Huntley Gets Candid on the Highs and Lows After Winning ‘The Voice’: “I Had a Trophy, but All My Friends Were Gone”

As last season’s winner of The Voice, Huntley has since been surprisingly candid about how his life has changed, warts and all. He recently spoke with American Songwriter about the impact winning the show has had on his life, as well as his experiences going through the process and watching his friends go home one by one.

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Upon hearing his name called as the winner of The Voice, Huntley admitted that he was shocked, but also “It was the most validating moment of my life,” he said. “I think people could see how shocked I was when I won. I did end my year crying in Gwen Stefani’s arms in graffiti with a trophy. The trophy was cool, but the hug from Gwen was better.”

Huntley’s journey to The Voice was a rough one. It included sleeping on a bench in Centennial Park for six weeks, surviving the 2010 flood in Nashville, moving back to Virginia, and auditioning for American Idol three times where he was eventually dismissed by Steven Tyler and never shown on television. However, through that time he kept his dream alive, although it eventually grew to include fatherhood as well.

His daughter was present when The Voice called him, breaking the news that he made it through the Blind Auditions. His family watched every week, supporting him from afar while he performed in California. He also made a brand new group of friends while on the show, although he did admit it was difficult to be the champion without those people by his side.

[RELATED: Exclusive: Huntley Shares His Path From Park Bench to Spotlight, Leaving Nashville and Life After ‘The Voice’]

Huntley Talks Reality of Winning The Voice

“I had a trophy, but all my friends were gone,” Huntley said of the morning after his big win. While he is grateful for the experience, he shared that winning wasn’t really everything.

“I’m just so glad that I created amazing moments with a lot of amazing people on the show,” he continued. “It really just taught me that winning wasn’t the main thing. It was just showing the world myself.” Overall, for Huntley, remaining his authentic self is the most important aspect of his career. “I feel like people really just see me, and I don’t have to portray this character. I just get to be myself forever,” he said.

There seems to be an adjustment period for The Voice winners once their season ends. Huntley’s statement makes it clear that—while he’s undoubtedly grateful—winning is not always all it’s cracked up to be as he ventures into his post-show career.

Artists Finding Their Footing After The Voice and How Huntley Can Help Change the Narrative

Season 10 winner Alisan Porter has previously shared her thoughts on the aftermath of her on-show experience.

“It was sort of like, ‘I got this record deal, but what do I do now?’” Porter told the New York Post in 2021. She continued, “Once you win, they’re on to the next season within two months and you’re a has-been. And I was, like, terrified that I wasn’t gonna use this momentum to make it in the music business. It was definitely not what I had expected.”

Former coach Blake Shelton spoke out about the deal winners receive back in 2020. “One of the frustrating things for me as a coach on this show year after year is they win this record deal with Universal, and so many times the ball’s been dropped,” Shelton told Entertainment Tonight, per the Post report.

Winners of The Voice come away with a cash prize of $100,000. Their record deal also makes them eligible to receive royalties from future sales.

Artists such as season 22 winner Bryce Leatherwood have helped to shift the narrative around post-show success in recent years. With Huntley’s talents and grounded mindset, there’s no denying he’s got the chops needed to keep pushing the momentum of post-show success in the right direction for former champions.

Featured Image by Trae Patton/NBC

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