Esther Watrous –A&E Staff
Rhode Island born child star, Billy Gilman, rose to fame as a country music artist and later gained spotlight in the American television show “The Voice,” winning runner-up in 2016. Gilman was born in Westerly, Rhode Island and now pursues a singing career in Los Angeles, California.
The Anchor: What was it like being signed at 12 years old to Sony Music, and what overall impact did it have on you?
Billy Gilman: It was insane. I never thought in a million years that it would happen quite that fast. Of course, I couldn’t process it at 12 years old as properly as I can process it now. It was kind of kryptonite in a way, but the positive thing about it is if you have talent, it will always rise to the top. If you were a child star because of the gimmick, and then you couldn’t rise above that gimmick, then you’re in trouble.
The Anchor: I read that you were the youngest artist ever to have a top 40 single on the “Billboard Hot Country Songs.” is that still true?
Billy Gilman: I think it still holds true. It was number one for seven weeks.
The Anchor: What did that feel like at the time?
Billy Gilman: I couldn’t tell you. I knew I was always in awe about what was going on, but I can’t truthfully remember certain moments. I think I was totally in it for the music and not for the accolades, even back then.
The Anchor: Did coming out as gay impact your career as an artist?
Billy Gilman: My career had to go through a shift. That was very difficult because I was trying to make it in country music and it just wasn’t happening. After I came out, my team came to me and said, “Well, we never knew if you were or not so we weren’t going to bring it up to you. But you have no idea of the stigma of, is he gay or is he not gay? It just circles around your name all the time in this town, and people just don’t want to deal with it.” I just thought that was so abrasive because I have so many great country songs that I have written that will probably never see the light of day just because they don’t want that module on their radios. I had to let my fans know that I hit a roadblock, not because of my talents or my ability, but because of people’s inability to see hearts and not just dollar signs.
The anchor: What have the ripple effects been since appearing on “The Voice” in 2016 and winning Runner-up?
Billy Gilman: Oh it’s been such a resurgence. Some of the songs I did on the show, the singles, they went to number one. I’ve recorded some wonderful songs with some great artists. It’s been nothing but positive. Again, you have to fight to show the world that you’re more than what they just saw on television.
The Anchor: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would you say?
Billy Gilman: Push harder. I should have pushed harder. Of course I wouldn’t have known then, being a kid. I should have made my voice be known a lot louder to my whole team.
The Anchor: In 2017, you were honored by the Rhode Island Senate and the House of Representatives for representing Rhode Island as an artist. What was it like being honored by the state for your success?
Billy Gilman: It’s crazy. I have such a long way to go and so much more to prove. I only hope that I can continue to make the state more proud. There’s nothing greater in me than being a Rhode Islander and being a singer.