The Voice wrapped one of its most hotly contested races Tuesday night with Texas native Sundance Head crowned the Season 11 champ, giving Blake Shelton his fifth team member win. Head’s performances during the finale included “Darlin’ Don’t Go,” an original song written for his wife, Misty. She joined her husband, their three children and his father – singer-songwriter Roy Head – in the audience during the first of this week’s two episodes, with Head performing his dad’s massive Sixties hit “Treat Her Right.” Head also unveiled a unique country-soul and doo-wop take on the Etta James classic “At Last.”
Head was surprised by his victory over second-place finisher (and former country star) Billy Gilman, young Wé McDonald in third and fourth-place finalist Josh Gallagher, having previously finished just outside the Top 12 on American Idol in 2007. He had actually tipped either Gilman or McDonald to take the Voice crown with a greater number of votes, because his competitors had a stronger presence on social media. But in the dramatic (and seemingly interminable) seconds before his name was revealed, Head adopted a Zen approach regarding the results.
“I really just let everything go and said, ‘Whatever happens, happens,'” the singer tells Rolling Stone Country. “I was really relaxed and just waiting for any outcome, really. That’s all I did. I didn’t know which way it was gonna go, but I was ready for it either way.”
Head says he values all the relationships that developed because of his appearance on the NBC competition, and notes that because of his newfound friendship and admiration for Gilman, he hopes to one day be in a position to help him advance his career.
“I’m just really proud of Billy for coming out as being gay, taking that huge step as a person,” he says. “I can’t imagine how it must have been living before, whenever he was having to keep that a secret. Billy’s a beautiful person and he’s such a talented singer. I know that he’s going to be successful in life, no matter what he does. I’m just honored to have had the opportunity to become friends with him.”
Where Sundance Head will fit when it comes to marketing his formidable talent remains to be seen, but his musical direction, he explains, has “fallen from the sky” in the last few years.
“I’ve had many, many visions of [being] a singer-songwriter/artist/musician, but never really fully understood what talent I actually had until recently,” he says. “I’m just really thankful I’ve had the opportunity to discover myself and also to show the world who I can be before it’s too late. I’m 38… and it’s important to look at it through the eyes of someone who has struggled a lot. I’ve done a lot of losing in life; I’ve done winning in life. To be able to attain that position again where I may have some people behind me that would afford me opportunities to make music again and maybe get it out to a mass audience, I’m very thankful. As a human being I’m really ready for it, where 10 years ago I maybe was not.”
With frequent comparisons to Chris Stapleton, also 38, Head says the idea of being placed anywhere in the proximity of the bearded singer-songwriter, whose recent success has been achieved by coloring outside the mainstream lines of country music, is an inspiration.
“I consider him to be one of the best there is right now, as far as writing songs and delivering on a performance,” he says. “So if people want to compare me to him, I think I may be doing a few things right.”
Through his experience on The Voice, Head says he has learned to be quiet and listen to others, confessing that he “used to think I was a big shot and would jump into every room with that perspective.” In the nine weeks on the show he says he has been able to let that whole thought-process evaporate. He’s also quick to give credit to his musician father, whose life lessons have helped him avoid the pitfalls of the music business.
“My dad taught me a lot of things,” he says, warmly. “First of all, it’s the same people you meet on the way up that you see on the way down, so it’s really important to be polite to everyone and try and build friendships. He also told me a lot of things that he had done wrong in his career, so I try my best not to do those things. [Laughs] It’s been incredible living with a mentor everyday.”
Head is currently on a publicity tour in New York and will fly home this weekend. On Sunday, he’ll be at the center of another battle, but not as a competitor. He’s set to perform the national anthem at NRG Stadium when the NFL’s Houston Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.