Jacquie Lee, may have been runner-up in Season Five of NBC's "The Voice," but she just hit the jackpot in terms of catching the ear of one of the all-time great music executives.
“I had no idea I'd be signing an artist who performed on 'The Voice' or any of these TV shows,” says Lyor Cohen principle of 300, a music start-up company launched in November 2013 and which today is announcing the signing of the 16-year old Lee to a worldwide label deal in partnership with Atlantic Records. "In my entire career I haven't signed one, but she was so undeniable and I was so completely gobsmacked – I didn't care where she came from."
For her part, the 16-year old from Colts Neck, NJ with the soulful voice of a seasoned singer, seems well aware of Cohen's bona fides. "This feels like an insane dream come true," she says. "It's been a trip since my time on 'The Voice' but there has been no bigger thrill than joining the 300 Entertainment/Atlantic Records family.” This coming from someone who was mentored by Christina Aguilera, sang before 80,000 people at MetLife Stadium at a N.Y. Giants game and had her powerful rendition of “And I Am Telling You” from the movie “Dreamgirls” break into the iTunes Top 10.
It's Lee's new single, however, "Broken Ones,” which Lee performed last week on the new season of the “The Voice,” (video below) that 300 is hoping will break through. The song, which Cohen calls a “absolute stunning song,” was written by Dana Parish and Andy Hollander (who have written for Celine Dion).
The signing of Lee to 300, which has been billed as a new kind of label for the 21st century and has a deal with Twitter to help find and break artists, would seem a more traditional route to discovering an artist. But Cohen, whose signings include ASTR and Eric Bellinger, says his label is open to finding great music anywhere they can. "These days in the start-up world everyone is essentially doing everything."
Cohen credits 300's Roger Gold with tipping his colleagues off to Lee's talent. “We heard a song that was so beautiful that we didn't ask any more questions." Cohen says the entire 14-person staff at 300, which includes execs Todd Moscowitz and Kevin Liles, heard her music and reacted the same. “We wanted to meet her immediately and once we met her we fell in love,” Cohen says. “We met at my house in the West Village with her parents and she was incredibly confident, charming and poised.”
Lee will soon be heading out on the 31-city "Voice Live" summer tour which includes stops at the Beacon Theatre and Trump Taj Mahal with Season 5 champ Tessanne Chin, Season 5 fan favorite Will Champlin and Season One favorite Dia Frampton, along with this season’s newly crowned winner Josh Kaufman and runner-up Jake Worthington and second runner-up Christina Grimmie.
For Cohen, this is just the beginning of the long artist development process. “We need her to do 10,000 hours,” he says invoking one of the key tenets in Malcolm Gladwell's “Outliers: The Story of Success.” You need to get on it and perform in front of people and develop that side of her career.”
“I am so grateful that they saw something in me and believe in me,” Lee says. “I am ready to continue working hard so that I can make the most of this."
“We feel so honored to have her part of this family,” Cohen adds.