At the age of 38, soul country singer-guitarist Sundance Head’s future has never been brighter, but he wishes he could step back in time.
“I tell you what, man. If I could meet that 28-year-old Sundance Head that was on ‘American Idol,’ I’d probably punch him right in the mouth,” he said.
Roy Head, who had the 1965 hit song “Treat Her Right,” named his son Sundance because he figured he would grow up to be an entertainer, too. Sundance Head does possess an undeniably superb voice but when he auditioned for “American Idol” in 2007 it turned out he wasn’t ready for prime time.
“I was not a very nice guy,” he said. “I was real cocky and thought I knew everything and that I should have already been famous. But really, I was immature and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t prepared for any kind of blessings that the world or the Lord would have given me. So I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity to grow up and have a second chance at redemption.”
It took having a child to make Sundance head in the right direction.
“I wanted to lead by example,” he said. “I started listening to what people have to say and I don’t talk as much as I used to. I wanted to learn from people who gave me the opportunity to learn from them rather than blow it off and act like I knew everything.”
Head’s unique soul country sound led to him to victory in 2016 on “The Voice.” Sporting a thick, braided beard, the Porter, Texas, native loves Marvin Gaye and Al Green as much as he does Conway Twitty and George Jones.
“We’re not country enough to be stone-cold country and we don’t do a lot of hip-hop and R&B, so we’re not quite a soulful as everybody would like, but we find a happy medium there,” he said. “So we call it soul country. Once people come see us live, they understand what it means.”
Sundance learned to appreciate soul from his father, a dynamic performer whose live act was compared to Elvis Presley and James Brown. (SEE VIDEO) The expression “blue-eyed soul” probably started with Roy Head, who was called the blue-eyed-soul shouter when he was on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a mostly African-American troupe of musicians and comedians during a time when much of the country was segregated.
“When they booked them, they thought Roy Head and the Traits were a black act,” Sundance Head said. “When he’d show up, they’d ask, ‘Where is Roy Head?’
“There was never any pressure on me (to become an entertainer). But when I was ready to take that step, (my father) was the first person there to give me counsel and advise me. He’s been waiting a long time. He’s really proud of me now and I’m really honored to be able to carry on a tradition like that.”
Contestants on “The Voice” audition for the show’s four judges – in 2016 they were Blake Shelton, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Miley Cyrus — whose chairs face the audience. If a judge likes what they hear, they press a button and the chair turns toward the stage.
Levine was first judge to turn around for Head. After the chair stopped, Levine’s head was spinning when he saw who was singing an Otis Redding song. “What are you doing wearing a cowboy hat and boots?” he exclaimed.
Keys asked about his influences, and Head replied, “You,” and then sang a verse from one of her songs.
“Holy moly!” screamed Shelton, who Head selected to be his coach.
After winning the program’s top prize, Head’s second chance arrived. In February, he signed with Republic Records and the Nashville management agency DreamCatcher. He’s on tour now, opening for Shelton with a 30-minute set.”
“I am looking at this as a lifestyle business opportunity, where before I may have thought it was just one big party from one day to the next,” he said.
Head took a one-day break from the tour to headline a show on March 8 at the Cargo Concert Hall. It will be his first time in Reno. He plays in a trio with bassist Dave Walters and drummer Joe Busa.
“We are chomping at the bit to play longer than 30 minutes,” he said before the show. “We’re going to play all night long.”
Related story: Sundance Head shows off his ‘Voice’ in Reno.