Corey Kent White may be the lone country contestant remaining on The Voice, but that doesn’t mean NBC’s singing competition isn’t spotlighting the genre in different ways.
“I am so proud to represent country music and to continue in this competition. I can’t imagine a Top Eight without country music,” White told Rolling Stone Country at The Voice Spring Break Concert in Los Angeles, where he reprised last week’s cover of George Strait’s “Unwound” — this time, remembering all the lyrics.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for that!” said the 20-year-old Oklahoma State University junior of his April 20th lyric flub.
The outdoor concert featured songs from each of the contestants and coaches, including Blake Shelton, who strapped on an acoustic guitar and treated roughly 200 fans to a stripped-down version of his 2013 favorite “Sure Be Cool If You Did.”
Tonight, Shelton will showcase “Sangria,” his sexy new track from Bringing Back the Sunshine, and on Tuesday’s results show, Lee Brice is scheduled to take the stage with a performance of his rousing anthem “Drinking Class.” The tune, which is a tribute to America’s blue-collar workers, currently sits at Number One on the Mediabase country airplay chart.
The Voice’s country connection carries over into Wednesday, when coach Christina Aguilera continues her cheeky turn as pop princess “Jade St. John” on ABC’s Nashville.
“I had so much fun,” the five-time Grammy-winner tells Rolling Stone Country of her time in Music City. “Everybody was really welcoming — maybe that Southern hospitality thing. It was interesting stepping outside of myself, even though I was playing a pop star whose heart-of-hearts really lies in country music.”
Last week on Nashville, the real-life pop star put a little twang in her soulful voice when she performed “Shotgun” with the show’s musical director, Buddy Miller. The following day, the song landed at Number Three on the iTunes country chart — besting Shelton’s “Sangria,” which sat at Number Four.
“If I can’t beat him on The Voice, at least I can beat him in his own genre on the country charts,” Aguilera quipped.
Shelton is hoping to notch his fifth win on The Voice this season with one of the three remaining members of Team Blake — Corey Kent White, Texas rocker Hannah Kirby and onetime country chanteuse Meghan Linsey. Although the show has chronicled the former Steel Magnolia singer’s re-branding as a soul artist, Linsey has remained a favorite daughter of the tight-knit country music community.
“I did ‘Girl Crush’ a couple of weeks ago, and Little Big Town was so supportive. They tweeted about me, they reached out. Kimberly from the band texted me right afterwards, and sent me a little gift in the mail — her new cookbook and a thank you card. I felt so loved by the community in Nashville,” the Louisiana native tells Rolling Stone Country.
Addressing criticism that her past brush with the country charts has been an unfair advantage in the competition, Linsey says, “I had been independent for three years trying to go solo, and it’s a hard, rough road. People don’t realize that just because you’ve had success doesn’t mean you necessarily have all the contacts, and all the money and all the push that you really need to launch a career.”
Although she says competing on The Voice has changed her life, a lot of Linsey’s drive comes from within — and above.
“I do believe that I’m a testament to believing in your dreams and really pushing forward, no matter what circumstances life gives you,” she says. “I’ve always rested on my faith and just kept going. I think the ones that don’t make it are the ones who quit too early.”
Although Linsey received kudos for returning to her country roots — at least for one song — she and White aren’t the only contestants with a desire to add a little Southern flavor to their songbook.
“That would be me right here!” 17-year-old inspirational artist Koryn Hawthorne exclaims to Rolling Stone Country. “You know what I like? ‘She’s Country’ by Jason Aldean. I love that song, so I’d probably do that.”
“I would sing ‘Cover Me Up’ by Jason Isbell,” offers 16-year-old folk singer Sawyer Fredericks.
Their coach, Pharrell Williams, isn’t surprised at those song choices.
“It makes sense,” he explains. “They’re both really well-rounded kids. They love all kinds of music.”