“I want to reconnect with my fans and thank them for sticking with me all these years,” Billy Gilman, Hope Valley’s favorite son, told me on the day his photo came out on the cover of Rhode Island Magazine.
I first heard Billy on a summer evening at the Warwick Musical Theatre back in 1998 when he was nine years old and opening for Alabama. He brought the house down.
“I remember that evening so well,” Billy told me. “I came down with a double ear infection. But you know the old saying, ‘The show must go on.’”
“That’s the night it all started,” he said. “Things got crazy after that. Calls from record companies, and then, in 2000, at eleven years of age, I recorded ‘One Voice.’”
Billy was the youngest singer to hit Number 1 on the Billboard charts, getting his name in the Guinness Book of Records. His album sold over 5 million copies.
And soon after that, like so many other adolescents, his voice changed.
His story was told on NBC’s “The Voice,” and Billy became one of the most popular contestants ever to be on the competition, finishing in second place and gaining new fans from around the world, with 31 million views on You Tube. (The winner was from Texas; Billy, from the smallest state, received more votes per capita.)
“I am so grateful for a second chance,” Billy said. “You know I never lost my faithful fans. The audience doesn’t forget. The industry may not get it, but all I know is singing, and “The Voice” gave me the opportunity to show what I had to offer.
Billy has been traveling around the country, with concerts in Maryland, Connecticut, New York, Alabama, California, Texas and Nashville. And now it is back to where it all started.
“I am really looking forward to my December 14 concert at the Dunkin Donuts Center,” he said. “It is my first arena show as a headliner, and it is cool that it will be in Rhode Island. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and this will be a special show. I’ve added some musicians, and we’ll do a variety of songs.”
Billy talked with enthusiasm about his “The Voice” experience.
“They actually called me three years ago after hearing my story and asked me to audition for the show,” he said. “I should have said ‘yes’ right away, but I was trying to get my career back on track. Singing is all I have, and that keeps coming back in my lap.”
“Ninety percent of the experience was great,” he said. “The other ten percent was a lack of sleep, running around for rehearsals, and recording at 3 a.m. “
Gilman had nothing but praise for his coach, Adam Levine.
“What you see is what you get,” he said. “He’s the real deal. He really helped me.”
What’s he going to do after the Dunk concert?
“I’m gonna take a long nap. Two weeks off. Visit with my family and friends. On January 14 we head to California. Concert dates are lining up.”
From a young country singer out of Hope Valley, Rhode Island, to runner up on “The Voice,” Gilman’s life has been an up and down roller coaster. He is a brave young man, taking the risk of changing from country to pop, telling his story of coming out, keeping his old fans and gathering new ones. It was only fitting that his final song on “The Voice” was “My Way.”
Tickets are on sale for his December 14 at 7:30 p.m. concert at the Dunk. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.