By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Though he didn't win, Josh Halverson figures he came out ahead with his time on The Voice — thanks, in part, to his roots in West Texas.
"I gained a lot of knowledge of how to do this work, especially on that kind of (level)," Halverson said in a recent phone interview. "I was just thankful for the background I already had for singing and music.
"It helps that I was really rooted in who I am as an individual," he continued. "Heaven forbid you go on a reality TV show and now know who you really are and you are willing to do whatever they say."
Now, Halverson — who was eliminated during the first week of live performances in November on the NBC show — is back to his indie roots with his self-released album Year of the Thunderbird. He'll perform in Amarillo for the first time in several years at 10 p.m. Friday, opening for fellow Texas-based Americana act Shane Smith & The Saints at Hoots Pub, 2424 Hobbs Road. Also performing is husband-and-wife Southern soul duo The Gibbonses. Cover is $10 in advance or $15 day of show.
Halverson, 32, was born on a Native American reservation in Minnesota to a Sioux mother and a Texas rancher father and moved to the Texas Panhandle with his parents when he was a kid; the family originally settled in Gruver, then moved to the Plainview area before time in the Lubbock and Seminole areas. He attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he caught an Al Green concert that inspired him to return to his childhood love of music.
"I started playing the piano when I was 5," Halverson said. "I was really intrigued by the piano, even at a young age, and my mom kind of convinced my dad to get us an older but really nice piano.
"I played up until I couldn't resist playing outside every day, when I was around 13 or 14," he said. "I went on to college and went to some concerts, trying to discover myself and see what it was I wanted to do. ... I went to this Al Green concert and saw how he put his all into the show. ... It was amazing, man. I just saw how music was such a release for him, how it knocked down all the walls and barriers that the world had built up.
"That's what got me to go back to piano."
Halverson moved to Los Angeles, thinking that's where he needed to be to kick off a music career. Within six months, he was playing at the fabled Troubadour and soon after released his first album.
"I was in my early 20s, playing in bars every night, and it was hard not to get consumed by that world and that lifestyle," he said.
So he headed back to Texas, soon meeting the woman who would become his wife, Rexana, at the Fort Worth Stock Show while watching his younger brother, a rodeo cowboy, compete.
"She kind of got me out of that rabbit hole and really focused my energy on songwriting and telling a story, continuing to break down those walls like Al Green or any of those great songwriters from the '60s and '70s," Halverson said. "She showed me the power of love and how love can bring you back."
That's Halverson's mission, he said — "to show the world that loves needs to be the priority and counterbalance all the hate that is happening now."
That frame of mind helped him get along famously with Voice judge Miley Cyrus, who stole him in the Battle Rounds from Alicia Keys, then lost him again to Keys in the Knockout Rounds.
"She's (Cyrus) my favorite, my favorite out of everyone," Halverson said. "She just kind of made me feel comfortable, made me feel like I was back at home (in West Texas). She pretty much did what she wanted til they told her not to do it again.
"She really is a good person, and she showed her heart when she spoke."
Now, the Denton-based Halverson is focusing his efforts on getting his music out independently and building a solid fan base by touring regionally. He said he's especially excited to come back to Amarillo, where he played a few times in the early 2000s and visited more frequently as a kid.
"I've always had a great appreciation for Amarillo," he said. "I felt connected with the land in Palo Duro Canyon. I remember going to the (American) Quarter Horse Museum when I was a kid. ... My dream is to play the Golden Light. I saw some great shows there."
Amarillo fans will hear new tunes from his January release, Year of the Thunderbird, which takes its name — and more — from Halverson's young son, Thunderbird.
"It's a testament to the first year of my son's life," he said. "I feel like later on down the road I can say, 'Here you go, son. Here's an album for you, and I did it all by myself.'
"I had some help from The Voice and the platform it put me on, but the art and the artistic value — it's all me."