Billy Gilman Grows Up: From 'One Voice' to 'Say You Will'

Billy Gilman
 Lost In Translation

Billy Gilman in 2014 photographed by Lost In Translation.

Billy Gilman is back. The former child country star -- best known for 2000's tender "One Voice" -- has just released a brand new single, "Say You Will."

It's the first solo single from Gilman in over five years, though he did spearhead the 2012 charity release "The Choice" to help raise awareness and funds for Soles4Souls, which included fellow artists such as Alan Jackson, LeAnn Rimes, and Reba McEntire. Though he takes a lot of pride in that record, having new music with just his name attached to it is very important to him. "That was a very inspiring project, but it wasn't just me," he tells Billboard. "It was an effort bigger than any artist on that song. It's very different from the last time I released anything."

The now-26-year-old tells Billboard that he loves the simple, direct approach of the record. "I think sometimes people get lost in the production value of a song, and that's great. But I love that the words are so complex, but the treatment and the production value is not as grand as it could have been. We did that on purpose to let the lyrics shine."

Lyrics have always been important to Gilman -- even going back to the days of his debut single and the follow-up, "Oklahoma."

Unlike many child performers, he has nothing but smiles when reminiscing back to the beginning of his career. "How awesome is it to have had any kind of a career at that age. What are the chances? I don't look at it in a sour way or a negative one. You can't. How many people have been blessed with that kind of life? Whether it be in the worst moments or the best moments of it, people dream of doing what I do and continue to do," he says.

As much as he is grateful for his past, he's also buzzing about what the future holds artistically. "I am excited about the music, and we're putting a band together," he says. "If you love it like I do, the crowd level doesn't matter. Take Keith Urban for example. I've seen him play for 25,000 people at an arena, and then he puts on a performance at the House of Blues for 400. It's the same show. Why? Because he loves it."

Gilman said that he had to totally relearn his voice, which changed due to the natural progression of growing up. Gilman says if he had continued to sing in the style he did in 2000, he wouldn't be performing now.

"I ended things because I couldn't sing anymore," he said. "Dr. Steven Brown at Vanderbilt told me, 'If you continue to do this, you will ruin your voice, and have no chance for an adult career.'" Brown's words turned out to be prophetic. "Sure enough, not long after that I did a concert where I could barely get through an hour performance."

Goal-wise, Gilman simply wants the music to tell the story. "I want to do things that I never had the opportunity to do -- to write what I want to write, and say what I want to say. I also want to create my own sound with my own band. That being said, it's not going to be easy. You prepare for the worst, and hope for the best."

He even poked a little fun at his image from the "One Voice" days when remarking about listeners' opinions of the new music. "It's wonderful to see so many people that did not like 'Little Billy Gilman' -- that despised 'Little Billy Gilman' -- that would say, 'Put a pacifier in his mouth and put him to bed,' are now saying, 'This song is rockin.' We never thought you would come out like this.' That has been the coolest thing."

He totally gets the comments from people who might not have been into his music earlier. "I think it's hilarious. Even my friends outside of the industry used to get tired of me and the Christmas record (2000's Classic Christmas). It's great to turn ears and heads of the people that didn't necessarily care for you. But not everybody's going to like you -- that's just the way it goes."

Gilman says that the new music will be coming digitally -- song by song. "I have a lot of songs that are sitting on go. I'm actually doing it in more EP/iTunes speed. That's definitely more of where my buying demographic goes these days, so we felt it made more sense."


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