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Before auditioning for, and eventually winning, Season 8 of The Voice, Sawyer Fredericks was just a humble Upstate New York farm boy who’d never performed for an audience of more than 50 people. But after Voice talent scouts discovered the 16-year-old, self-described “contemporary folk” singer-songwriter via his YouTube channel and invited him to the show in Los Angeles a little over six months ago, his life drastically changed.
“It was definitely a really big culture shock for me, moving from a farm to the city,” Sawyer tells Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks, two days after his Voice victory and a day before he finally heads home. “Since I’m quite a bit of an introvert, it’s really hard for me to do interviews and that kind of stuff. The performing was really easy for me, just because I’ve always been performing; I do a lot of farmers’ markets and gigs like that. So that was the part where I was the least nervous, when I was up onstage singing. I was more nervous in the interviews, although I’m not as nervous now. I’m definitely getting more comfortable with all this stuff. I’ve come out of my shell through this whole entire experience.“
Sawyer still sounds incredibly shy and soft-spoken on the phone, although he brightens when he discusses his imminent return to Windrake Farm. "There wasn’t a time when I was [in L.A.] that I wasn’t missing home… I’m going be seeing my dogs, so I’m probably going to be playing Frisbee with Tanner,” he says excitedly, referring to his chocolate lab, his favorite pet among the farm’s two dogs, 20 cows, 14 chickens, and single donkey.
It’s clear that Sawyer’s whirlwind experience hasn’t changed him much. He certainly has no desire to go “through to Hollywood,” to borrow a phrase from The Voice’s rival show. “I don’t really like the city,” he says plainly. “It’s just not really my thing. I would not move to L.A.; I love my home back on the farm. I would visit L.A., but it would never be my home. I can take trips and stay in hotels for a while, but I always want to have a farm to come back to.”
Sawyer even seems to be looking forward to doing his old chores. “During the winter, there’s a lot of chores that I have to do in the barn. But during the summer, there’s probably going to be haying season. And then spring is the nicest time, because the cows are just on pasture and I don’t have to give them any water, because the pipes are no longer frozen. So that’s the nicest time,” he enthuses.
All this is a far cry from Sawyer’s recent daily routine of rehearsing with Pharrell Williams and recording Ray LaMontagne songs, but clearly Sawyer never let his sudden reality-TV fame go to his bowler-topped, flaxen head. “I just thought, ‘This is going to be a good learning experience,’” Sawyer says of The Voice, insisting that he never thought he could actually win. “I’d never done any kind of audition thing before. So that’s kind of how I went into it, just seeing where it takes me.”
But just because Sawyer is eager to get back to his normal pre-Voice life doesn’t mean he isn’t excited to begin work on his first post-Voice album. And the troubadour, who independently released his first full-length album, Out My Window, in 2013, and cites Langhorne Slim, Damien Rice, the Black Keys, David Gray, and even Tool as influences, is off to a great start with his coronation single, “Please,” penned by his musical idol Ray LaMontagne.
"I’ve been a fan of Ray LaMontagne for a while now. I got into his music because my dad did… I have a memory of my dad working on the house while he was listening to Ray LaMontagne. I remember the first time hearing LaMontagne’s voice. I just loved it. I always liked his style of music, the way he writes his lyrics and how much emotion he puts into it. Yeah, I’m a big fan of his.“
However, as happy as Sawyer is to have the chance to record "Please,” he’s hoping to do a lot of his own writing on his upcoming album. “I definitely want a lot of creative control in it. I mean, I have so much original work I want to get out there.” Sawyer actually says his favorite memory of working with his Voice coach, Pharrell, was “the first time I really got to sit down off-camera with him, and I actually got to play some of my original work for the first time. That was really fun.”
As for the one thing Sawyer didn’t get to do during his time on The Voice that he wishes he had? “Perform one of my own originals,” he says matter-of-factly. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to do that when he temporarily leaves Windrake Farm to guest-perform on The Voice Season 9.