Terry Morrow: Jermaine Phair, other finalists talk competition on NBC's 'The Voice'

PASADENA, Calif. — Forget Team Blake or Team Christina.

As far as Jermaine Phair sees it, he's in competition with himself on "The Voice" (8 p.m. Monday on WBIR, Channel 10).

"People keep asking me all the time if I'm going to win," he says, cracking a smile during an informal breakfast interview here. "I'm really just in competition with myself.

"I'm working on my nerves. You're really as good as your last performance."

But make no mistake. The competition goes on beyond the stage.

While Phair, a former Alicia Keyes back-up singer from New York, says the finalists all wish the best for each other, the picture over breakfast could leave the impression otherwise.

Fellow finalist James Massone, representing Team Cee-Lo, sat beside Phair for the interview with a small table of reporters, leaning forward to be included in the conversation. Phair, however, spoke up quickly and often, dominating the session.

Eventually Massone excused himself from the table — a handler says he had to go to the restroom — and he never returned.

Clearly the stakes are rising on "The Voice" as it nears its finale.

And it's not just for the contestants. "The Voice" is NBC's most-watched series each week, and the struggling network is pulling out the stops to make sure the public's interest in it stays.

Nationally, "The Voice" is proving to be a strong rival for Fox's "American Idol" among the younger demographics, the most coveted age group among advertisers.

In Knoxville, "The Voice" is a powerful draw against ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" in total households. During many weeks, "The Voice" and "Dancing with the Stars" are nearly neck-and-neck for ratings.

Monday's installment of "The Voice" will contain more live performances for the remaining finalists with eliminations announced Tuesday night.

Massone performs Monday night. Phair sings, and faces elimination, on April 30.

Phair is part of Blake Shelton's team.

"Working with Blake is great," Phair says. "I've learned from being around him what's city cool and what's country cool. He can be himself in any environment, and I've learned a lot from him about that."

Phair is considered one of the leading finalists to win the whole shebang this season.

Another fan favorite is finalist Lindsey Pavao of Christina Aguilera's team. Pavao's talent is so strong that the other judges are singing her praises, too.

"She's teaching us all the time," Pavao says of Aguilera. "We're always learning from her no matter what it is.

"A lot of what makes her (a good teacher) is she is comfortable and healthy and happy. We all learn from that."

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