"To have millions of people watching me every week - it's really, really, really awesome," says Matthew Schuler on the phone Monday.
If the 21-year-old from Yardley sounds a little breathless, it's because in a couple of hours he will be taking the stage on The Voice to belt out "Story of My Life" (see video of performance below). He dedicated the song from One Direction's new album to his family.
It's a hectic evening at Universal City. In the middle of the conversation, Schuler will be called away to rehearse his second number, "When a Man Loves a Woman". The soul classic from Percy Sledge was selected by Matthew's Voice coach, Christina Aguilera.
"It's definitely gotten progressively busier," he says of the show's schedule. "We have two songs a week and sometimes we're learning songs we never heard before. But if I want a career, this is what it's going to be like. The show has been a bootcamp to learn what being being a musician means in this industry."
You may detect a taking-it-to-church vibe in Schuler's "Story of My Life" cover. His parents — Don and Dawn, both Philly natives — are pastors, running a nondenominational home ministry out of their Yardley basement. His grandfather has been a minister for nearly 50 years at Consolation Baptist Church on Wharton Street in South Philadelphia.
Born in Levittown, Matthew cites Michael Jackson as his greatest vocal influence. He moved into pop music as a sophmore at Pennsbury High School when he founded a band, The Threshholds.
He's come a long way from Bucks County in a short time. Schuler, an undergrad at West Chester University, is still shocked that the band Young the Giant posted a congratulatory video to him after he sang their song "Cough Syrup" during The Voice's audition rounds.
Schuler was unable to come home for Thanksgiving, so his parents, older brother and younger sister all flew out to Los Angeles to spend it with him.
Last week in a shocker, Schuler, who has been widely hailed as the singer-to-beat this season, landed in the Bottom 3, staying in the competition thanks to the Instant Save.
He describes the experience as "humbling".
"It taught me never to take anything for granted. The talent on this show is unbelievable," he says. "Fortunately it's only encouraged me to do better this week."
What do you think? Was his one-two punch of "Story of My Life" and "When a Man Loves a Woman" enough to vault him back up the leaderboard?
We'll find out tonight when two more contestants are sent packing, leaving only four finalists.
Good luck, Matthew.
Having trouble seeing the video? Click here.