With little experience but a whole lot of natural-born talent, 16-year-old Danielle Bradbery tried out for The Voice hoping to make her dreams come true. Her cutesy, pitch-perfect rendition of Taylor Swift's "Mean" during the blind auditions landed her a spot on coach Blake Shelton's team. An early (and clearly unstoppable) frontrunner, Bradbery earned heaps of praise from the judges and was a dominating presence on the iTunes songs chart week after week.
On Tuesday night, she was unsurprisingly crowned the Season Four champ, earning a recording contract with Taylor Swift's Nashville-based label Big Machine Records. She starts working on her debut album next week.
The day after her big win, Bradbery called Rolling Stone to discuss Shelton's secret to success and how she hopes her newfound fame doesn't force her to grow up too fast.
What went through your mind when host Carson Daly announced you were the winner?
When he said my name I just lost it; I was so speechless I didn't know what to do.
What were you and runner-up Michelle Chamuel saying to each other in the moments before the big announcement?
I said, "I'm so scared." And I remember her saying, "Don't worry, you got this, and no matter what happens, we made it this far." Then I took a deep breath and three seconds later Carson said my name. [Laughs]
What did Blake say to you right after you won?
I had told him before the show, "I'm gonna give you that [win] as your birthday present." So, he was like, "I got my birthday present!" [Laughs]
What was it like working with him?
It was amazing. He's so down to earth and always there when you need him. He's somebody you can count on. He's awesome.
Do you think he was more hands-on than the other coaches?
I'm not sure if it was the same hard work as the others or more. I mean, Blake was working pretty hard for Team Blake. But of course the other coaches were trying their best to work with their teams, too.
He must be doing something different, having won three out of four seasons. Any clues as to why he's been more successful than the other coaches?
With Blake, what you see is what you get. Every time I'm around him, I feel like he's part of my family, and that helped us get to know each other and helped me feel comfortable talking about a lot of things. He's so sweet, and he's always willing to help no matter what. He's just really, really caring.
Did you even know any of the songs he picked for you?
Some of them I'd heard of but didn't know well, and some of them I didn't know at all. It was older country, and I wasn't born or was still a little baby when it came out. But Blake's really smart. I knew what he was going for. Me singing all those old country songs is bringing them back and introducing them to kids who don't know them. It got a lot of attention.
Was it hard for you to connect with certain songs because they were written or performed by artists older than you?
Yeah, at first. I would try to figure out what the song was about and try to connect with it any way I could, and if I couldn't connect with it I would try to think of other people out there who might have the same problems. But Blake would really explain to me what the song was about.
Do you wish you had performed more youthful or contemporary songs?
I honestly would have liked to, but I was happy with the song choices I got, and I knew Blake had something up his sleeve so I trusted him.
What kind of an album do you hope to make?
I want to make a pop-country album. I love all genres but my heart says country. I'd have to add a little topping to it though. [Laughs]
Have you and Blake talked about working together in the future?
He's definitely told me that he really wants to keep in touch and that he really wants to help me and lead me in the right direction and to the right people. So, hopefully we'll be keeping in touch for a while.
Is there an artist you'd like to emulate career-wise?
I guess I'd like to be this generation's Carrie Underwood.
You didn't have a lot of stage experience before appearing on The Voice, so how in the world did you perform in high heels so well?
I love wearing high heels! [Laughs] I'm the kind of girl who always liked wearing high heels, so I got used to it really fast. At the end of the day, though, I have say they did hurt really bad, and it was really complicated walking down the stairs. That was really scary.
Speaking of scary, does it scare you that you'll now be growing up in the public eye?
It kind of does. It is overwhelming. I just have to stay as grounded as possible, and stay calm and live in the moment.
Do you feel like you're missing out on being a regular teenager?
I do feel like I'm missing out on a lot of that [sighs] – homecoming, prom, all the football and baseball games and just going to school and being a regular teenager. But, I mean, I'm living my dream and I need to embrace it. But I would love to take a break and have that normal teenager life just for a little bit. 'Cause I don't want to forget that I'm 16 and grow up too fast.