From small town to prime time: Georgia native lands spot on The Voice


Julia Fechter

He calls the town Waleska, Georgia, his home. He has toured extensively as part of different bands, and now, he is a contestant on the NBC singing competition The Voice.

Wilkes, 33, premiered on The Voice during the show’s March 6 episode by covering The Wallflowers’ song “One Headlight”. After both Blake Shelton and Adam Levine turned their chairs around for him, Wilkes chose to be on Shelton’s team.

Previously, the Georgia native had been the lead vocalist for band High Flight Society and the bassist for another band, Disciple.

Though he was involved with High Flight Society for 12 years, he took time off from touring with them to care for his wife, Chelsey Wilkes, who was struggling with lupus.

As well, after a couple of years playing with Disciple, Wilkes stepped down as bassist in order to spend more time with his daughter.

“I actually ended up leaving Disciple [in 2016] because I wanted to be home more with Linley because she was at a critical age,” Wilkes said.

Between his departure from touring and his debut on the singing competition, Wilkes had been (and still is) writing country music for a publisher as a stay-at-home dad, while Chelsey owns and works at a hair salon in Canton, Georgia.

However, Wilkes has mentioned how being on NBC’s singing competition show could be a positive thing for his family.

“The Voice represents an opportunity to financially take a lot of the burden off of my wife,” he said on the March 6 episode.

During and after the audition

Wilkes had, as a musician who toured, played in venues ranging from clubs with a small audience to arenas with thousands of people.

“So I’ve played for all the kinds of scenarios you can imagine, except for a scenario where’s there’s four celebrities in chairs facing the other direction,” Wilkes said. “Imagine how you’d feel in front or behind those four celebrities trying to impress them enough to turn around.”

He described the experience as strange, and yet, amazing at the same time. He was also candid about how he valued his family, who were there with him at the audition.

Wilkes does not expect that his approach to family will change very much in light of his becoming a contestant on The Voice.

He explained how he has already had to practice balancing family time with his music career.

“The way I look at it is, most guys that work a nine-to-five job work nine-to-five Monday to Friday,” Wilkes said. “If you’re a musician, you are working so sporadically that as long as you schedule your time out right, you can spend the same amount of time [with family], if not more.”

Musical and personal growth

Wilkes described how his music has changed because of his 17 years of experience as a musician.

“Stylistically now, I’m kind of just a big goulash of all the genres that I’ve went through over the years,” he said.

Wilkes described High Flight Society as more pop rock while Disciple as being more hard rock and both groups being Christian bands. Additionally, Wilkes mentioned that he grew up listening to country and gospel music.

“The past few years, I’ve embraced all of it, and tried to make an eclectic type of version of everything that’s inside of me. [It’s] a pop rock sound, but lyrically and semantically country music…,” Wilkes said.

He explained his desire to grow musically on the show by learning as much as possible and added that musical and personal growth are connected.

“If you saw me 16 years ago and then you had a conversation with me today, obviously you wouldn’t be surprised that I’m a different person,” Wilkes said. “What people don’t realize about musicians is we grow in our music the same way we grow personally.”

As far as personal growth goes, Wilkes hoped that doing activities with The Voice, such as being on camera and doing interviews, would help him balance his more introverted tendencies.

Wilkes also thought that having Blake Shelton, who he described as a very outgoing and friendly person, would help with that.

“I’m hoping to walk away personally being a little bit more open about myself, feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin when I’m not on stage,” Wilkes said.

This week, you can catch Wilkes compete in the battle rounds with Team Blake cohort Jordan Kirkdorffer on The Voice. The battle rounds will air today, March 19, starting at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Feature photo courtesy of Caitlin McGee.