Local musician and pastor Jim Ranger is no stranger to reality TV, after auditioning and appearing on “American Idol” multiple times. However, it wasn’t necessarily part of the plan to try out for NBC’s hit singing competition “The Voice” and ultimately to find himself on Team Blake.
He and his wife, Camilla, were watching the show one night in the fall of 2019 when he became curious about auditions. There was a note on their website about uploading a video if someone was unable to make an audition. He sent a link to the only video he had on YouTube, then forgot about it.
Before sending the video link, Ranger felt a shift — that he needed to get back into writing and playing music again, because it’s such a vital part of who he is.
“It was a combination of definitely feeling like something needed to shift in my life specifically towards music. At the same time, it wasn't necessarily to perform on a giant rock in front of millions of people. It was more just the aspect of me getting back into music,” Ranger said.
A few months later, he was asked to go to LA for a casting call for the singing competition. The audition went well and then came the infamous year of 2020. Things were a bit murky at the beginning, not knowing whether the show would move forward in the middle of the pandemic.
But, it did, and the rest is history.
“It was fun, obviously, it was exciting, and I loved making people happy,” Ranger said of the experience, but noted that it always felt bigger than him. It wasn’t an obligation he felt he had to live up to.
Of course, due to the pandemic, it wasn’t the typical season. They lived in a bubble throughout the duration of the show and stayed in LA throughout the course of the season.
“So much of your practice is done on your own time. You're there, so you have these band rehearsals that happen, a couple of them, but for the most part, you’ve got to be prepared going into it,” said Ranger.
The live shows were “way more intense,” because contestants are in go-mode the entire time. On top of the live shows, they’re also doing interviews with media outlets, always doing something. They also work more closely with wardrobe and choreography.
“They didn’t have a lot to do with me,” Ranger laughed.
How much were the contestants able to work with the coaches?
In the beginning, contestants work closer with the vocal coaches and band. There are also about 10 contestants on each team, which doesn’t allow for much quality time.
As the season progresses and contestants are sent home, the remaining contestants have more time with their coaches.
“By that last week, man, we got to hang out all the time. We were in the studio together recording the 'Streets Of Bakersfield' song, you get to spend real time and hang out, which was obviously just a blast,” said Ranger.
Jim’s wife, Camilla, was just as excited about her husband’s time on the show.
“We knew what was happening, but to see it unfold the way that it did with all of the production and wardrobe and everything was just super fun,” Camilla said of the journey.
Ranger said it’s hard to put into words what the Kern County community’s support meant to him, as well as that from the state of Arkansas, where relatives of he and Camilla still reside.
“This whole thing is obviously just a big door opener. There's no guarantee of anything, but it definitely opened the doors that never could have opened, or at least would have taken way longer and way more effort to open them,” Ranger said of his time on the show.
The process and going through the competition solidified who he is, acknowledging that he is always a pastor, but he’s also a singer and a musician.
Even through this platform of the show, Ranger was able to help others, being one of the older contestants and having worked through his own insecurities.
“I'm a pastor anywhere I go, apparently, because that's what happened there, I became a pastor to the other people.”
“In order for me to be my best version of myself, I have to fully embrace both sides of me. And when I do that, I'm not really neglecting anything, so I feel fuller, I feel more in touch with me, I feel more in touch with God, I feel more in touch with people around me,” Ranger continued.
It hasn’t all been glitz, glamour and self-reflection for Ranger since the show ended, though. He and his wife have been working through health issues and their kids have been finishing the school year.
“I think for me, it's been hard because I wanted him to just go. He had so much momentum built up and I wanted him to just be able to jump in and take off, and that just got derailed with my health and he had to stay here and not only take care of me, but take care of the kids,” said Camilla.
As life returns to some normalcy, both personally for the Rangers and around the country, he is booking more shows for the fall and winter, some that will allow him to meet up once again with fellow "Voice" alums Ian Flannigan, Ryan Berg and Tori Miller.
“The end game is hopefully to cut a record here later on this year and do some touring supporting it,” said Ranger.
If there’s one thing this experience taught the Ranger family, it’s to go after your dreams, no matter where you are in your life.
“This wasn't a make-or-break thing for him in the sense of ‘I can only do this or this at this time.’ He went because he wanted to be a part of something, and then it ended up being so much more fun and exciting than we ever imagined,” said Camilla.
Editor's note: Shelby Parker has grown up with Jim Ranger at New Life Church, where Jim and Camilla are now the senior pastors of the southwest campus. They have been family friends for a number of years.