PICTURED ABOVE Bryce performs “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” which he called his “most powerful performance” of the season. The performance even earned praise from singer Justin Moore, who released the hit song in 2011. (Photo Credit: Trae Patton/NBC)
Like a lot of people his age, twenty-two-year-old Woodstock native Bryce Leatherwood earned his degree and graduated from college in May. Unlike many people his age, he then took a leap of faith and auditioned for NBC’s The Voice, an Emmy-award-winning singing competition with superstar coaches still in their prime in the music industry. In its twenty-second season, the show featured new coach Camila Cabello and returning coaches Gwen Stefani, John Legend, and Blake Shelton. Shelton, who has led eight former contestants to victory, has been a mainstay on the show since its inception in 2011.
Bryce auditioned with “Goodbye Time,” a song originally recorded by country music legend Conway Twitty for his 1988 release Still in Your Dreams. In 2004 the song was rereleased by none other than Blake Shelton. Shelton’s rendition of the song was included on his third studio album, Blake Shelton’s Barn & Grill.
As the first few notes filled the air in the Universal Studios set, Shelton said, “Oh, I know this,” and was the first of the coaches to turn his iconic red chair toward the stage, prompting a smile from Bryce as he pointed to the country music superstar.
In addition to Shelton, coaches Gwen Stefani and John Legend also vied for a chance to work with Bryce as he advanced to the next round of the show. After each made a case for why Bryce should choose to move forward in the competition with them, Bryce decided to join Team Blake. Under the mentorship of coach and now-friend Blake Shelton, Bryce stayed true to his southern roots throughout the season and performed songs which showcased his warm, rich tones, proficiency for classic country, and his ability to take on modern country radio hits.
With a penchant for country songs older than he is, Bryce drew comparisons to a younger version of country music king George Strait, singer-songwriter Clint Black, and even current country radio hit-makers like Scotty McCreery. For his coach and for many fans watching the broadcasts from home, it was often easy to forget that young Bryce is only twenty-two years old. After Bryce’s performance of Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather,” even coach Blake Shelton compared him to a young George Strait and remarked that he performed as though he had forty years of experience.
While his performances were strong throughout the competition, Bryce’s southern gentleman persona, polite manners, and song choices helped him stand out even more from the pack of performers hoping to advance to the finale for a chance at victory—a victory that Bryce won on December 13 after the top five contestants performed in the penultimate episode of the season, which aired live the night before.
Back home in Woodstock, the community rallied around hometown hero Bryce with watch-party events. Family and friends gathered at MadLife Stage & Studios, the venue where, just months before, Bryce performed his first sold-out show with his band.
Community supporters also gathered to cheer on Bryce. With some fans carrying posters bearing the words “Hello from Woodstock, Georgia,” “Proud of you, Bryce!” and “Team Bryce,” a group of nearly one hundred dedicated supporters watched the broadcast on the big screen at the Woodstock Arts Event Green. Bundled in blankets and sipping hot cocoa to stay warm against the December chill, the cheerful crowd shouted, “Go Bryce!” in a video posted to Instagram. The video received a response from Bryce himself, simply saying “Love you all!”
Bryce acknowledged the support of his home state, and in an interview with Enjoy Cherokee after his big win, he shared, “I’m just so happy to be able to make Cherokee County proud and all of Georgia proud.”
Bryce credits his family, his upbringing, and even his time wrestling at Sequoyah High School as major influences on him and reasons why he strives to stay true to himself, especially now as he embarks on stardom.
When asked what aspect of his Georgia roots he felt he would take with him as he traveled across the country and the globe as a performer, his response was
“First off, being humble, being a true southern gentleman, which means being kind, polite, humble, and respectful. I was taught that way from my mom and dad and from my grandparents, and I think that’s the only way I’m ever gonna be, so from my Georgia roots, I think being a true southern gentleman is the only way I’m gonna go about doing life.”
He also shared that his coach, Blake Shelton, encouraged him to be himself throughout the duration of the competition.
From his very first appearance on The Voice, Bryce sang the praises of his family’s support and spoke about the special relationship he shares with his grandfather, Jimmy McCallum, who introduced Bryce to much of the classic country music that he now loves so dearly.
He also credits spending summers working on his grandfather’s farm, just outside of Macon, Georgia, with influencing his work ethic.
In an interview on the podcast Unplugged and Totally Uncut with Arroe Collins, Bryce also credited his sense of determination and discipline to his experiences as a three-time team captain of the Sequoyah Chiefs wrestling team, with which he competed in multiple state tournaments.
Bryce’s dad, Cliff Leatherwood, also drew parallels between Bryce’s wrestling experience and his time competing on The Voice, specifically following the Top 16 results show that aired November 15. During the episode, Bryce was among four contestants at risk of elimination. Each contestant then performed live for a chance at an audience-voted “Instant Save.” By the end of the episode, it was announced that Bryce had earned the most votes and he advanced to the Top 13; the other three performers were eliminated from the competition.
Speaking with Enjoy Cherokee the next day, Cliff noted that he was proud of Bryce’s latest accomplishment and praised his calm confidence. Cliff shared that he recognized the same quiet determination in Bryce’s demeanor that he saw during Bryce’s wrestling career. Even after what could have easily felt like defeat, Bryce “stepped up to the mat” again and reminded viewers how much he deserved to continue in the competition.
He also never found himself in the Instant Save position again.
