Phillip "Pip" Arnold takes the stage of The Voice sporting a button down shirt, orange sneakers, white suspenders and a plaid bow tie.
"There is a house in New Orleans," the 19-year-old sings into the mic, soulfully lingering over the first few verses. By the time "of many a poor boy" artfully skips, then slides off his lips, judge Adam Levine is hooked, followed by Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green.
A pop of the left suspender seals Pip's place as a crowd favorite.
The Making of a Moment
The Kennesaw and Marietta communities have rallied behind the whose palindromic name, Southern fraternity-inspired style, and soulful voice earned him thousands of new fans literally overnight following the .
The show debuted this season with more than 13 million viewers worldwide. The opportunity is "a huge, huge stepping stone," he says. But “keeping America’s attention is going to be the harder part."
Following the urging of a friend, Pip previously auditioned for The Glee Project. He made it through several rounds but was ultimately eliminated for not being memorable enough.
Drawing on his "Southern gentleman" aesthetic, as well as his mother's experience as a seamstress at Sewing Sisters in Marietta, he's made strides to refine his style. Pip's mom, Chris Arnold, makes some of the signature bow ties herself.
While the Georgia boy swag and dimpled smile may help to set him apart, it's Pip's voice that put him through the blind auditions with all four judges vying for his talent.
"You seem like you'd be a chameleon. You could do pretty much anything and affect people and impact people," said Levine.
Pip says he nearly picked Aguilera but ultimately joined Team Adam because Levine offered real, constructive criticism during part of the deliberation not shown on TV. The "self-critiquing" teen says he wants to improve and felt the best connection with Levine.
The crowd reaction was surreal, and the experience was "a rush, adrenaline pumping, pumping through your body," he says.
"The best moment so far of my life was being on that stage, even if no one had turned around."
Music in His Veins
Pip was singing Barney songs before he could properly talk. "And he could carry a tune," says Chris Arnold. "My mother was where he got the voice."
Grandmama Ann McDonnell was a singer who entertained the troops when they returned from World War II. Months before she died, Pip performed for several hours in Marietta Square. “I could sit here and listen to him sing these songs all night,” she told family members. And that's exactly what she did.
Pip's sister and most influential mentor, Eileen, got him on stage at an early age. He became the go-to kid whenever one of Eileen's high school productions called for a young role. Pip's father, Jim Arnold, deejays and owns an extensive music collection. Growing up, he'd quiz Pip on songs. "All right. Who is this?" he'd ask. Pip's mother, Chris, plays guitar. Her performances of "House of the Rising Sun" inspired Pip's song choice for the show.
Pip also credits the influence of Kennesaw Mountain High School choral director Patricia Jacobson, who opened his ears to different styles. Pip's iPod has everything from jazz to hip hop to classical and choral music. He also notes the influence of drama teachers , Debbie Walker and the late Edward Deavers, who passed away during production of the school's Big River musical, in which Pip starred as Huckleberry Finn.
At KMHS, Pip served as president of the chorus, started the school's annual Cabaret and Coffee talent show and performed in a state-winning quartet. He says music occupies most of his time, although he's also an Eagle Scout and enjoys camping and shooting.
"I’m also obsessed with throwing parties, like, awesome parties," says Pip. If singing doesn't work out, he'll make a great event planner, his sister Bridget jokes.
In high school, Pip organized bonfires and deejayed at parties complete with fog machines and colored lights. The detail-oriented teen likes to be in control. As an artist, he "will put on a show" if he gets the chance.
Going to Battle
Pip is currently splitting his time between Georgia and Los Angeles where he shares a house with five other aspiring artists, including fellow Voice contestant and Team Adam member Nathan Parrett.
Pip says he visited the west coast for auditions in September but made the decision to stay there the night before his flight was due to depart.
"Before I even knew what had happened, I was calling my mom and said, 'You know, I’m not coming back. You know what, this is where I’m supposed to be. I can feel it.' Luckily, the next day, I got a call back."
Pip says his mother has always been supportive of his goals, even when he made the decision to pursue his career full time and drop out of pre-pharmacy school at Samford University where he was on the honor roll.
Meanwhile, fans await the start of the battle rounds phase of the competition, something Pip technically can't talk about.
"I will say this," he says with a smile. "You are going to see some of the best duets you've ever seen." The rounds pit team members against each other in a duet battle, meaning half of the current contestants will be cut.
For now, Pip is spending time with his family and is organizing a nonprofit in honor of missionary Stewart Hay, a close family friend who passed away from brain cancer. Pip wears a black wristband imprinted with the New Zealand silver fern in memory of Hay. His nonprofit, Youth in Mission, is selling the wristbands to collect proceeds for youth mission work.
Pip is often recognized locally and even had a run-in with a girl who screamed, cried, then excused herself to go throw up because "she said she didn't handle excitement well." Pip says he is surprised and amazed by the amount of community support.
"God has given me such an amazing opportunity, and if I squander that, that’s my own stupidity," he says.
"Honestly, I don’t think I can remember a time when I didn’t want to sing," he says. Pip recalls a childhood memory shared with his grandmother. "I remember watching the Grammys and telling her, 'You know, I’m gonna be there one day.'"
Check back in with Patch as we follow Pip's progress on the show Monday nights at 8 on NBC. You can also follow Pip on his website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages. You can purchase the full version of his "House of the Rising Sun" performance on iTunes.