Telegram - Serving Metropolitan Detroit Since 1944

By Clifton R Kirkman II
Telegram Reporter 

Detroit Native Rio Souma Speaks about His Journey and How It Feels Being on Season 19 of NBC The Voice


November 12, 2020

Rio Souma is performing on Season 19 of The Voice. He selected John Legend as his coach

In recent years, on television, there are many different types of singing competitions. Some, have left the fate of the contestant solely in the hands of celebrity judges, while others, have the audience or America's opinion to help them make it to the next round. Either way, it's never easy for those looking for their start to fame. It takes a lot of nerves, years of preparations and a tremendous amount of support from family and friends.

This year, as Season 19 of the Emmy Award-winning musical competition series "The Voice" returns, Detroiters are showing their support for one contestant named, Rio Souma. Born and raised in the city of Detroit, Rio, began his singing career at the age of 15. Now, 28 years old, he credits his success to his parents, his high school choir teacher, Dr. Cheryl Harden, and to the Mosaic Youth Theatre.

Rio's keys to success have been his amazing outlook on life.

Over the years, Rio remained focused and diligent as he continues to pursue his life goals of beingan award-winning musical artist.

Rio reminiscences on his upbringings, educational background and where he got his start. He even gave words of wisdom to today's youth.

Clifton: Who is Rio Souma and where did you grow up?

Rio: Rio is a smart, laid back person. I'm a really cool person, studio hermit and I work hard.

I grew up in the city of Detroit, on the Eastside, Jefferson, Mack and Chalmers area, near Southeastern High School.

Clifton: Who were your musical influences growing up?

Rio: Influences are everything. My mom and my dad had me listening to everything! Mom was big on Jazz music from Diana Washington to Ella Fitzgerald. My dad listened to Neo-Soul artists like Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and Kindred the Family Soul.

Growing up, I wanted to be like the Divas...Aretha Franklin and Lauren Hill. When I got to Cass Tech, that's when I got put onto the Clark Sisters and Darryl Coley.

Clifton: Who are your favorite vocalists?

Rio: I am a big fan of Brandy, Donny Hathaway and Durand Bernarr

Rio Souma's vocal training spans from being in choirs at Cass Technical High School, Mosaic Youth Theatre and University of Michigan. It was always his goal to be on Television.

Clifton: When it comes to the Arts, so many school districts have eliminated them due to budget cuts. Can you tell us the impact that those programs had on your life?

Rio: The kids don't even have that anymore; we used to have so much fun and experienced venues like the Fox Theater. We grew up in so much culture. I want to see a resurgence one day. When we were coming up in high school there was variety. The youth needs to see balance.

Clifton: What would you tell students of today?

Rio: Listen to your teachers. Even as a child, you know when a teacher has your best interest at heart. You know when a teacher is expanding "mind time" on you and I felt that way at Cass Tech. Cass Tech was a major part of my life, I got a lot of tutelage there. Dr. Harden, who was the choir director there, really taught me how to breathe and helped my range.

Clifton: What words of wisdom would you give them?

Rio: You must think positive! It's easy to get caught up in your lows but, try not too! No matter where you come from or think, you can do it too! You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do! Write your goals down, even if you think they are unattainable, write them down! I want kids from DPS (Detroit Public Schools) to be inspired to not give up on their dreams.

Clifton: Tell us about "The Voice", your audition song "Crusin", what was that like? How did you feel choosing a Motown Hit and making it all your own?

Rio: Getting that song, it was a task in itself. I originally wanted to do the DeAngelo version but, something said, make it true to the original. I wanted to make it different.

After the first chair turned, it was a black out. I was in disbelief. When the first chair turned around, it was surreal in my head, like this really just happened. Before I knew it, three chairs were turned around.

Clifton: When the Voice is over, what will Rio be doing, what are your future plans?

Rio: This entire experience is not going to be the end, it is not even the beginning. It's a chapter in my life. It took years to get to this chapter but, I am enjoying it. After this season is over, I intend on dropping a body of work. I am continuing to build a team and hoping that we can make this last. I would love to collaborate with Brandy and some Motown artist like Smokey Robinson. I can't do hair but I want to drop a natural hair care line.

Clifton: Is there anything else that you want us, The Telegram News, and the world to know?

An emotional Rio Souma as he is presented the Spirit of Detroit Award by Detroit City Council President, Brenda Jones, for his achievements and appearance on NBC's The Voice.

Rio: Thank y'all for supporting me, reaching out to me, and to my FCA & UAW brothers and sisters for supporting me. The only person who knew I could sing was the girl who worked next to me. I wasn't even blowing all out, I was just humming. Just the fact that their reactions weren't "he is crazy for giving up this job", like I thought they would. I want the plant workers to be inspired too! It's a reminder that "God is Real, he'll use you sometimes". In that moment, I realized that God used me. Thank you!

Clifton: Thank you Rio for your time and we are all rooting for you here in Detroit.

Rio Souma continues to make Detroit proud. This week, he was awarded the Spirit of Detroit Award. It was presented to him by City Council President Brenda Jones, for his outstanding achievement.

This week you can catch Rio Souma being coached by John Legend on NBC's The Voice, as he competes in the Battle rounds. Check your local listings for dates and times.

Watch his initial performance


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