In rehearsals, coach Gwen Stefani’s main note for Plake was to open up to the audience and let them see his personality — a task he accomplished after Stefani called his performance “unbelievable.” Adam Levine even opined that the show is just “a stepping stone” for him and that he could very well win the whole competition.
“I’d say tonight I had a breakthrough as far as being comfortable in front of ,” Plake told PEOPLE after the live top 12 playoffs. “In the blind audition, they’re not facing you and you have this image in your head of who they are on TV and on Spotify and iTunes. I’d say the longer I’m here, the more and more I realize they’re just people.”
Though Plake is no stranger to performing in front of large crowds at church, he notes his audience has never included superstars like Stefani and Levine before.
“My church that I grew up in is professional, music-wise. I’d say the biggest transition for this is not really the stage and the atmosphere, it’s singing to celebrities,” he said. “At church, Adam Levine wasn’t attending and Gwen Stefani wasn’t hanging out with me backstage.”
During the show, Stefani also made sure to recognize that Plake is the first person in Voice history to have two songs reach the iTunes Top 30 before the live playoffs — though, he says, it didn’t make him more confident going into eliminations.
“I was definitely surprised to make it into the top 12 to be honest,” he said. “I’m confident in who I am and honestly all I was thinking was, ‘I’m going to go out there, sing this song and I want to be myself.’ If I win this show or I don’t, I just want to be me.”
Before the show, Plake and his brother were recording music together for their band in their home studio. The duo decided to change their band name to Plake after garnering a large fan base — specifically from one unlikely place.
“Because I can see the analytics on my Instagram, my biggest fan base by far is Istanbul for some reason,” he shared. “I love that city, I’ve never been there before, but the people there dig my music so that’s cool. Maybe I’ll be going over there to do some shows.”
The Voice airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.