Many voices contributed to Gwen Sebastian's sudden and long-sought career growth, but which played the biggest part? Certainly her run on NBC's hit singing competition The Voice was a huge boost. The sound of her coach and country superstar Blake Shelton offering a spot on his tour was equally sweet. One came in the form of a relative's phone call, suggesting she attend an audition. There's also the inner voice that brought her through a career crossroads before the show was even a consideration. Most recently, there's the one that led her to a powerfully uplifting new single called “Met Him In A Motel Room."
Underpinning each of those voices, however, is the unique vocal instrument belonging to Gwen Sebastian. It was that rich and emotionally taut sound that persuaded Shelton, sight-unseen, to fall in love with a little-known but already hard-at-work small town singer. And it was that voice that pushed and at times pulled Sebastian from other opportunities and paths toward a career as a performer.
"I have always known, no matter what I was doing in my life, that I would be doing music," Gwen says. The question, then, was simply to what degree. "I was at a crossroads," she explains of a moment prior to trying out for The Voice. After performing more than 1,000 shows and earning a living, if not national acclaim, Sebastian found herself considering a reordering of priorities.
The Hebron, North Dakota native had been in a similar situation before, choosing to drop out of nursing school and go all-in for music. That decision led to a record deal and her 2009 single "Hard Rain," which was well-received by country radio and fans. She released her EP V.I.P. in 2010, and earned her place in the country music business with tireless touring. Her love of the road eventually blossomed to love on the road, as Sebastian and her drummer Louis Newman became an item. Hence, the crossroads.
"Continuing on the path of playing five shows a week was getting difficult," Sebastian admits. Her successes to that point had all been hard-fought and continued to require relentless dedication. "The decision about whether or not to start a family was there," she says. Partners professionally as well as personally – Newman is also Sebastian's producer – the two made a fateful choice. " Let's try this for another year or two and see where it takes us," Gwen says. "And that's when everything turned."
Just as her initial leap into the music business was validated by her early achievements, the decisive call to continue offered further assurance. "The Voice came so quickly," she says. "I watched the show last year and loved it, but never thought much about it until my cousin called to tell me about the tryouts. I couldn't make the Nashville audition, so I went out to LA. There was a long process from there."
That process culminated in her national television debut, being chosen to join Team Blake and, eventually, a spot on Shelton's tour. Along the way, her notoriety has exploded. "The platform has been amazing," Gwen says. "After the blind audition my Twitter followers grew immensely, and Blake has given me so many opportunities on the road. This has propelled my career so much faster than I would have imagined."
Unlike so many television-bred aspirants, Sebastian doesn't have to figure out the music business ropes. She's already a successful road warrior in her own right. And the final piece in the puzzle is new music that can connect the dots for her new national following. The song is "Met Him In A Motel Room."
"I knew I wanted to cut a song that had a story to it and meant something," she says. "When I heard the first few lines, I thought I knew what this song was about, but then there's a surprise in the chorus. I love those unexpected twists – even in the televisions shows I watch, that's what I'm drawn to. In the end, it's really a song about hope, and I'm all about that."
Touring with Shelton, performing her own dates and visiting radio stations in support of "Motel Room," Sebastian has a busy year in front of her. And that's exactly what she signed up for. "Having it all click doesn't have to happen when you're 17," she says. "And if it had, I wouldn't have been ready for it all. I realized that if I didn't try everything and really go for it, I might regret it. My time for this to happen is now and I'm embracing it. You don't have to stop dreaming."
Thankfully, for her and her newfound fans, she listened to the voice that urged the dream forward. In so doing, she empowered the one that Shelton says "has the rare ability to combine power with passion." For Gwen Sebastian, it's always been about the voice.Written by Chuck Aly