been bullied a lot, she said.
"It was pretty hard growing up. People were noticing that we didn't look white, but we didn't look Black," Macie said. "I wasn't Black enough for my Black friends, and I wasn't white enough for my white friends."
While some video features about contestants on The Voice are filmed in their hometowns, the Cunningham piece was filmed in The Voice studio in Los Angele – where Macie was in awe.
"I'm literally obsessed with this show. It's crazy that I'm, like, behind the scenes," Macie said.
After performing "Never Alone" by Tori Kelly and Kirk Franklin during the Blind Auditions, both Clarkson and Legend spun around in their chairs to express their interest in mentoring the girls.
When Legend noted that he was from just up Ohio 4 in Springfield, Clarkson shot back: "I've been to Ohio too. My mom is from Ohio."
Clarkson's mother, Jeanne Ann Rose, grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She graduated in 1969 from Belpre (Ohio) High School, across the Ohio River from Parkersburg, according to the Marietta Times. Many of her ancestors are buried in Round Bottom Cemetery near Coal Run, Ohio, along the Muskingum River in Washington County, northwest of Marietta.
Clarkson, who was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1982, was filmed looking for her Southeastern Ohio roots in 2013 for TLC's Who Do You Think You Are? family ancestry series.
On the Sept. 28 show, Clarkson gave the girls a big hug and said she was "really excited about going through songs with them."
The Battle Rounds is the second of four stages on The Voice, which will conclude during November's TV ratings "sweeps." In the Battle Rounds, the coaches pit two of their own team members against each other to sing the same song. After the performances, the coach must choose which of his or her artists will advance to the Knockout Round.
In the Knockout Round, a celebrity mentor will work with all the coaches and their teams. Singers will select their own songs while a direct competitor watches. The coaches will choose the winner, and the artist not selected will be available to be stolen by another coach.
The top artists will advance to the Live Performance Shows, where TV viewers vote to advance their favorite artists. In the end, one artist will be named “The Voice” and will receive the grand prize of a recording contract.