The Voice is back for its eighth season Monday, and with it comes the return of original coach Christina Aguilera.
Aguilera — who gave birth to her daughter while she sat out of coaching the singing competition’s sixth and seventh seasons — hasn’t been completely gone the whole time: she served as a mentor for season seven coach Gwen Stefani, which allowed Aguilera to experience the show in a new way. “Mentoring was great, no pressure,” Aguilera told The Hollywood Reporter. “I showed up, saw a good friend, and watched and guided her team for the day, and left. I really loved it, as the pressure was not on me.”
The other new coach from last season, Pharrell Williams, returns this season — along with original The Voice coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, who have been with the show every season. And while many of the coaches cycle in and out, this season marks the first time Aguilera and Williams have worked together.
“I have known Pharrell [for] a long time, but we never directly worked together before this, and I am really enjoying it,” Aguilera said. “Pharrell has an amazing sense of calm; he is so fluid and smooth in his delivery, and he’s one the the most talented guys in the business. I am really happy he has joined The Voice family, and we are even working on a song together now.”
While Aguilera was gone, the show has implemented a few format tweaks — including the addition of a previously eliminated contestant joining the finale via a wildcard competition — and though some might find the changes daunting, Aguilera welcomes them.
“Since I have been with the show [since] day one, I can say that each time I come back I feel like there are more additions that just work,” she said. “By season eight, we are a well-oiled machine. Taking time away, I don’t really watch the show and study it [to see what changes]. But what [the time away] does do is let me step away and come back with a fresh perspective on things. I am excited to see what talent awaits this season.”
As Aguilera searches for Team Christina’s first win, she isn’t tied to looking for a specific kind of singer to get her there. “I have always said that voice is part of the equation,” she said. “But for me I need to feel it coming from another place. Heart, soul, deeply feeling the music is what turns my chair [during the blind auditions].”
And she may have a new card up her sleeve when it comes to competing for singers to join her team in the future: Aguilera recently signed on to guest star on the ABC musical drama, Nashville.
“Move over Blake, you may not be able to play that ‘country card’ for long,” Aguilera joked of her fellow coach who is notorious for using his country music credentials — and Nashville ties — to sway contestants to join his team. (For his part, Shelton has also racked up four wins in the show’s run so far, with three of his artists being country singers.)
For Aguilera, she’s excited what the Nashville experience will mean for her career. “I am excited to try something different, as I do think in life, and in music, experience just adds to the creative process,” she said. “We haven’t started shooting, I actually leave for Nashville next week. But I can say my character is a successful pop singer who desperately wants to move into the country world, as that is her true passion. But she is caught between her passion and what the label wants her to do.”
“I have started to venture into all aspects of the business, still with my focus on music, but acting and now even producing TV,” she continued. “We just sold our idea to ABC Family so it’s an exciting time for me.”
The Voice‘s season premiere airs Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.