Last week, Wheeler and teammate J.D. Casper competed in The Voice’s battle round and the Dover native earned the win.
Dover’s own Kenzie Wheeler is still going strong on NBC’s The Voice and recently put his pipes to the test in a head-to-head battle.
Wheeler and J.D. Casper, who are both on Kelly Clarkson’s team, had a friendly competition in last Monday night’s episode and performed a duet of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1987 hit “Fishin’ in the Dark.” Though both men brought their A-games, only one could win — and Clarkson went with Wheeler.
“Going into it, I didn’t really know who I was gonna get paired with,” Wheeler said. “I had an idea it might be J.D. He’s really talented. Awesome musician, great guy. We rehearsed every day and it was a really great experience.”
Being on the show is an intensive labor of love for Wheeler and the other contestants. He’ll often wake up between 4 and 5 a.m. to start a day of filming or rehearsing his next song. He’ll get his wardrobe sorted out, go through makeup for the cameras and get his signature “triple threat” mullet just right.
“I’ve gotta throw some mousse into it, get it edged up on the sides and my barber, John, fixes it to where I can comb it over,” Wheeler said. “And I just got a perm again.”
Once he’s got the look nailed down, Wheeler gets a “little break” before he heads to his next destination for filming or rehearsing. The days often run long — sometimes hitting 10 or more hours of work — before he’s finally able to relax and get ready for the next day.
“When you’re filming or singing, it’s a long day,” Wheeler said. “It’s an all-day thing. Sometimes I don’t get back until 4 or 5 in the afternoon.”
Though Wheeler does have a background in baseball, he doesn’t really have any pre-filming superstitions or crazy rituals like many ballplayers are notorious for doing before or during a game. He’s focused on taking care of his voice and body so he can go in front of the cameras and just be himself.
“If I’m singing, I run through it three times,” Wheeler said. “I don’t want to over-sing. I drink a lot of water and eat some honey before I go on stage. It coats the throat. I try not to eat at all because of nerves, the stomach and all that.”
Wheeler knows one of the most popular opinions Voice viewers have of him is that his voice would have made him a country star in the 1980s or 1990s. One needs only to watch his Voice appearances, in which he’s covered songs released in the 80s, for the proof. Wheeler is a devoted fan of that era of country music and would love to cover more songs from that time period.
Song selection on the show is generally a collaborative process in which the contestants themselves are involved. If you ask Wheeler what he’d like to perform if he could, it’s tough for him to nail one down — he’s got a list of “like 25 songs” he’d love to sing on the show if possible.
“I’d go with a George Strait song because I haven’t done one yet and I’ve always been a big fan,” Wheeler said. “He’s one of my top country singers. I’d have to say ‘Amarillo by Morning.’ I’d like to do a Garth Brooks song, ‘The Dance.’ I’m a big George Jones fan, so I’d do ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ I’ve always been a big fan of Tracy Lawrence, so ‘Texas Tornado.’ And Alan Jackson, ‘Remember When’ is a good one, too.”
The list also has modern-day entries, like Luke Combs’ “Dear Today,” and he’d also enjoy performing his original music on the show if he’s able to. If not, it’s no big deal — Wheeler just wants to go out there and give it his all no matter what he’s singing.
Since this season of The Voice began and most of the United States was exposed to Wheeler’s sound for the first time, he’s seen a big uptick in his YouTube views and subscriptions, album streams and people sharing his music in general. True to form, the experience has been humbling for him and he said he’s happy to see his music connecting with so many people.
“It’s pretty awesome to see that rise and people, I guess you could say becoming fans and supporting me,” Wheeler said.
You can listen to Wheeler’s music on all major streaming platforms and pick up a copy of his 2018 debut album “Dover” online. Watch his and Casper’s performance of “Fishin’ in the Dark” at youtube.com/watch?v=ZwwNpset0Xc.