Chatting with ‘The Voice’ winner
Todd Tilghman of Meridian
On May 19, Mississippians got some good news when Todd Tilghman — a husband, father of eight, and pastor from Meridian — won NBC’s “The Voice.” MCL Editor Katie Eubanks recently chatted with Todd on the phone about music, faith, family and more.
KE: What has it been like starting your music career during a pandemic?
TT: It’s certainly been a challenge because the world is not allowing the bulk of what you do to be successful. (laughs) But on the other hand … I feel fairly certain that had we went to L.A. (instead of recording our live performances for “The Voice” at home), I feel almost 100 percent certain that I never would’ve won. I think because people saw my family, I think that probably helped me.
And then I’ve had some opportunities to do live music in some socially distanced-type settings. So I’m really grateful.
KE: Do you have any idea when we can expect an album?
TT: The album is one of those things that I am working really hard on. I’ve got tons of music written … I’m really just sort of waiting on a few red tape things with the label. So it’s hard to say when. I’m just excited to be able to … share who I am and the things that I love and my faith and my testimony and my story, and music that may reach a broader audience. I can tell about my faith but it’s sort of camouflaged, you know what I mean? (laughs) You sing about … these everyday things that we really all live through, and people don’t pay attention.
We all look for this grand gesture from God, but if we’ll look back over our lives, it’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle. There’s a whole bunch of little things He’s doing where if you look back over them, it really is a grand gesture.
KE: Do you have any kind of timeline on a tour, or what are your hopes for that?
TT: I am hoping 2021, and not like fourth quarter. (laughs) There are a few different things we’ve got stirred up. If we could find a way for all of these things to sort of strike at one time, that would be really ideal. (But) that’s probably wishful thinking. (laughs)
KE: Tell me about the book you’re working on.
TT: An author (Tricia Goyer) reached out to (my wife, Brooke, and me). I said, “I don’t know how many people will care, but we can tell you stories.”
I don’t know exactly the release date. But I do know it’s sort of a fast-track thing.
KE: What is the main focus of the book?
TT: It’s called “Every Little Win.” … it’s almost like a memoir of our lives as a married couple, and our family, and a lot of the hardships that we’ve been through. So I would say the key to it — really two — one is just that we have these little victories that we’re winning all the time if we’ll pay attention. And each one is taking us to a higher level and making us stronger. And the other is, my wife and I raising a family … it’s really been a process of moving from fear to faith. I was scared to death (of “The Voice”). I just assumed they’d all tell me no.
KE: How do you balance being a husband and father, pastor, and performer, and not go crazy?
TT: Well, I do go crazy. (laughs) But aside from that, the best answer I can give you with any amount of discretion at this moment is to say first of all, I am surrounded by people who are way better than I am at a lot of the things you do to lead a church, and they help me a lot. Secondly, I know that … my life will look different this time next year … I don’t know all of the specifics of that. Any church — I’ve pastored this church for a while now, and I know these people well enough to know — any church deserves a leader that can give them his full attention. So we’re working toward doing what is the right thing to do.
KE: How do you try to maintain closeness with your family while you’re doing shows at Theatre of the Stars in Pigeon Forge (Tennessee)?
TT: I stay in contact with my family all the time. I call or FaceTime every day when I’m gone. Last week I called the family one night after the show, and the kids were still up. So my baby girl is 4, and she got on the phone and she says, “Hey Daddy, Momma got a new dog, but we’re not supposed to tell you.” (laughs)
But as far as closeness with my family … traveling has kind of helped a little, because I don’t take for granted the time when I’m with them. So we’re not spread all throughout the house. The kids are in your lap watching movies or whatever you’re doing. Last night we got to go have a big barbecue with friends and swim.
KE: Did you feel any pressure to share your faith on “The Voice,” and how do you feel you were able to do that?
TT: I was able to share my faith a lot in different arenas that never showed up on the TV screen at home, but the best that I knew to do was just be myself. And I feel like that translated OK. … Just love people and be honest about who I am.
I didn’t feel pressure to stand on national TV and say, “Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” But where I did feel pressure is — and this is no one’s fault but my own … I was worried that people would judge me because I’m not singing this or I’m not singing this. … But I think God worked it out in the finale when I got to sing (“I Can Only Imagine”).
One thing I did grow a lot in, since “The Voice” and up to now is, I want to be a good witness and a good example … but God is teaching me that He’s the only one that I really have to please. I’m trying really hard to do that.
I don’t mind you knowing I’m a Christian, but I don’t want to be the litmus test. Because I’ll mess up.
KE: Any song you wanted to sing on “The Voice” that you didn’t get to?
TT: There’s about 26 that I wanted to that I didn’t get to (laughs). I would’ve loved to sing “The Luckiest” (by Ben Folds), because it reminds me of my wife and family. But in fairness, it doesn’t have a whole lot of range or anything. And then as far as faith-based stuff, I would’ve loved to sing “His Eye Is On the Sparrow,” because everybody knows that and loves that. But I’m pleased with what I got to do.
I would’ve liked to be a little more soulful. Because my voice is fairly soulful, and I didn’t get to do a whole lot of that on “The Voice.” But I don’t have any complaints.
KE: Yeah, I’m sure you weren’t going to go up to Blake Shelton and say, “You haven’t let me do enough soulful stuff.”
TT: Oh, Blake was just great. Even since the show, if I reach out to him, he’s just so good to me. Everybody asked what kind of person he was. All I can say is he was just very genuine and a lot of fun. What you see on TV — I was like, if he’s my coach, please let him be like this — and he was.