Craig Wayne Boyd talks about winning The Voice; his new radio hit, “Stuck in My Head”; and his new album, Top Shelf.
It’s a continuing climb to even more widespread fame for Craig Wayne Boyd now that the Dallas native is releasing his first full-length album, Top Shelf. With its catchy lyrics, foot-tapping sounds, and humble-rooted topics, it’s a high-caliber debut that offers everything country music fans crave.
Top Shelf has been in the making for quite some time. Boyd, who relocated to Nashville in 2004 and won the seventh season of The Voice with coach Blake Shelton in 2014, has already given fans a taste of his talent with the release of “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face,” which debuted at No.1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. Now comes Boyd’s highly anticipated full-length.
Recently, C&I talked with Boyd about his time on The Voice, his variety of instruments, and what to expect from his new album, Top Shelf, available now.
Cowboys & Indians: What do you hope your fans will get out of the new record?
Craig Wayne Boyd: Well, first and foremost, I hope that people feel that it’s good. That’s what I hope, that people enjoy the music. This album has been a kind of a journey, in and of itself, seeing that I started it a little over two years ago and we’re finally getting the music out. I hope that people will listen to it. I kind of approached this album a little bit genre-free, to the extent of the influences of my upbringing, with gospel and rock and country music. But I mean, I open my mouth and it’s distinctly country because I’m from Texas and I got twang in there and it won’t disappear.
C&I: You won Season 7 of The Voice and your song “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” debuted at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. How do you think those two experiences prepared you for your first full-length album?
Boyd: I think, overall, The Voice was just a boost of confidence and reiterated that all the hard work that I had been putting in throughout the previous 10-plus years before that was not in vain. I think it prepared me in that fact of just believing in myself and being myself and doing music that I love and that people will accept that because it’s real. It’s from me, it’s from my heart. And then so far as debuting at No. 1, that’s letting me know exactly that — that fans will go out and buy it, because that’s what that chart said is that people wanted to hear the music — it was about sales and not just about radio.
C&I: Has there been a particularly memorable moment in your career so far, or on The Voice?
Boyd: So far as being on the show, that the moment when it went to the live knockouts and I sang “Some Kind of Wonderful. I think it was “Some Kind of Wonderful” that I sang — you’ll have to check that out. I’m trying to remember back, but it was the first live knockouts that I was part of that I was like, “I’ve been trying to do this all on my own,” and I realized that I wasn’t the one that was in charge. I subsequently followed up the following week with doing a hymn, doing a gospel song. The responsible part of that was because I had realized that I wasn’t the one that was in charge and I wanted to give honor where honor was due.
C&I: When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
Boyd: Well, I don’t know that I’ve known anything else but. I started playing mandolin when I was 4 years old. My dad was a bluegrass player, played banjo, and he needed somebody to play with him. That’s when I started messing around with music, so I think music’s always been a part of me and part of my life, to my earliest memories.
C&I: In what ways does the music on the record stand out from other music you’ve done?
Boyd: It’s still definitely me. It’s got a little bit fresher tones in it. Off of The Voice I used a lot of horns. Even singing Merle Haggard, I had a horn section with me on it And so I dabbled with that on this album a little bit. In fact, even the debut single, “Stuck in My Head,” has horns on it for that reason. I grew up playing saxophone in junior high, high school, and into college. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it on The Voice and was able to incorporate that into this album, too.
C&I: Besides mandolin and saxophone, what other instruments do you play?
Boyd: On the album, I play guitar, bass, keys, percussion, Dobro, of course all the vocal stuff, tambourines, all kinds of fun stuff that I incorporated. I played something on just about every track.
C&I: I got a chance to listen to it and it’s really well-done and so diverse and there’s something there for everyone.
Boyd: Thank you. Like I said, I know that I branched out and experimented with different sounds and different things of my upbringing, but I feel like it’s still distinctly and uniquely me.
C&I: So you drew inspiration for the sound and the lyrics from your upbringing. What else did you draw inspiration from?
Boyd: I’m sure you realize that a lot of the album is happy. That’s because I feel like I found my center. I feel like I’m not searching as much as I have in the past. I’m never satisfied with where I’m at, but I’m always happy where I’m at. ... I feel like we can always progress; we can always be better and that’s what I push for. If anything, I push to be the man that I will be in 10 years. That’s what I want to be.
C&I: What made you pick “Stuck in My Head” as your first radio single?
Boyd: I felt like it was a good representation of what was to come with the rest of the album.
C&I: Is there a song on the album that you’re most proud of?
Boyd: I’m proud of all of them. I think all of them, individually, have their moments in there and reasons that I put them on the album. A funny story about “Somewhere in There”: That’s my wife that’s singing the harmonies with me on that. It was two days before I had to turn the album in and I was supposed to use that song as a duet. My duet partner was tied up on a TV show and couldn’t get away to record, so I called my wife and was like, “Hey, can you meet me at the studio in about 45 minutes?” She’s like, “Why?” Like, “Well, I need your singing.” And so she went in and sang with me on that one, and, incidentally, I think that was the right thing. It was fate that brought that together because the song is really our story. From the first day that we saw each other, the first night that we met each other, we’ve been inseparable since.
C&I: Are there any other songs that have stories like that attached to them?
Boyd: The one song that’s fairly unique on the album is “Presence of the Lord.” That was a last-minute addition to the album. I had been in Nashville for quite a few years and I would go sit in with people and was getting to sit in with some really, in my book, top-caliber guys — two of them [were] Kenny Olson, who’s the lead guitar player with Kid Rock, and Peter Keys, who is the keyboard player with Lynyrd Skynryd right now. They were having a jam session, an open-mic type thing, and they had asked me to come up and sing.
On the way there, I just put my phone into my speakers and Eric Clapton Greatest Hits came on. There was a song that was obviously not him singing on it, so I turned it up a little bit and the song was called “Presence of the Lord,” and it really struck me that night. I was like, “Man, this is just brilliant,” and so we learned it that night and played it out. When we were looking to add something onto the album, I really wanted to do that. I called them both up and we got in the studio. There was one B3 organ, one guitar, and me singing, just one voice — that’s how we recorded it. It was a very spiritual moment for us because not only was it a special song with those guys, but it’s a song that really surmises where I’m at right now and that’s that I do feel like I found that center. I found that place that I am supposed to be.
C&I: Are there any songs that didn’t make the album that we can expect later on down the road?
Boyd: In fact, I think there’s about 10 or so songs that didn’t make the album that I’ve recorded for it and some of those I play out, live, so the only places that you can get them is if you show up at a show.
C&I: Speaking of playing live, what can we expect in terms of touring?
Boyd: Right now, we’re really focused on getting out to country radio. Today I’m in Seattle; this afternoon, I’ll be in Salt Lake City. The following day I believe I’m in Sacramento and San Jose, California. It’s two or three cities a day and it’s been that way for the past six weeks, seven weeks, just really focused on doing the one-on-one with radio, so that we can get out to even more people because they’re my voice at the moment. We’re looking at, hopefully, by early spring we’ll be announcing some tours.
For more information on Craig Wayne Boyd and upcoming shows, visit his website.