In front of a screaming television audience and millions of viewers, Bryce Leatherwood croons, singing Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes." He wears his cowboy hat and holds himself strong, commanding the stage belies his 22 years.
His voice proved to be more than just compelling, winning the hearts (and votes) of Americans on the 22nd season of the NBC show, "The Voice." The champion grew up in Woodstock and returns home often to see his parents, Cliff and Hope Leatherwood and his grandparents.
“My family is my rock. Without my family, none of this would be worth it. As much as I’m doing this for myself, I’m doing this for everyone." By “this” he means winning "The Voice" alongside his coach Blake Shelton and embarking on a career as a recording artist and country music superstar. “I want to put Woodstock on the map and make my family proud, make my hometown proud.”
A tribute to his childhood wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging his faith. Growing up in the church pews of Hickory Flat United Methodist Church are the roots of his foundation along with his family.
Bryce and his younger brother Lance grew up on their grandfather’s farm in Woodstock. “Staking fence posts isn’t too fun, it was tough being out there in the heat taking care of chores as kids. Lucky for us, We did a lot of playing too." They careened around on four-wheelers and dirt bikes, jumped in local swimming holes, and fished. “We did it right.”
Now, he spends his days playing in the studio, writing music with some of the most talented songwriters in the business. “Most of these songwriters have several number-one hits,” he says with admiration. “I’ve written more than 30 original songs since the first of the year in Nashville."
Grammy-nominated country artist Blake Shelton remembers those early days. “When I think of myself at that age, I was hoping someday I would just hear myself on the radio. If I could just hear myself on the radio, mission accomplished,” said Shelton in an interview with People magazine after Bryce’s win.
Bryce says his “mission accomplished” would be recording a song that people can connect with. “I want to put a song out there that impacts people and changes their lives. I want to tell stories about the common people of the south; of Georgia. I want my songs to reflect the stories of my life.”
Reflecting on the formative experience on the four-time Emmy Award-winning musical competition series, Bryce says his biggest takeaway is that he discovered who he is as an artist. "I discovered who I am and the songs I want to create, the music I want to base my sound on and to honor the legends who came before me.” His plan is to be one of the greats, like his heroes Keith Whitley and Conway Twitty.
With his talent and performance prowess, he found himself at home on stage. "The Voice band is full of incredibly talented musicians. It’s a tribute to them the way they translate the song to fit Bryce Leatherwood. They are to die for.”
Managing the nerves of playing with such accomplished musicians, in front of millions of viewers gets easier over time, says Bryce. “It’s like getting calluses on your hands from working. You still feel it, but soon it hurts a little less.” Sounds like a country hit!
This Father’s Day, Bryce plans to be home with his family. The day will be built around good food, good stories, smiles, hugs, and handshakes. “The best feeling in the world is to make the people who saw me grow up proud. It’s the best feeling in my life.”
Bryce will perform in a City of Woodstock Welcome Home Celebration at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 25 at the Northside Hospital - Cherokee Amphitheater in Woodstock. Admission is free! Welcome home, Bryce!
Follow Bryce’s career at BryceLeatherwood.com and on Instagram @BryceLeatherwood
“I want to put Woodstock on the map and make my family proud, make my hometown proud.”