His audition: Sawyer Fredericks, 15, of Fultonville, N.Y., auditioned with the classic folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow.” He’d barely gotten through one line when three chairs turned, those of Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams. Midway through the audition, Blake Shelton turned around as well, giving Sawyer one of three four-chair turns in the Season 8 premiere. He opted to join Team Pharrell.
His background: Sawyer told The Voice he’s home-schooled and lives on a farm with 19 cows, 14 hens, two roosters, two pigs and one donkey. He said he likes the freedom of living on a farm — and the sound of his voice bouncing off barn walls while he sings — but says it’s also a lot of work. “I’ll be a farmer if I need to,” the soft-spoken lad says, “but I’d rather be a musician.” He said he started playing guitar four years ago and mostly performs at open mike nights and local farmers’ markets.
What the show didn’t show: The farm is called Windrake, and Sawyer has been spending his time doing more than farm chores. He recorded a demo CD with six original songs in 2012, then followed that with a 15-track album called “Out My Window” in 2013. “My voice was an octave higher then,” he admitted in a conference call with the media. In his Voice video, Sawyer says he started writing songs around the time he learned to play guitar when he was 12 and has also performed in New York City on a couple of occasions. “The artist I want to be is very original,” he says. “I put a lot of emotion in my music.” Frederick says The Voice discovered him on YouTube. And he became the breakout star of the season premiere, with his single from the show cracking the Top 30 on iTunes (no one else landed in the Top 75). So, how did he celebrate? Well, there were Facebook comments to respond to. But otherwise, “life hasn’t changed on the farm,” Sawyer says.
On picking Pharrell: “I kind of went in thinking of picking Pharrell just because he talks a lot about originality, and that speaks to me as an artist. He seems sincere, and quiet, and gives a lot of good advice.”
On iTunes: His audition song, the 2013 album and a 2013 single called “Moving the Sky.”
Update: In the battle round, he was matched with Noelle Bybee. They sang “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Pharrell declared Sawyer the winner; Noelle was eliminated from the show. In the knockout round, he was pitted against Paul Pfau and Mia Z in The Voice’s first-ever three-singer showdown. That’s because Anthony Riley dropped out of the competition. Sawyer performed “Collide” and once again scored the round’s biggest hit on iTunes. Oh, and he was selected to advance, along with Mia.
Live Playoffs: He sang “Trouble” and was voted into the Top 12 by Voice fans. The song hit number 15 on the iTunes singles chart.
Top 12: He performed “Imagine.” The song wound up at number two on the iTunes overall singles chart and number one on the rock chart.
Top 10: He advanced to the Top 8 on fan voting. His version of “Iris” hit number four on iTunes, second best of the week.
Top 8: He advanced to the Top 6 on fan voting. “Simple Man” hit number two on iTunes, best of the week.
Top 6: He advanced to the Top 5 on fan voting. “Shine On” hit number three on iTunes, best of the week. “Take Me to the River” hit number 10, third best of the week.
Top 5: Two more songs performed; two more Top 10 songs on iTunes. In fact, Sawyer had the night’s top two performers — “A Thousand Years” hit number two, “For What It’s Worth” hit number three.
Top 4: Sawyer performed two new solos, “Please” and “Old Man,” the former as the debut single. They were the best performing songs on iTunes from the Season 8 finale, landing at number two and number three on the iTunes singles chart and number one and two, respectively, on the site’s rock chart. He also performed a cover of “Summer Breeze” as a duet with Pharrell; it landed at number 19 on iTunes. The next night, Sawyer was named the Season 8 winner.
Four Pockets (original)
New York City’s Killing Me (Ray LaMontagne cover)
Have You Ever Seen the Rain (Credence Clearwater cover)