Terrell Grice has an affinity for singers. But not just any regular ol' singers -- if you come across the blue wall of his YouTube channel, you've got to be able to sing "for real."
"Listen, we broke! We don't have the big equipment to have you on these mics that are all sweetened with all the reverb and stuff," he tells Out. "This is a raw, cheap mic we got from Walmart, so you gotta sound like somebody. And I try to be careful with my selection because there are singers who, you know, they can sing live on a raw mic and sound amazing. And there's some singers whose sound is built by effects in a studio."
All tea. No shade.
"Both are super respectable," he added, "but I can't do the latter here ... So I try to make sure I stay in my lane and that lane is just people who can blow."
I first stumbled on The Terrell Show while searching for The Voice and The Four performances online. His reaction to The Four contestant Evvie McKinney's renditions of "Proud Mary" and "Glory" -- which ended up landing her the title of season one winner -- popped up in my related videos pain. Since, I've become a dedicated viewer.
The channel includes reaction videos to all of the singing reality competition shows as well as interviews and games with emerging vocalists, like Leah Jenea and Vincint, and more established singers like Amber Riley, Avery Wilson, and celebrity vocal coach Stevie Mackey.
I caught up with Grice on a recent morning in the South Pasadena studio where he films just hours after hitting 200,000 subscribers. We talked about growing up in the country, a love of folks who can stand flat-footed and sing, and how his YouTube channel came to be. He also discussed his own aspiration for doing music and a recently released track, "yes, this song is about you."
I love a good singer, and Adele can do that, Kyla Jade, who I was referencing in that video, can do that, and there's so many others. Beyonce can give it to me. She can get it! But I love it when I can just sit there and watch you sing. There's not enough of that. Everything's got to be a spectacle all the time. Sometimes I just wanna hear your heart.
Well it was then that I knew you had to be from the country, and turns out, we might be cousins. You're from Mullins and I'm from Charleston, South Carolina. What was growing up there like?
When I look back on it, I think the biggest thing that shocks me is, I had no idea how poor we were. I talk to my mom and my grandparents all the time, and I'm like, "How did y'all do it? The rent is only $400 for a whole damn house, and you only made $400 a month! How did you do it?" I look back and find so many little details that make me appreciate coming from the country. We had one high school for the whole city and everybody knew everybody. We played with sticks and rocks and made the best damn games out of that.
And I can tell from your channel that you grew up in the church.
Oh my god, yes. My grandmother was my Sunday school teacher, and she was looked to as the person people call to set up the cookout or help out in the kitchen. So, I had to be there with her all the time. She had me in the choir. But because that's all I knew, I didn't know that being in the church was like, optional, right? I just thought it was a part of life ... When I left and went to high school in North Carolina with my mom, when I was about 14, I was like, "We don't have to -- it's Wednesday, we should be at choir rehearsal, why are we watching Netflix? I don't get it." So, for the first decade-plus of my life, I didn't realize that there was life beyond church. That's how deep I was in it.
What was the music of your childhood?
Well, we weren't allowed to listen to nothing 'bout sex, baby. My grandmother wouldn't even let me play Michael Jackson. Even what we watched on TV, that was back when 106 & Park was poppin', then TRL, no! We had to go to school and catch up [with the rest of the kids]. So, it was Kurt Carr, Shirley Caesar, the Winans. It was just a bunch of gospel greats. There was one artist that my grandmother played everyday, and I kid you not, it was everyday. Helen Baylor was the Whitney [Houston] of my house. And I think that's where my love comes from, from gospel music, because gospel music is connected to R&B and soul music. It's just music from the heart, whether you're talking about your love for Jesus or your love for this nigga. Either way, you're talking about passion, you're talking about soul.
So the story goes: you moved to North Carolina, developed a love for TV, went to film school, moved to Los Angeles, worked behind the scenes helping to produce some reality shows, and started this channel a year ago, right? Where did the idea for it come from?
I always loved music and I realized I was having a hard time finding outlets to point me to new music that I liked. There was always people talking about music, but they were always talking about really popular music, something that I'm gonna find out about regardless from the radio. Then I went to YouTube ... I knew nothing about it -- and was watching The Four one day. I had already done maybe like two reaction videos, late December 2017, one of Fifth Harmony and one of Tamar Braxton's album. It was whatever and I was just kind of effin' around with it. And I was in my bed like, "Who is The Four? Why are you trending?" So I said, "I'm gonna get up in front of this camera, and I'm going to react to this thing that's trending and I have no idea why it's trending," and it happened to be the finale of the first season of The Four.
The channel started to get traction. Then, one of the artists I was reacting to reached out to me and said, "Dude, I would love to do a video with you." His name was Noah [Barlass], he was a member of season two of The Four. He came in, we did the interview, and when he left, we all looked at each other like, "Oh we about to do this. I'm about to get every artist in here that I respect, that I think is dope, that does not get the light that I think that they deserve. I'm gonna interview them, ask about their life, their journey, their music, their artistry, and I'ma put it out to the world."
So the reactions were an experiment that spawned into a beats of its own.
Yes, I was trying to figure out what I could do on YouTube because YouTube is such a monster and I couldn't find anything that I could super duper relate to. So I didn't feel like I could do it. And then [my producer] Roxy was like, "Just do what you do and stop whining about it, and stop trying to find something that looks like you, 'cause you probably won't. 'Cause you're weird as hell."
So many people in my networks have stumbled on your content on their own, as the channel is picking up steam. How has it been building an audience?
I'mma tell you right now: I don't know what I'm doing. There ain't no damn plan, and you can ask anybody that before I did that first video, I always hated being on camera. And there is barely any pictures, videos, or social media footprint before this channel. It's just never been my thing. But because I felt like there was something lacking in the community that I felt like I could fill, that's when I started to do it ... I think the audience has just been coming and enjoying the ride with me as I'm experimenting. The only goal that I have is creating content that I'm proud of, that my kids will be proud of, that our culture is proud of. I'm not worried about these numbers. We just hit 200k like an hour or two ago and as exciting as that is, I'm more thinking, "Okay, well now that we have 200k, maybe this artist will come. Maybe they'll feel like it's worth their time."
Who are some up-and-coming, emerging artists you think people should be paying attention to?
Nao comes up. Her sound, you can't compare to anybody. It's unique, and it's real. And she's speaking from the heart. And she's a flat-footed singer.
And I also have to ask about your love of liquor. It's featured in every video and I feel like it might help to ease the guest.
I'm already one shot in before they hit the door. Let me tell you why. First of all, I'm grown and I do what I wanna do. Second of all, on camera, sometimes I need it because they be singing me out my pants, and in order for me to keep my pants on I have to have a little shot to keep me together. Hallelujah!
Now what about your music -- the girls are waiting.
As much as I love music, it terrifies me to sing it. And I have been working on that, and it's completely a confidence thing. Sometimes I get intimidated going to the booth, because I'm like, "I know how this is supposed to sound." But 90% of these artists who've come in here, and it makes me wanna cry thinking about it, they'll say right before they leave, "Yo, I hear it, just do it. Just do it." And they've also offered to like help and be a part of it, and I think I needed that. Because it's hard to go into that booth and as cool as it sounds, it is not easy.
It is a remix of Summer Walker's "Girls Need Love," but it is completely flipped. And the lyrics are very different. And then, this summer I've got a whole project coming with a lot of people y'all know who'll be on it.