Simon Cowell took one listen to Craig Wayne Boyd’s version of rock band Journey’s “Open Arms” at an “American Idol” audition and told him he should sing country music instead.
Boyd took that recommendation and, more than a decade later, went on to win the 2014 season of “The Voice,” another singing competition, with the help of country superstar Blake Shelton.
Boyd and country singer Josh Gracin, who finished fourth on the second season of “American Idol” in 2003, will perform a New Year’s Eve show Monday at The Antlers hotel.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” said Boyd. “Some of the most ups that you can ever imagine, but also some downs there, too — that feeling like you’re going to lose it all again.”
Though he doesn’t have much contact with Shelton anymore, he still remembers the greatest advice the singer gave him: “Believe in yourself.”
And that he has done. After winning the competition, his 2014 single, “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, and his album “Top Shelf” was released last year, his first album since winning the competition and third album altogether.
“It’s concentrated on where I’m at in this moment in life,” he said. “A lot of love, in a very happy place with having two kids (he has a third child with a previous partner) and a beautiful wife and things that I had not had in my life to that extreme in quite some time.”
While the TV show audience might have assumed it was Boyd’s first time at the rodeo, so to speak, the performer had been in the music game most of his life. It started with gospel music when he was a kid, and then became playing bass guitar in a couple of rock bands. He moved to Nashville when he was 25, landing a coveted gig writing songs for a publishing company. It turned into demo singing and then found him eventually touring the country, opening for the likes of country musicians Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Brantley Gilbert.
“You realize it’s like pouring rocket fuel on your career and hoping you can stay up as long as you can,” he said about his 2014 TV victory. “But you realize there’s no difference between before and after, other than there’s a higher goal to reach every single day.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM