During Blind Auditions, he ignited what was probably the fastest four-chair turn in the history of The Voice. Now, 16-year-old Sawyer Fredericks has been crowned the singing competition’s Season Eight champ, and no one is surprised — not the audience, not his fellow contestants and especially not his coach, Pharrell Williams, who notched his first Voice victory Tuesday night with the shy, young folk artist from a farm in upstate New York.
Nashville’s powerful soul singer Meghan Linsey — a strong competitor throughout the season — was voted runner-up, while local Michigan hero Joshua Davis and Louisiana high school sweetheart Koryn Hawthorne took third and fourth place, respectively.
At a press conference following the announcement, Fredericks revealed his immediate plans. “I kind of want to get back to the farm, just to get a little break from all this,” he told Rolling Stone Country, “so I’m excited to get back home.”
When asked if he was eager to move to Los Angeles and begin recording his album, he laughed. “I do not want to move to L.A.!” he stated emphatically.
What we do know is that Williams will be working with Fredericks on his first post-Voice LP in some capacity. “He’s going to be recording music, for sure. And I’ll be right there,” the coach promised.
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Fredericks’ journey on The Voice began when he was only 15. Small in stature but poised beyond his years, he carved out an identity as a guitar-strumming crooner who could effortlessly strip a song down to its barest essence. Ray LaMontagne was his hero, and it appears the singer-songwriter is now a Fredericks fan, even gifting him with an original tune called “Please” for Monday’s finale. Immediately after the live broadcast, the track shot to Number Two on the iTunes chart.
“I really want to do a song with Ray, just because I really want to meet him,” Fredericks confided. He also wants to collaborate with some friends from The Voice, like Top 20 contestants Mia Z and Noelle Bybee.
Fredericks admitted he was anxious Tuesday night, but not about who would be named the winner. “I was a little nervous about singing with John Fogerty,” he said, referring to the three-song medley of Creedence Clearwater Revival hits — “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”— that he performed alongside the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer during the finale.
According to host Carson Daly, “Between that Ray moment last night and John tonight, those were two of the greatest moments we’ve ever had on the show.”
Coach Pharrell’s advice for Fredericks is simple: “Stick to your guns; don’t change for anyone. Here’s a guy that possesses this ability to tap into something that we all know is bigger than all of us, and he’s humble, and he’s proud of being a farmhand, and he’s named all his animals, and he’s the one who won, and he even won a car!
“You can’t make this stuff up,” he added, shaking his head.
Besides the big winner reveal, Tuesday’s two-hour results show was chock full of performances. Kelly Clarkson – who shot to stardom after winning the first season of American Idol – took the stage twice: First with Koryn Hawthorne in a blistering rendition of “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James, then with Meghan Linsey in an inspired duet of Clarkson’s latest single, “Invincible.”
In another superstar/finalist pairing, Sheryl Crow collaborated with Joshua Davis for her song “Give it to Me.” And then there were solo offerings from Meghan Trainor, Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5 and Luke Bryan, who put the spotlight on “Kick the Dust Up,” the lead single off his upcoming summer release, “Kill the Lights.”
The night also saw the return of The Voice’s Top 20 for “bring back” performances with the Final Four. The most interesting of these was Meghan Linsey’s match-up with Team Blake colleague, fellow Nashvillian and sister-from-another-mister, Sarah Potenza. The pair displayed considerable girl power as they traded verses on Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”
And in a pop-up band news, the four Voice coaches picked up instruments and microphones for “The Thrill is Gone,” in a timely tribute to the late guitarist and bluesman, B.B. King. Christina Aguilera was flanked by Adam Levine on lead guitar and Blake Shelton on rhythm, with Pharrell Williams on the drum kit.
Indeed, the thrill is gone as the curtain falls on yet another season of The Voice, which NBC says averaged 13.8 million viewers over the course of 21 episodes this year.
“We all won,” runner-up Meghan Linsey told Rolling Stone Country.
Third place finisher Joshua Davis concurred. “It’s all good. We’re all in a happy place.”