(UPDATED WITH CAUSE OF DEATH AND NBC STATEMENT)
Vivacious street performer Anthony Riley, a frontrunner on this most recent season of The Voice who inspired the fastest four-chair turnaround in the series’ history, has died at age 28 of an apparent suicide. The news first broke Friday evening via the fan site Rickey.org, after several of Riley’s friends expressed their grief on social media. A man identifying himself as Riley’s best friend, fellow Philadelphia busker Robby Parsons, spoke exclusively to Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks and confirmed the news.
“Anthony passed away Tuesday. He wasn’t found until yesterday [Friday],” said Parsons. “His sister called me at 7:30 yesterday to tell me… I called the friend he’d been living with, Bobby Iovine, and Bobby was in tears. And he said, ‘Robby, it’s true.‘”
Parsons added: “Anthony was a gentle soul. Just a loving, caring, gentle person, is what he was.” Parsons later corroborated Philly.com’s Saturday report that Riley took his own life.
“We are sad over the passing of Anthony Riley. We offer our deepest condolences to his friends and family during this very difficult time,” a representative for The Voice said in a statement.
Riley mysteriously and abruptly left The Voice Season 8 before the Knockout Rounds, which aired this past March, with no explanation other than “personal reasons.” It was later revealed that he’d actually dropped out of The Voice in January to enter a two-week rehab program for substance abuse. Riley told Philly.com that he went to Voice producers, shortly after his successful Battle Round was taped in January, to discuss his ongoing addiction problems. That night, producers flew Riley back home, and he entered Clarity Way, a rehab facility in Hanover, Pennsylvania. According to Riley, NBC footed the bill, although reps for The Voice declined to comment.
“At the time, [The Voice] wasn’t working for me and I felt like I needed to go, instead of taking on more responsibility than I could handle,” Riley told Philly.com. While he stressed that The Voice was a “really great source of support” and “they [made] sure we understood we were getting ourselves into,” he said that the heavy workload and 16-hour days on the show were just too much for him to handle. “It’s stressful; there are a lot of days that can turn into lonely days,” he explained.
Riley also stated back in March that he had no plans to audition for The Voice again, despite a groundswell of fan support. “The Voice is over for me,” he said.
Anthony Riley was a great singer with huge potential, and he will be missed by his friends, fans, and extended Voice family.