For his performances in the finale, Bryce sang the ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” first recorded by Keith Whitley, which garnered praise from Whitley’s widow, country star Lorrie Morgan. He then turned on the fun with the upbeat “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” originally recorded by Elvis Presley and later rereleased by Travis Tritt.
Bryce’s parents, Hope and Cliff, joined him in California for the final two shows of the season. Also there to support Bryce were his younger brother, Lance, Nana Janet Mullis, and beloved grandfather Jimmy, of whom Bryce said, “He’s doing good. He came to the show and he got to see it live, and he was moved by it. And he was just happy to be there as a part of the experience. He’s doing great.”
Bryce’s dad, Cliff, also enjoyed being part of the experience, sharing, “It was incredibly special being with Hope and Lance to watch Bryce perform on The Voice stage. A couple tears were shed during his singing Keith Whitley, and I rocked with him to ‘T-R-O-U-B-L-E.’ So proud of my boy. It was a day I will never forget.”
After his big win, and at the end of a long day filled with interviews, during which he likely answered some of the same questions a few times, Bryce told Enjoy Cherokee he’d had about two and half hours of sleep and hoped to spend the rest of his day relaxing. He also shared that his family had returned home to Georgia after celebrating his victory the night before.
When asked if he would be returning to perform any hometown shows, Bryce said, “Oh, absolutely. I’m trying to, of course. [I’m going to] come back home and relax, but then step on it full gear, whatever that looks like with getting in the studio, going to Nashville, coming back home for some shows, and giving back to my community, because y’all have done so much for me. I’m just super proud to be representing Cherokee County and all of Georgia.” Even at the end of the long day, with almost no sleep, and probably the craziest twenty-four hours of his life, Bryce remained genuine, humble, and kind.
Bryce and his family also remained strong in their faith throughout his run on the show. During a private family-and-friends watch party earlier in the season, parents Hope and Cliff thanked Bryce’s supporters in the audience, especially those who prayed for Bryce during his journey on the show. Longtime family friend Banks Brazell then led the audience in prayer for Bryce as he continued in the competition.
In his podcast interview with Arroe Collins, Bryce shared, “The most beautiful part of music is connecting, inspiring, and making people happy—that’s all I want to do in life, and I hope I get to do it in this facet. I hope I get to do it through country music, through music in general, and through my writing. I’m a little bit of songwriter. I’m working on it, trying to become a better one. It’s incredible, man; it’s such a blessing and an honor. I think God put me in a position to share my talents and let my voice be heard. It’s all thanks to him that I can do it.”
He also said he’s “taking the blessings as they come.”
One of those blessings, according to Bryce, is counting Blake Shelton as not only his coach, but also his friend. Bryce says, “[Blake has] been such a great mentor to me; he’s truly been a friend, and we’ve laughed a lot, we’ve cut up a lot. He’s made me grow a lot. I’m just very blessed to say I’m a friend of Blake Shelton’s.”
Bryce told Enjoy Cherokee that he and Blake bonded over their love of country music, with one song in particular that stood out: “T-R-O-U-B-L-E.”
Bryce says, “It was a song that [Blake] grew up singing in bars when he was coming up in the nineties, and that’s a song that I’ve been singing on stage at MadLife [Stage & Studios] and in Statesboro, Georgia. I’m just super proud to say that we had that same connection, so we really bonded over that song, and I’m just very proud to say that I made him proud.”
“Congratulations! Bryce, you have a natural talent that will take you far in life! Can’t wait to watch your career soar! #GATA” — Amy Belcher, Woodstock
“Congratulations on your well-deserved win on The Voice! You made all of Cherokee County, Georgia, proud. Can’t wait to hear what you are doing next. I love how you stated that you are a southern gentleman and want to stay true to yourself.” — Jeanette Blay, Acworth
“Congratulations, Bryce! Without a doubt I can say all of Georgia saw this coming, and we are so happy for you. I can’t wait to see what you do next in your career.” — Baylee Bradfield, Canton
“We’re so excited for you, Bryce, and can’t wait to see where God takes you in the years ahead. We know he has great things in store for you! Congratulations from the Haugen family.” — Sheila Haugen, Canton
“Congratulations, Bryce! From singing in our backyard to The Voice stage, we’ve believed in you every step of the way! Buckle up, because you are about to take off! We love you!” — Amanda Hohenbery, Canton
“Bryce, I’m so proud not only of what you just accomplished (wow!) but more importantly how you did it. How matters, and your true character has shone through in every episode, every interview, every heart-filled song. I am so happy to see that humble swagger that you showed as a child, teenager, and now, young man. I know Hannah is blown away, but not at all surprised by your performances and hearkens back to that May afternoon when you sang ‘Wagon Wheel’ and played your ukulele in front of one hundred or so [people] in our basement. Same dude with the same humble swagger – don’t ever change, my brother!” — Alan Lee, Hiawassee
“Congratulations. You have a great voice. You deserve everything that comes your way. Good luck with the roads ahead.” — Levi Shedd, Canton
“Congratulations, Bryce! As a former administrator for the Sequoyah Zone, I can assure you the pride we have in our community for you is overwhelming! We are so excited for you as you continue pursuing your dreams! Thank you for repping The Flat and CheroCo!” — Tami Smith, Canton
“Congratulations, Bryce! I think you have made all the people of Cherokee proud! This was the first time I have ever watched The Voice – enjoyed it so much! Good luck on your singing.” — Shelby West, Canton
Special thanks to Lauren Covey & Caitlyn Jaynes of MPRM Communications for allowing Enjoy Cherokee access to The Voice Press Junket schedule.
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