Stephanie Mautone is a senior communication and media arts major. This past summer, she landed a spot on Season 17 of NBC’s “The Voice” with her twin brother, Dane. They joined John Legend’s team as the first duo he has ever coached for the battle rounds. Stephanie and Dane sat down with The Montclarion Video Editor Annabel Reyes to talk about their experience, YouTube success and personal journeys.
Q: When did the both of you become interested in music?
Stephanie: It happened naturally. Dane and I were involved in sports but also liked musical theater and dance. Around middle school, around 10 years ago, we started singing in our basement together. Dane taught himself to play the piano and guitar. Then we started singing and harmonizing together. We realized we had something special without putting much thought to it. It came naturally and started out as a hobby.
Q: What made you want to perform as a duo?
Dane: We never thought about it. It was another natural thing and we’ve always been close. It’s something that went without thinking about.
Stephanie: We could tell that it felt more special singing together by hearing the way we harmonize and sounded. It was a magical feeling.
Q: Does anyone in your family have a musical background?
Dane: Neither of our parents were into music that much, but we always were.
Stephanie: We have two other siblings, an older sister and a younger sister. The four of us are all into the arts. We used to make short films together and things like that so we were always into it. We watched a lot of Disney movies growing up and we went to a lot of Broadway shows so we were always into the arts and music.
Q: Why did you decide to audition for “The Voice?”
Stephanie: We had been auditioning for shows like “America’s Got Talent” for the past couple years. We had been posting videos on YouTube and figured it’s right in New York, our mom would drive us to the audition. Sometimes the auditions would go well and we would get further than others. Sometimes it didn’t go well.
“The Voice” reached out to us because they saw our YouTube channel and asked if we would be interested in coming in for a callback audition so we were excited, but didn’t know what to expect.
Q: How would you describe your experience being on the show?
Stephanie: Me and Dane are so appreciative of the experience we had. It was a great learning experience and we grew so much as artists and as people. We never thought about how far we’d make it on the show, it was more about the surreal journey we were on and we’re thankful for it.
Dane: We didn’t know what to expect from it. I never realized it would be a big growing experience. From performing on a stage like that to working with vocal coaches, the experience gave me a lot of confidence. I’m always going to carry [that] with me and it’s always going to be a big moment that I’m going to look back on in the future.
Q: What were your feelings on stage during the blind audition?
Dane: Once we got on stage and started the song, I got nervous right away and kind of blacked out. I didn’t remember singing the rest of the song. John [Legend] turned around first and I didn’t even look at him, I just saw a light on the floor and saw that someone had turned but I wasn’t focusing on it because I was blacked out and trying to stay in the song.
Stephanie: We were going through the motions. I can’t remember actually singing it. I know I was singing but I don’t know what I was thinking. When the chair turned, I looked up but once I saw the jacket and could tell it might be John Legend, I freaked out and looked away because I was too nervous.
Q: Dane, you became the second transgender contestant in show history. Can you describe what that was like?
Dane: Aside from being a duo on “The Voice,” I got to share on the show that I’m transgender. It affected us and how we sing together. At that point, I was only around seven months on hormones. It takes time for my voice to drop and it had dropped a decent amount, but it was still changing.
Even now, I’m still adjusting to it. I can’t sing the higher notes I was used to hitting. Through the process of being on the show, we both had to adjust to my range and what we could sing together.
Stephanie: Dane sharing being transgender on national television was such a big step. Looking at what he shared with so many people, it’s inspiring because I’m sure he helped so many people identify with themselves. Seeing someone else who’s trans singing on national television is such a big step. We might have not realized it at the time because it feels so normal for us, it’s our everyday life.
Q: Dane, you have your own personal YouTube page that focuses on your transition. Can you elaborate on why you created it?
Dane: I started my own YouTube channel so I could document my transition. Before I even started hormones, I had the idea from seeing other trans people do it. I knew having something to look back on in the future would make me see how much I grew and how far I came. Since I focus on my transition and being transgender, I think it’s good to put that out there because it could reach someone that could be educated by it and other trans people who need someone to relate to.
I found support from watching other people’s YouTube videos before I even came out. The idea of being so open about my transition was something that was scary but also something I wanted and needed to do. I get why people would want to stay quiet about it and it’s scary being open about it. You never know how anyone feels but it gives people an example of [what] one trans person can be like and how we’re not so different from everyone else. Everyone has their own experience and this is mine.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
Stephanie: I started my own YouTube page. I love being able to post whatever I want. Together, we’re in the process of writing music and taking our time with it. It’s something we want to be proud of. Aside from the both of us together, I love acting and that’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to pursue. I’m going to see where life takes me once I graduate from Montclair State. It’s my last semester, so I’m looking forward to chasing my dreams in whatever way and staying creative.
Dane: We both have things we want to pursue together but also separately. It’s going to be nice to watch how we grow and how we do in the future.
Q: If you could give advice to someone interested in pursuing a music career, what would it be?
Dane: Stay passionate about it. You have to keep confidence in yourself because it’s easy to get down a lot. Whether it’s an audition that didn’t go well or in general. The idea of being successful in the music industry could be stressful, but putting your music out there, posting it on YouTube or even auditioning for some reality show like we did could help you gain exposure and experience.
Stephanie: We’re still on our journey, but I would say put your content out there. Keep posting, keep trying. You never know what’s going to come of it.
Dane: Your mindset is very important. If you lose that confidence or start doubting yourself, it’s hard to get anywhere. You really have to believe it to see it all happen.