The Voice: Winner Sundance Head on Blake Shelton, KISS performance, more
Tuesday night, on the season 11 finale of The Voice, soul country rocker Sundance Head and former child singing star Billy Gilman were the lone men standing, the two remaining players in a season filled with celebrity appearances, powerhouse vocals, and questionable fashion choices (looking at you, Miley).
When host Carson Daly declared Head the winner, no one was more surprised than the Texan himself. That’s not to say Team Blake’s resident rocker didn’t earn the title; in fact, Head consistently shined week after week, establishing himself as a gritty, soulful stage presence (who didn’t shy away from his emotions) with a knack for unexpectedly stellar song arrangements. From Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” to Alicia Keys’ “No One,” Head blew away his competition and earned several spots on the iTunes Top 100 Songs charts, including an original song, “Darlin’ Don’t Go,” which is currently No. 1.
Here, Head tells EW about the performance that brought his father to tears, his bromance with coach Blake Shelton, and what we can expect next from the Voice himself.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, congratulations! How are you feeling?
SUNDANCE HEAD: I don’t know. Everything’s going so fast, I didn’t really have time to process anything. I’m just really excited that I’m going to get to go to New York today, and possibly be back home in my own yard, in my own home by Saturday kind of really pumps me up. I’ve been gone for nine weeks.
What was running through your head when Carson announced that you’d won?
I couldn’t really believe that. I thought for sure that either Billy or Wé was going to win. It just kind of floored me, really. I couldn’t believe that; it’s almost like a dream. And then I played with KISS yesterday and that’s like…I would’ve done the whole show if just that was the reward, you know? It was incredible.
This week — that KISS performance included — had a lot of great performances that held a lot of personal weight for you. What was it like getting to perform “Treat Her Right,” your own father’s song, in front of him on such a huge platform?
Man, I was just so thankful to have that opportunity because my father brought so much joy to people through his music. He’s an old cat now, and I was just really, really honored to be able to do that for him on the show. And Blake agreeing to that was really special for me, that Blake would even consider it, and then he was fired up about it, also. Blake Shelton’s really a wonderful person, and I’ve just been really, really fortunate to have this summer to spend with him, and learn from him, become friends with him. And to do “Treat Her Right” on the show was amazing. My dad, I didn’t tell him anything that was going on. So when it went down, it went down hard for him. I saw him over there, tearing up. I was trying not to pay attention, ’cause everybody would’ve been crying if I started crying.
The relationship you have with Blake on the show has been really awesome to watch. How do you think having him as a coach helped you get to where you are?
It’s been everything to me. He’s really taught me to trust other people. I’ve always felt like I had to look out for myself, and I knew all the answers, that I was the best in every room. But I’ve really learned that it’s important to just be quiet, respect other people’s abilities, and really just let people help you. It’s hard for a lot of people to do. But once I realized that, it made things really easy for me. Blake has a lot of wisdom in the business, he knows the demographic that we’re trying to target, and he had a really good game plan together that I think we executed flawlessly.
What was your favorite performance from the show?
My favorite performance was singing “Darlin’ Don’t Go,” dedicated to my wife. I wrote that song about her. She means everything in the world to me. She’s actually my number one supporter and the one thing I could absolutely not live without. Just to have that opportunity to show her how much I love her and mean to her on a national platform was amazing, and something I know that will probably never happen again. I was very, very excited to have that opportunity.
Did she know you were going to sing it?
She did know, I told her. I had actually asked her first. Because it’s such a personal song between us, I wanted to make sure that she would be okay with me doing that. I didn’t want to take advantage of her or make her think that I was trying to just get over on somebody with this wonderful song that was absolutely an intimate song between us. But she said go ahead. She loved the song, so we did it. It worked out really well for us. I’m glad that America could receive such a beautiful song like that. A lot of the new music, you have to really struggle very hard to find what the song even means. Is it positive? For me, I always prided myself as a song crafter, someone who really thinks things out and tries to actually make a storyline and have intimate relations with a person just through a song. That’s always been very important to me. And I think the greatest songwriters in the world have looked at it with that passion and that intensity.
I think the soulfulness and passion you put into all of your performances is what really resonated with voters. So I’m curious, what do you think it was about your time on The Voice that was so different to when you appeared on American Idol several years ago? What made you able to connect with the audiences so much more?
Well, the big huge difference is, I’ve discovered myself as an artist and a father and a husband and a person in the world. Whereas before, I was doing a lot of things out of selfishness, spite, and just for the wrong reasons. And once I really started to live where I just wanted to be polite to everyone and be friendly and respect people even if you don’t know them or have different opinions in life, I noticed that things really started to change for me for the better. I can owe that to my wife and my children for opening my eyes to that kind of love. I really, really feel blessed that I can see that, because a lot of people may be closed to such an experience, but for me, it was really life-changing.
It felt like each week you were nailing performance after performance, and hearing high praise from the coaches. What did you do to ensure you weren’t going out there every week and doing the same thing?
I had to push myself every week to come up with an original arrangement to already classic songs. I felt like it was very important that Blake and I picked songs that represented my message, which is basically peace through song, and love and happiness through lyrics. It was really important for me to sing with conviction and let people hear that I have the faith through my vocals, and really that my heart is the lead vocal in my performance every time. That was really important to me, I wanted to make sure that people could connect and understood that I’m out there really singing these songs because I really believed in the message and it’s that important to me.
Is “Darlin’ Don’t Go” a good indicator of what we’ll hear on your album?
Absolutely. That song is actually out on my brand-new record — we just released a record before I got on the show, and it’s titled Soul Country. If people want to hear absolutely what my music is and where I am as an artist, this is an absolute indicator of the direction that I’d like to go in. The record’s called Soul Country, that’s the title track, that’s the genre that we’re trying to establish as artists and songwriters. I produced it, wrote all the songs on it, with the help of my lovely wife. She should have more credit, obviously, than she has. We’re just sitting around the back table and I’m writing a song, and she’ll come in with a phrase or two and I’ll kind of take it and put it in the song, and I don’t give her any credit as a songwriter. But I realize after this that’ll have to stop. It’ll probably be Misty Head writing most of the material from here on out. She may be a better songwriter than I am!
She never sings with you, does she?
No, no. Look, I love her to death, but we don’t want to hear her sing.
I’ll take your word for it. Any last thoughts?
I just want to thank everyone who voted for me. I hope that life affords me the opportunity to prove everyone right. I hope everyone has a wonderful year coming up, and I look forward to seeing y’all at a gig!
A rotating chair-full of judges search for the next great superstar singer on this NBC reality show.