Craig Wayne Boyd's evident confidence on stage at his Grand Ole Opry debut earlier this month came just a few minutes after he succumbed to waterworks.
"I got all of my emotions out right beforehand," he admits to Rolling Stone Country. "They were doing a Little Jimmy Dickens tribute, and I was standing side-stage and had to excuse myself…. I went to sit down and have a little cry. "
Those tears of joy had been building up for over a decade. Boyd started knocking on Nashville doors in 2004, eventually signing a publishing deal and moving from playing bars to opening for the likes of Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser. He released a self-titled album on his own in 2008 and another via a small indie label in 2012. But it wasn't until his appearance on The Voice that he gained national attention.
"I've worked my butt off for eleven years to become the overnight success that I am," the Texas native says with a laugh. "But I don't know if you'd call it success yet. Every day, something new happens."
Boyd was the NBC competition show's comeback winner. Originally a Team Blake (Shelton) member, he was "stolen" by Gwen Stefani after losing the Battle Rounds. When he lost the Knockout Rounds, Shelton snatched him back. Boyd sealed his win with performances on the semi-finals show that reflected his country and gospel roots, as he covered Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues" and George Bennard's "The Old Rugged Cross."
The singer promises his next album — and first on new label home, Dot Records — will also stay true to his tastes. Unlike most reality competition show winners' first post-show albums, the next Boyd LP will not be the sort of rushed project aimed to strike while the iron is hot. In fact, he started writing it long before auditioning for the show and continued working on it through the competition.
"The last song that I wrote was the last week on The Voice," he reveals. "It's funny, I was walking around the set as [the number of finalists] got smaller and smaller — it was down to five of us — and people would say, 'Hey, it's Craig Wayne Boyd!' And I'd say, 'Yep, I'm still here!' So I wrote a story of my musical journey up to this point."
The first taste of the upcoming album is "My Baby's Got a Smile on Her Face," which debuted at Number One on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. (Watch him perform the song on the Grand Ole Opry below.) The only other song in the chart's history to hit the top right out of the gate was Garth Brooks' 2007 hit, "More Than a Memory."
"That was definitely a 'holy wow' moment," Boyd says of hearing he was in such elite chart company.
The musician is now gearing up to open Rascal Flatts' Vegas Riot! shows, which run February 25th — March 14th at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. And as soon as he can get home from his whirlwind travels, he'll power up the DVR to watch Shelton on Saturday Night Live.
"He's such a genuine guy. He's a mentor, and now I can consider him a good friend, too," Boyd says of his coach. "He's achieving the things that I want to achieve."