At 42 years old, Todd Tilghman, The Voice‘s Season 18 winner, is the oldest person to ever win The Voice, and his 2020 victory demonstrates that shows like these accomplish what they set out to do: Set people on the road to seeing dreams they couldn’t even imagine come true.
“I never really considered a career in music,” Tilghman, who was on Team Blake Shelton, exclusively tells . “I’ve always loved to sing, but I don’t know that I ever thought that people would want to hear it, or that I had what it took to really get out there and make something of it. I don’t have any complaints about the life I made for myself, but as far as music goes, I didn’t feel like I had the goods, and so I didn’t really go for it.”
What Tilghman did go for was a small-town life as lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Meridian, Miss., husband and father to eight children. And he is aware that those responsibilities have to be considered as he decides how big of a music career he wants, and whether or not he would be willing to walk away from his job as a pastor.
It was actually Tilghman’s wife Brooke, who encouraged him to audition for The Voice, but she did leave it up to him to decide which of the coaches’ teams to join, because Tilghman was a four-chair turn, so he had his pick of Shelton, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend and Nick Jonas. He almost went with Clarkson because he feels they sing more alike–they both belt out their songs–but then he changed his mind.
“When I was going in, honest to God, I was torn,” he admits. “But when it got closer to the Blind Auditions, I thought if Blake turned for me, I would go with Blake because he seems like a friend. All of them are connected musically. And each of them probably seems like a friend to different people, because we all are different. But for me personally, because I’m just a regular, down-home guy, Blake seemed like a friend.”
And Tilghman, whose original country song “Long Way Home” reached No. 1 on iTunes Top 100, was right in his assessment. Shelton has indicated that he will do everything in his power to help his seventh winner on the road to success, even suggesting that he will be able to do more for Tilghman than some of his other winners because the two men’s genre of music will be more in sync, whether Tilghman decides to go country, Christian or gospel.
“I’m going to say that I feel moving forward, my belief system will remain intact,” Tilghman continues. “I won’t move away from that, but as far as a music genre, I may lean a little more country. This time on The Voice has taught me that that is well-received with people and that even though I didn’t maybe think I was very good at it, it turns out I can do it.”
The life you’ve made for yourself, your story was a big part of why you won. People really related to you and the wonderful things that you’ve done with your eight children. Would you agree that that helped you win The Voice?
It could have, yeah. I really don’t know, but another thing about that is I just hope everybody in the world knows I’m just a regular guy like all of you all. I mess up all the time and make bad decisions, but we just keep going. What we do with our lives is we try to do what we feel like we’re supposed to do; and then when we don’t do that or when we do what we probably shouldn’t have done, we try to just make it right with one another, and we just move forward with our lives that way. So, I feel like maybe it did, and I would hope that people would relate to it more than they just admired it, because I don’t feel like I’m someone, necessarily, to admire, but I hope that we can relate to one another.
Why would you think you weren’t good at country music, because they say country music is the genre that’s most about telling a story?
Some of the best advice I could ever give anybody is–and if they can figure out how I hope they’ll tell me–just to try to get out of your head. I’ve always been the person that didn’t think I had a country enough voice, but I love country music because of the storytelling. Especially ‘90s country, that is probably my favorite genre, but I guess I never thought I had the voice for country. I always could tell that my voice is a little different, but it turns out, it seems like it’s well-received. So, I don’t know that I’ll be your typical country guy, but I’m hoping that I can get in that genre and make some things happen.
Yeah. Yeah. I will say, though, she’s also the one who promised our kids Disney World if I win. So maybe that’s going to be a wash.
A lot of your competitors do gigs all over the place. But you don’t. Do you think you acquired some confidence from getting up in front of your congregation? You seemed to very much be able to express your songs.
I’ve never been a person to try to push anything on anyone else, but for me personally, I feel like having a deeper belief has taught me through the years how to connect with what I’m saying when I’m singing those songs. Not just that it’s beautiful, but like, what are you saying, you know? And so, I feel like maybe that is why. Also, when you sing and you love to sing, especially when you’re on The Voice, if the people seem like they love it, then that’s just going to draw it more out of you. So, maybe it’s a combination of those things.
In the beginning, you did get to experience the live audience and that connection, and then you had to go into quarantine. What was the biggest difference that you noticed for yourself?
I think I’m in agreement with all of the other wonderful artists that were on the season with me. You miss that audience. There’s like a palpable energy in the room when you have an audience, but I thank God, in a way, because it teaches us that you have to keep growing and adapting.
