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Exclusive: Billy Gilman on 'The Voice' -- I knew I was destined to sing pop at a young age, but no one believed it


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 12/21/2016 

Billy Gilman finished as the runner-up of The Voice's eleventh season behind Sundance Head.

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Billy, a 28-year-old former child country star and powerhouse vocalist from Westerly, RI, was seemingly the favorite to win Season 11, but Sundance gave him a run for his money with a few epic performances in the semifinal and final rounds in which the family man wrote and arranged songs himself.

Billy competed on Adam Levine's team the entire season, revealing he's always wanted to be a pop star. Although he didn't walk away with an immediate recording contract or the title of "The Voice," Billy gained respect for his determination and admiration of his talent.

In an exclusive interview with Reality TV World following The Voice finale, Billy opened up about his journey on the show. Below is a portion of what he had to say.

Reality TV World: Do you think being dubbed a frontrunner from a vocal standpoint served as an advantage or disadvantage for you throughout the whole process? Because I would think always trying to maintain that top position would add pressure and be stressful.

Billy Gilman: It's funny you say [frontrunner] about the song and consistency and everything, because I always said, "You've got to top yourself." People would come ask me -- or any of us, like [Brendan Fletcher] when I was on a team with him -- "Who's your biggest [competition]?"

And he would say, "Well, we are our own competition." And it's so true. You have to top yourself; you have to find a better song that next Monday and keep paving the path. So there was never really a hard battle. I never got in my head, if you will. It was just to continually find the best songs to keep telling your story.

Reality TV World: When observing Blake Shelton and Sundance's partnership on the show, Blake seemed to take a backseat and let Sundance drive for the most part of the season. Sundance chose most of his own songs, as well as his arrangements, and Blake just trusted him. How would you compare that dynamic to what you and Adam had?

Billy Gilman: About 90 percent of it was my vision and 10 percent [was Adam]. Like for instance, we didn't have a song for the finale. We couldn't really think of a great moment to end my journey. And so, all of a sudden in rehearsals, Adam says, "You know what?" We were doing a couple of different songs, and he said, "What about 'My Way?'"

And I thought, "Oh God, that's every 70-year-old karaoke man's dream." (Laughs) I said, "Ohh, I don't know Adam!" He was like, "I think that's the one." And instead of instantly going, "No, you're wrong," because I picked "All I Ask..." with the piano to do something drastically different than the previous week, and he trusted me on all of that.

And so when he came up with that idea, I said to myself, "Oh God, this could either be really, really great, or it could be really, really bad." And at the end, he made a good point, and that's what made me decide to go with the song. He said, "No matter if you come in second or first," he said, "the way the words are, that's still a 'thank you' and an 'I'm done with this moment in time.'"

It wasn't just an open-ended big song, trying to keep proving a point. It was an open-ended goodbye. And I thought, "Hmm, that's actually pretty smart! No matter if I win or lose, I still did it my way," which is totally true. I could've done a lot more country because that's what people basically need, but I didn't because I knew that's not where my new lane is.

So, it did make sense in the end. So, with him, it was a push and a pull. It was a push and a pull between my trust in him and his trust in me. So I would say it was kind of the same!

And he was awesome. And with the original song "Because of Me," we were texting back and forth about it, until finally at like 1:30 in the morning, he texted me an audio clip and was like, "Maroon 5 had this song and we didn't cut it! What about this song?!" And I fell in love with it. So it was definitely a 50/50.

Reality TV World: Sundance said he sang "No One" by Alicia Keys because Blake suggested America needed to hear a gospel song and the song ultimately changed his approach in the competition. Sundance made a point afterwards to choose only uplifting tunes with messages of love and unity. Did you have a certain song selection strategy, and maybe a similar a-ha moment?

Billy Gilman: I never in a million years would have thought -- my [moment] was late in the journey, but it didn't change my way. It changed my head knowing what America wanted to hear outside of this. It changed my perspective on what they like.

One of the higher ups in the music department said, "We really want you to do a Celine Dion song." And I went, "Oh boy, okay!" So I was thinking, thinking, thinking. And of course everyone came up with the obvious "My Heart Will Go On," "Because You Loved Me," "Power of Love," and I was like, "No, no, no. I don't want to do that."

So I picked "I Surrender," which was not a hit, it was just a cut on her record 12 or 13 years ago. And that one was the only one that went to No. 1. That changed my perspective on what the American public was buying into, which was great.

Because at 10, 11 or 13-years-old when I was singing country music, I knew my voice was to be destined in that field, but I never had anyone believe it.

So, it's been that long since I knew that my voice was supposed to be in that lane. So it really didn't change my gameplay, because I still did what I did, but it told me what America will eventually want to hear outside of The Voice.

Reality TV World: You made it clear on The Voice that although you found success as a child country star, you want to be a popstar, and that was part of your reasoning for choosing Adam as your coach. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to steer in this new direction? And does it mean you're kind of opposed to recording country music going forward or is pop just your preference?

Billy Gilman: I will never, I mean, that's why I went back to my country roots on the show with [Martina McBride]. I'll never forget that moment. It's where a lot of us first met with "One Voice" and what have you. I will never, ever knock that. But I'm the kind of person who never says never.

I mean, if an opportunity is a great opportunity and it's the right moment, maybe I would do a country record or something. I don't know. But as far as I'm concerned right now, I will definitely keep going in this genre and in this field, just because it's fresh off of what I've been doing for the past six months.

People are buying into it; people are understanding it. And I've just been waiting so long to sing it! It's like holding the horse back, you know, I finally get to do it and jump in! So yeah, I see myself in this lane for a while, but never say never. I mean, I could come out and do a jazz record! Who knows.

If the moment is right and people are believing it, it all has to be believable in my opinion. If I can't get into it -- you will definitely know if Billy is singing just a song because it will sound so boring. If I can't get myself into it, I'm not a good faker. So if the moment is right, I would never be opposed to doing any kind of genre, except rap.

To read whether Billy Gilman thought he was going to win or even wanted to win, and why he was hesitant to audition for The Voice to begin with, click here. And check back with Reality TV World soon for more.



Billy Gilman/Instagram

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