When I was contacted about performing on The Voice I thought I was the butt of a joke. I have never really considered myself a singer, even though I sing for a living. It may surprise you, but singing has been a rough necessity for me for a long time and something that I have stumbled and cringed through for years.
I grew up singing acapella music as a child in a church that shunned the use of instruments when songs of praise were being belted out. Most of the church would sing in a passionate off-key warble, but they almost always deferred to the minority that had great pitch and timber and allowed them to carry the songs. When I was young and unafraid, I wanted to be one of the chosen few leaders so I would belt out my notes long and clear for my neighbors to follow. When I reached middle school I was a choir kid, I had a high clean alto voice and I continued my desire to be a leader of the pack. As I moved from middle school to high school I stopped singing in choirs and moved to playing in bands, but I was one of the youngest kids in my class and a late bloomer to boot. I had left the world of acapella church music and moved into wanting to be a blues man. My father gave me an electric guitar when I was 13 and I fell in love with the simple and emotionally blasting force of blues music. I wrote a song when I was 14 that started out “I woke up this morning with a bottle of scotch in my hand…”. I hadn’t experienced anything like that but I wanted to, I was a scared kid and blues music seemed like it was the way to tell my story but the sounds that came out of my mouth where nothing like the sounds of the old men on my favorite tapes and CDs.
There is a thing about singing that most people might not know. The voice that you sing with is a reproduction of a voice that happens in your head milliseconds before it leaves your mouth. The voice that is in your head isn’t exactly the same as the voice that comes out of your mouth, in fact in my case it is very different. The voice that is in my head is the one of my youth, it has clean clear lines and notes. In my mind it is smooth and bright and full, but that isn’t the sound that comes out of my mouth. At a young age I decided to try to live the life of a blues man and it has left a long and lasting effect on my voice.
I wouldn’t say that in my opinion my voice is unpleasant, it’s just that it’s not what my brain says it’s supposed to be. It is a slightly degraded facsimile of the voice that I would like it to be, but it is something that I have grown to be comfortable in, like a man who can walk around in slightly dirty glasses. That's why it was so shocking to me when The Voice selected me as a contestant for Season 9. I was beyond shocked, I was stupefied. How could this group of people who are tasked with finding the best singers in the world be so fooled by what I do to think that I deserve to be on their show? I was sure that I would be found out along the way and asked to leave before I ever got a chance to step on the main stage. They asked me to be on the show and every part of me that had been ashamed of my voice for years came to the surface and I almost said no. Almost.
Here's the thing about trying—if you try and fail you have been given an opportunity to grow and get better, but if you don’t try you have failed yourself and you are admitting defeat by an idea. I may be shy and slightly ashamed of my battered voice, but I’ll be damned if I am going to let my fears that I have created keep me from taking a chance to do something as fun and amazing as performing on The Voice. The actual process of the acceptance of being on the show went like this... they approached me about coming in for an audition and I thought it was a joke, but the person who contacted me assured me that they were very serious about their offer. I called my mother and told her that I had been approached by The Voice and that I was going to tell them no and she said “I understand, but why?” I didn’t have a good why, only that it was scary and I didn’t think I could win, and that I have a bunch of concepts in my head about something I have never even seen… I wrote the talent scout back and set up the audition, which I was sure I was going to be rejected at but I would have kicked myself for not attending.
I was floored to move past that audition. I was sure when they reviewed the tapes that they would decide that I wasn’t going to make it to the next level, but then a phone call came and they asked me to come in for the final round of auditions before the show. When I showed up I walked into a world of voices that were otherworldly. Everyone that you may have seen on the show was there and they were all singing, all the time, together and alone, all of them but me. I wouldn’t sing in the groups because I was afraid that I would be found out as a fraud. I was sure that my audition was going to be bad, and honestly I couldn’t tell you if it was or wasn’t because it happened so fast, but at the end of the day they took me into a room with a group of people and told us that we were going to be on the show. Everyone jumped up and screamed and ran around and I sat perfectly still. I shook my head. I had done my best to be me 100% because I didn’t want to fool them, I wanted them to see that I wasn’t really cut out for this kind of thing. I am just a guy who fights his way through his own songs because no one else is singing them… but they like it. They like me, the real me. Something changed in my head that day.
If you are reading this, you probably already know how the story of my blind audition ends; I didn’t turn a chair. There are a number of reasons why that happened that were out of my control and there are some that were things that I could have done differently, but I won’t bring them up because at the end of the day they don’t change anything. The thing is that it didn’t hurt me that I didn’t turn a chair, because the thing that The Voice could give me they had already given me. They showed me that my voice is something special and wonderful, and it has made a dramatic change in me. It has somehow given me the confidence to turn that voice in my head close to the voice that comes out of my mouth.
40,000 people tried out for The Voice Season 9 and only 94 of us made it to the blind auditions. Every single person that made it to that point is, without a doubt, among the best singers in the United States. As hard as it has been for me to believe I am one of those singers, I am going to take that knowledge and allow it to bolster my confidence as I continue on in my journey of music, and for that I can’t thank The Voice enough. Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”—I would add to that, that sometimes taking the shot is more important than scoring the goal.