Now that we have done this, especially those of us in the top 17 on Season 18 of The Voice, and probably other people in the world, too, who do gigs and music for a living and they’re having to do it virtually, now that we have done this, if we hadn’t already, we have taught ourselves to dig really deep and just really connect on an inner level with that song, because it’s not going to come from the audience. It’s going to have to come from you, you know? I think that will prove priceless for us going forward.
Your original song, “Long Road Home,” was introduced first on Songland. How did that come to be your original song and how do you relate to it?
First of all, the whole Songland thing was so much fun. That was one of the funnest things to me that has happened, just being able to do that with them, you know? Even the interaction that we got to have with one another while we were working on the song. Anyway, the show reached out to us and said, “We’re going to have these originals. What we’re going to do is we’re going to collaborate with Songland,” and that was exciting to me.
And so, the people who work on the original music side of The Voice reached out to us. What I did was I sent them a couple of my own originals, and they got back with me, and they said, “We really like this one,” and then they said, “Here are a few Songland songs. I want you to give these a listen, because there’s a couple of these we think you might like, that might fit your voice and your story, too.”
So, I listened, and when I heard “Long Way Home,” I was like, “I really, really want to do ‘Long Way Home.’” The funny thing about “Long Way Home” was it wasn’t even totally completed yet. Ester Dean and Shane McAnally worked and finished the song just prior to us filming it. I just loved it because the cool thing was, they finished it after our conversation, which meant they got to put some of me into it.
And so, it’s a song that I think relates to everybody, especially if you’ve lived any life at all. Sometimes you just want things to happen. Everybody knows that sometimes they’re going to have trouble, and everybody knows that things are not always going to go as planned, but then sometimes you just get blindsided. You’ll just be walking and living your life, and something will come out of nowhere and just completely derail you, you know?
But the beautiful thing about it is if you just keep going, and you don’t look back all the time, and you don’t live in regret all the time, then, eventually, you’ll get there. It might be the long way, but you’ll get there.
I just love that so much about that song, and so, that’s why I ended up going with that one. Also, I felt like, “Hey, if I’ve got this music of my own that I really like, and then they’re pitching me music that I really like, if I go with theirs, then I have both.”
Exactly. So maybe some of the songs that you wrote can be on your album.
Yeah. Right. So, I feel like it was a win both ways for me.
You’re not the only star in your family; your oldest son appeared on Making It. How did that happen?
It’s similar to the way I got on The Voice as far as how it came about. It wasn’t the same people, but a friend reached out to him. It’s been three years now, I guess. Ever since he was just a little boy, and he’s 20 now, my son’s always been very unique and creative. I’ve told him 100 times that I envy that about him. He’s not really aloof or anything, but he does not worry what people are going to think about him.
If he wants to dress a certain way, be a certain way, or do his hair a certain way, then that’s what he’s done since he was 10 or younger. He got to where he would dig around our house. He used to get in trouble, because he would take things that were valuable to us and he would make costumes out of them, and he would do a little photo shoot on his phone. He had an iPhone or something.
So, he would take photos of his brothers and sisters in these cosplay costumes that he made, and over time, they just got more and more and more elaborate. He did a cosplay shoot of his brother as Pennywise the Clown. As a matter of fact, to this day, if you Google kid Pennywise, my kid pops up. It went viral, and so a friend of ours messaged us and said, “There’s this show Making It, and they’re going to be casting for their second season and they sent a link.
So, he filled all that out, and really, there’s a lot to it. It’s really a miraculous story. He couldn’t get any of his artwork to attach. Every time he tried to attach it, it wouldn’t attach. So, finally, he gave up, but then somehow, they ended up contacting him and asking for his artwork, and step by step, he ended up on the show. He actually made it a good way. I think he was eliminated fifth out of ten, and the finale had three people in it. So, he made it almost all the way to the end.
You must be such a proud papa.
Oh, my gosh, yeah. I am so proud of all of my kids. Not all of them are on TV, and not all of them are even on social media a whole lot. I have a 14-year-old son who’s barely active at all on social media, but he is so gifted at graphic design. My 16-year-old son, he raps and writes his own raps and records them and puts them on SoundCloud. So, all of my kids are gifted, and I’m really proud of every one of them.
Original article: https://parade.com/1044032/paulettecohn/the-voice-season-18-winner-todd-tilghman/