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 soulful songs himself.
Billy competed on Adam Levine's team the entire season, revealing along the way 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 what he had to say. Be sure to check back soon for more.
Reality TV World: Going into The Voice finale, was your gut telling you that you were going to win or had you been following the iTunes charts leading up to that point and therefore assumed Sundance was going to take the title?
Billy Gilman: I didn't follow a thing, on purpose. I don't read reviews, nothing. So, I went in blind, but I know from my standpoint I did not want to win. There have been too many nightmare stories about winning, and I got really scared. So I was like, "I just want the platform and then I want the freedom!" And luckily that's what I got.
I was very happy for Sundance, but I didn't read the iTunes [charts] or anything, no, so I really just went in [clueless]. Standing next to him, the way I felt when I went into Battles and when I went into the Knockouts was the same feeling of, "If I make it, I did. If I don't, well, at least I've come this far."
So it's amazing how there's no jealousy or anything, you know?! If I were to win, I would have attacked it in whatever way, but I'm happy with the outcome. He deserves it.
Reality TV World: Can you elaborate a little more on why you didn't want to win?
Billy Gilman: Unfortunately, I think a lot of times, the show, given its fabulous success, they just want to pump the show. You know what I mean? I think a lot of the artists feel a little lost in it, and that's too bad! And that's just the way it works.
It's a great platform, but really, you have to work very, very, very hard to sustain any kind of success -- first, second or fourth! So, I just think you're really tied in, of course, a lot more when you are the winner, and sometimes that can hurt you. And I didn't want that at all. It's just unfortunate, but sometimes that's the way the world works.
Hopefully that will change. I know I just recently heard that Blake Shelton spoke out and made a huge announcement on behalf of Sundance to the record label, and I hope that works. I really do, because Sundance has a great -- I mean, a fabulous -- voice. So I hope that works, because he deserves it.
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Reality TV World: You said in a previous radio interview you were hesitant to appear on The Voice to begin with. You declined an earlier season offer to audition, and then when asked to do Season 11, you obliged last minute after deliberating with friends and family. So why the reluctance? Were you almost afraid to win The Voice because of what you just talked about?
Billy Gilman: No, I wasn't afraid to win it. No, no, because I didn't know what the outcome might be. I was afraid because in my career, trying to come back on my own was a massive, massive, massive, massive struggle. There was that child-star syndrome of, "We don't want to touch you because you've already been [big]. America won't buy into it."
So when I was approached by The Voice, I said, "Well, I've been approaching labels for forever and [I hear], 'No, no, no.' And I don't want to make an idiot of myself! America is not going to buy into it; they're not going to like me. I won't even make it past The Blind Auditions. I don't want to embarrass myself."
And then at the end of the day, something really told me, "Why not?! What have you got to lose?" And that's a lot of what my meetings consisted of, people I trusted -- even some label heads that weren't in the music business anymore -- who were always "Team Billy" and always looked out for my benefit.
I went to them for advice and everyone really kind of said the same thing: What have you got to lose? So, I was very scared. It wasn't that I was going to win, it was that America would reject me. And I'm happy to say I was wrong! (Laughs)
Reality TV World: That's for sure!
Billy Gilman: Yeah, seriously. It was all fright and being scared. It wasn't anything else. I was just very nervous judging by what I was always told for so many years, you know, that I've had my shot and I'm done.
Reality TV World: Adam insisted numerous times throughout the season you appreciated The Voice opportunity probably more than anyone else, so I was surprised to hear you were hesitant to audition. Your storyline was obviously a second chance at fame since you were once a child star, but did the competition represent something more to you?
Billy Gilman: Oh yeah! It started out as, "Okay, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it and I'm going to sing the songs that I know my voice is where it should be." I'm at home singing the songs that I sang, like Celine Dion's "I Surrender" and Adele's "All I Ask" and all of that.
I said, "If I'm going to do this, I'm going to have to do it my way and it has to come from somewhere authentic, otherwise, people won't buy into it." And then it vastly started to become not about me; it became a symbol.
I treated my time on there as a symbol of no matter who you are, this is what you can do when you believe in your gut and you know you've been put on this earth to do something.
And mine happens to be something bigger than myself, to inspire people to never give up, to sing songs and tell my own story. That became the driving force behind all of it in the end.
And I think it worked because I have received quite a bit of letters and emails stating that the story helped them through whatever time they were in. They never gave up and they thanked me, saying it's nice to have a voice on behalf of the underdogs. So it really became an anthem for anyone who felt like they didn't have their chance.
Reality TV World: I'm surprised to hear you say "underdog" because I felt like the coaches implied you were one of the artists to beat each and every week. At the beginning of the competition, Adam even said you were "opposite the underdog."
Billy Gilman: Well the underdog, I looked at it as, "I'm instantly going to be judged in a negative way," not necessarily all the comments, but as far as a general consensus. I knew we were going to have an underdog way of making people think I deserve this. It was in that way I was an underdog, not the normal underdog description.
I knew that I'd have a stronger fight to have people believe, "Oh well, even though he's had some kind of success, he still does deserve it." Because people are very quick to judge once you've had any kind of success. It could be 45 years ago! But they still think you had your chance and you've got to get out of there. So that's where the underdog factor came in.
Be sure to check back with Reality TV World soon for more from our exclusive The Voice interview with Billy Gilman. To read what Sundance had to say, click here.