Unlike some other talent shows, The Voice has always welcomed dues-paying veterans. And Craig Wayne Boyd, the country crooner who won The Voice Season 7 this week, may be the most seasoned of them all. He spent a decade slugging in Nashville and on the road before he got his big break on The Voice, and now, he seems like one Voice winner with an actual shot at success in the real world.
"I know how much he's put into this competition, firsthand. I'm also aware of how much he's put into trying to make it as an artist in the music industry, and the struggles and the ups, and mostly the downs, that he's had, all the doors shut," Craig's proud coach, Blake Shelton, told reporters backstage at Tuesday's Voice finale. "There has never been a more deserving person to hold that trophy than Craig Wayne Boyd, as far as paying dues. You know what I mean? This guy has put his time in."
Yahoo Music's Reality Rocks caught up with Craig to discuss how The Voice came along just in time — right before he almost gave up on music altogether.
YAHOO MUSIC: It's kind of surprising you were not a big star before going on The Voice. Hadn't you been trying to get a big break in Nashville for years?
CRAIG WAYNE BOYD: Yeah, I had actually moved to Nashville coming out of a bad divorce, and I knew I had to start over — and what better place to chase your dreams than where dreams can be made, Nashville, Tennessee? And so I went out there and had fairly quick success as a writer. I wrote for, at the time, what was the world's largest publishing company, EMI, as a staff writer, writing songs for other people.
Who recorded your songs? Any big names?
Well, you see, that's the thing. I kept getting close. I had songs on hold with all the big artists of that time, and they wouldn't make their albums. It was like timing never could come together for me.
I was a professional demo singer, singing other people's songs for them to pitch to artists. I was doing that and singing harmonies on other people's albums and stuff like that. I just did everything I could to continue to try to make ends meet, and I quickly realized I needed to hone my skills as an entertainer, not just as a singer. So I took the show on the road and I traveled 243 dates a year. It was just being a road warrior, going out and playing honky-tonks. Sometimes it was two people, sometimes it was 2,000 people, but I always gave 'em the same show.
Did you ever think of giving up?
Yes. It had gotten to the point where, having my son and having that responsibility, I could not financially afford to go out there on the road and do it anymore. It was getting to the point where something had to give… I remember a little more than a year ago, sitting in a pickup outside of a club after I had played to, basically, no one, and talking with my drummer, saying, "I may have to quit, because it's not paying my bills. I'm losing my house. I've lost my pickup." I didn't know what I was going to do… And I remember that email [from The Voice] coming just the day after having that conversation.
I really have never had a Plan B! But I was at the point where I was starting to think about finding one.
So I have to ask, now that you've won, are you going to keep the makeover Gwen Stefani gave you?
Absolutely! And I can tell you that it was not forced on me!
OK, so let's talk about the album you're going to make…
Oh, that's been being thought of already. A lot of songs are ready for me to go and in play. I've been writing during the show, writing with other writers, via FaceTime and Skype, during the very few hours of sleep I've had. I'm definitely very hands-on.
Male artists dominate country music right now, but it's more party-hardy, "bro country"-type stuff. Do you see yourself fitting in with that scene?
That's not a direction of country music that I fit in. Do I find a place for it? Yes. But the kind of country music that I do is reminiscent of the older country, the classic country, but I feel like I'm putting a new twist on it. I just want to bring that subgenre of country music to the forefront. You might be surprised that there's a whole young generation that is looking for that right now in country music. They're going back and listening to the Merle Haggards and the Travis Tritts and the Hank Jr.'s and all that kind of stuff.
Do you hope to cross over to the pop or rock markets at all?
Well, one of the biggest compliments that I've been receiving, people have walked up quite a few times and said, "I'm not a country music fan, but I love what you do." And that just proves the point that music is more than just the genre you're in.
Many of the Voice winners have not done that well commercially after the show. It's been a longtime criticism of the Voice franchise, frankly. How are you going to buck those odds?
I'm going to continue to do what I always do, which is work my butt off, keep my nose to the grindstone, and push forward. I am a firm believer that hard work will pay off.