Since finishing second on NBC’s The Voice, Kenzie Wheeler has returned to a proud hometown
Kenzie Wheeler loved hunting and fishing and baseball growing up, leading a relatively normal life as a kid from central Florida.
But as a seventh-generation Floridian and Dover native, where he grew up is a long way from a nationally-televised stage in Los Angeles where he finished second on the season finale of NBC’s The Voice last week.
Although baseball was admittedly his first love, singing has always played a role in his life. In elementary school Wheeler sang at the Performing Arts Center in Tampa as a member of the all-county choir. Then in high school he began to take it a bit more seriously, starting with weekly karaoke showcases at Uncle Mike’s in Plant City before releasing a debut album in 2018 and eventually singing alongside country music superstars like Charlie Daniels, Michael Ray and Craig Campbell.
And while trying out for The Voice was something that Wheeler had long considered, there was a significant period where he simply didn’t feel as though he was ready. But eventually he put aside his inhibitions and submitted an audition tape.
“I guess it was just kind of like, you only get one life,” Wheeler said. “You don’t want to look back in 20 or 30 years and say, ‘I wish I would have chased that, I wish that I would have chased that dream.’ At least now you can say, I went and I did that and I did it and I tried it and whether I succeeded at it or I won the show or I didn’t, at least I gave it my all and made everybody proud. My hometown, my friends, my family. That’s kind of the way I look at it.”
That audition tape eventually took Wheeler to North Carolina for a tryout, to California for the blind auditions and ultimately culminated in a stellar run through the show’s final episode of the season where he fell just short of claiming victory.
“It’s still fun getting to sing live on The Voice stage and for America,” Wheeler said of his experience. “I wasn’t expecting to make it all the way to second place, even to make it to top-5. In my eyes everybody’s a winner that’s on the season, everybody was really good, but to make it to top-5, that’s as far as you can make it. Whether you win or you don’t, you made it all the way.”
And with that second-place finish, Wheeler’s hometown has embraced him and his return in a fashion that reflects just how far the once normal kid from Dover made it in the spotlight of America’s stage.
“It’s been amazing,” Wheeler said about his return home. “I was in Fred’s the other day when I got home, Fred’s Market, and my mom and my buddy Jason and I went up there to eat and everybody was coming up to me and hugging me and telling me congratulations and wanting pictures and talking to me. It was crazy the amount of support and everything. It’s something that I never thought that I would have and it’s really just been a blessing overall.”
Now back home to a warm welcome and the support of his community behind him, Wheeler looks toward the future.
“I’ve got some things coming up,” Wheeler said. “One thing I can’t really talk about but you’ll probably know about shortly. And then I’m supposed to be singing at the FFA Convention in Orlando. I guess you could say that people have been reaching out, it’s just that I’m still under contract so it’s hard for me to do stuff right now until I’m no longer under contract.”
So while the 22-year-old sensation’s future remains a mystery, Wheeler will forever remember and be grateful for his run on The Voice and the platform it gave his budding career.
“It was a great experience,” Wheeler said. “Something that I’ll always remember for the rest of my life and something that I’ll always be able to tell my kids and grandkids about”