For Kat Perkins, five minutes in an Amsterdam airport turned out to be a real game-changer.
Perkins, the Scranton nanny/rock singer, has parlayed a five-minute impromptu performance of Adele’s “Someone Like You” into a final five spot on NBC’s “The Voice,” which airs on Monday.
To borrow a phrase from the Grateful Dead’s hit “Truckin’” from 1970, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” For Perkins, it fits.
Last Tuesday, for the second time in as many weeks, Perkins needed “Team Kat” fans to come through with an instant save to stave off elimination in the sixth season of the NBC hit show.
“The Voice” is a talent competition in which viewers can vote for their favorite performers to advance with the winner receiving a recording contract.
So far this season, she has advanced week in and week out, banging out rock ’n’ roll classics like “Gold Dust Woman” by Fleetwood Mac and crushing rock power ballads like Journey’s “Open Arms.”
But last week, Perkins stepped out of her comfort zone in what many saw as a head-scratcher. She rocked out on the French electronic duo Daft Punk’s Grammy Award-winning song “Get Lucky.”
That was the point, Perkins said in a phone interview Thursday: “I felt like I had to do something more modern.”
Admitting her coach, Adam Levine, didn’t agree with her song choice, Perkins made the techno-pop song a head-banger. “I’m really glad we went for it,” she said.
Afterward, Levine said the 33-year-old’s take on the song was nothing short of amazing. “You just did a heavy-metal rendition of a Daft Punk funk tune in the coolest way,” he said.
When it came time for Perkins to sing for the lone spot with another instant save, she came back with vengeance, holding the crowd captive with her version of Heart’s “Barracuda.”
As dramatic as Perkins’ road to the final five has been, the beginning of her journey had things of which dreams are made.
Her singing career, to many, may seem like it came out of nowhere, but people in North Dakota, Minnesota and elsewhere in the region know her work.
Perkins fronted the Twin Cities band Scarlett Haze and later, Dirty Word, a band that gained a following in Bismarck.
After leaving Scarlett Haze, which opened for Bon Jovi at the Target Center in Minneapolis in 2005, Perkins went to work as a full-time nanny for a Twin Cities family with five children.
She also had surgery on her vocal chords during that time and left the stage for about three years.
Then came a call from Dirty Word, which wanted to hire her as its lead vocalist.
“That was just plain fun,” she said. Perkins said 10 years on the road had taken its toll not only on her voice, but on her spirit as well.
“At 28, I was kind of burnt out,” she said. The time off gave her the opportunity to “recharge, regroup and reset.”
In 2013, Perkins said, she traveled to the Middle East a number of times with other musicians to entertain U.S. troops.
It was in an Amsterdam airport at 6:30 in the morning Perkins did “Get Lucky.” On the concourse, there happened to be a grand piano.
Her band mate Russ King sat down at the piano and began playing “Someone like You.”
Her manager videoed the performance and the clip found its way onto Youtube.
Perkins said a producer from “The Voice” saw it, contacted her and encouraged her to audition for the show.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” she said. “I almost deleted the email.”
But she didn’t hit delete and with some prompting from her nanny family and her family in her hometown of Scranton, she auditioned in San Francisco in January and made the cut.
“It changed my life,” she said. “It’s been exciting, intense, exhausting ... it’s honestly the hardest work I’ve ever done. And the most rewarding.”
Perkins said working with Levine as her coach and others on “The Voice” has been both an eye-opener and an inspiration.
During the blind auditions, Levine, Shakira and Usher all hit the button to turn their chairs — signaling they wanted her for their team.
“Choosing Adam was the best decision I have ever made. He made the best case ... he’s such an honest, genuine guy,” she said.
Perkins said Levine has helped her learn the subtle things — things that can help her stand out — about singing and about the music business as a whole.
“I’m working with so many insanely talented people,” she said. “Adam taught me to look at my voice as an instrument ... I think I’ve become more disciplined and a better performer.”
So, how does a girl from a tiny town in southwestern North Dakota turn out to be a rocker? It’s been an evolution, she said.
“I grew up on country music,” she said. Perkins spent a couple of summers in the cast of the Medora Musical as one of the Burning Hills Singers.
From there, she spent about a year in Nashville trying to go down the country road and writing her own songs.
“The songs kept coming out rock ’n’ roll,” she said with a laugh. Perkins said she took it as a sign and decided to turn back to her musical roots.
She said the biggest influence on her musically came from her father, Mark Perkins, who has been a music teacher at Scranton for about 30 years.
“He’s a bass player and had a band when he was younger,” she said. Perkins said growing up, her dad introduced her to the music of Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen, Journey, Heart and others. “As a kid, I absolutely fell in love with Heart.”
Her family has been able to attend most of the shows and that has been huge, she said.
Perkins said regardless of what happens come Monday, her time on “The Voice” has been the journey of a lifetime.
And, she said she knows it’s a journey she has not been making alone.
The support from her fans has been overwhelming, she said.
“I don’t have the words to say how grateful I am. I can feel that energy every single moment,” Perkins said.
As far as a spoiler alert as to what she has planned for Monday’s show, Perkins said she’s not able to let that cat out of the bag.
But she said fans can look for her to pay tribute to her hometown and her fans.
“I can’t tell you how blown away I am by all the support,” she said. “No matter what happens, this isn’t about just me anymore.”