With the blind auditions complete on the new season of NBC’s The Voice, the show’s coaches have found places on their teams for several artists with failed Nashville record deals.
They include James Dupre, who had a deal on Warner Music Nashville in 2011; Morgan Frazier, who released the Yellow Brick Road EP and its title track on Curb in 2013; and Tyler Dickerson, who was just 15 when he signed to Lyric Street Records and charted the single “Tell Your Sister I’m Single” in 2010, peaking at No. 47 on Hot Country Songs.
Dupre, a former paramedic and single father of four boys, got all four coaches to turn their chairs around and joined Adam Levine’s team. Frazier, now 22, got two chairs to swivel and chose Blake Shelton as her coach. Dickerson, who was previously managed and produced by Big & Rich’s John Rich and toured with Brooks & Dunn as an opener on their farewell tour, also landed on Shelton’s team. Dickerson, now 21 and working for his father’s fencing company in Louisiana, has recuperated from a devastating rollover vehicle accident he suffered after Lyric Street shut down. On the Sept. 28 show he said through tears, “I had it all, and it was all taken away. But now I’m here, and this is my second chance.”
Joining them in the “second chance” category is Benton Blount, who, as we reported here in July, was a contestant on America’s Got Talent this summer. He went on to become the only solo singer to make it into the top 10 and performed on the show six times during the season. Like Dickerson, Blount was previously signed to a Nashville label that folded (while he was on his initial radio tour, no less). The singer, who continues to tour and perform regularly, is working to capitalize on his AGT success. He independently dropped his new single, “God Talks to Me,” at iTunes on Oct. 8.
But as we know, country radio programmers remain quite wary of artists who come to them by way of TV talent shows. Here, they offer advice to Blount and the other contestants who may try to find their way back to radio.
“Do what others who have ‘made it’ have done. Be willing to do all the hard work building a fan base in small clubs and venues and opening for people to get seen,” suggests Sue Wilson, vp/director of operations for WQMX Akron, Ohio. “Get signed by a label who will support you, and then go on a radio tour to find those who believe in you.” Even then, she adds, “That is by no means a guarantee. I’m a fan of Meghan Linsey, but her [Big Machine Label Group] experience [as half of the duo Steel Magnolia] followed by The Voice has yet to lead her to stardom.” (Craig Wayne Boyd’s ultimate win on The Voice last season also didn’t help him get past the gatekeepers at country radio.)
“Give us your best song first. Get it out quick. And visit radio -- let us keep connected to your fan base,” advises WLHK Indianapolis PD Fritz Moser.
Similarly, WDXB Birmingham, Ala., operations manager PD Tom Hanrahan says, “Get back out and visit radio programmers. I know it’s time-consuming and can be expensive, but after 30 years of this I still like when a baby act just comes in and we can talk. Nothing replaces getting to know someone.”
WBEE Rochester, N.Y., operations manager Bob Barnett says, “Be authentic to who you really are -- and be willing to lay the groundwork until that special song helps you create that ‘moment.’ It will then be undeniable.”
“TV is always a good exposure that gives you a story to tell,” says KZSN Wichita, Kan., PD Brian Jennings. “But nearly every reality TV artist has released music connected with their appearances. Is it selling? Is the audience telling us it’s what they want? My advice is: Stay humble, work hard, take nothing for granted. For all of Nashville’s growth,the industry remains a tight-knit community. Egos can kill when you’re not established.”