From the blinds to the battles: Meet the Mississippians featured on 'The Voice' Season 23
Holly Brand became a household name in her home state when she was crowned Miss Mississippi in 2021. This year, she's wearing a new accessory: a Team Kelly jacket.
The 22-year-old from Meridian chose Kelly Clarkson as her coach on Season 23 of "The Voice" after a three-chair turn in the blind auditions.
"Everything kind of blew up overnight," Brand said. "I went to bed with less than a thousand followers on TikTok and woke up and had over a million views on my audition video and it keeps climbing every day. The response has been overwhelmingly positive."
She is also grateful for the support she's received from the people back home and all the new fans she's gained after the audition.
"I just really want to thank everyone who's been sharing all my stuff and supporting me," she said. "It really means a lot."
Brand is one of two Mississippians who were selected to go to the next level of the televised singing competition, joining Raymond native Walker Wilson, who joined Team Blake in country singer Blake Shelton's final season on the show.
"I got my start singing in church and choirs at school and whatnot," Wilson said of his childhood in Raymond.
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He moved to Alcoa, Tennessee, when he was 15, and began playing music whenever he could.
Wilson, 24, moved to Nashville in 2021, where he is continuing to pursue a career in music. The exposure from "The Voice" has helped him take the next step, but the projects he is working on won't be announced until he finishes up his time on "The Voice."
"I'm just letting 'The Voice' thing play out," he said. "For now, I'm stocking my folder, if you will, with different contacts and people that have reached out to me who never heard about me before 'The Voice.' It's been a real eye-opening experience for me."
Before making the move to Nashville, he worked as a CNC machinist by day and made music by night.
Being on "The Voice" has firmed up Wilson's career path, and he's not looking back.
"My life's been turned upside down, really," he said. "I've had more phone calls and more opportunities that have come up since my audition than I ever could have imagined. I'm just taking it in stride."
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Brand and Wilson will be featured on the show in the coming weeks as the battle stage of the competition begins. "The Voice" airs at 7 p.m. Mondays on NBC.
Like Wilson, Brand has turned her focus to pursuing a full-time career in music. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama and had planned to pursue a master's degree, but she ended up putting things on hold to make appearances for Miss Mississippi and now as a contestant on "The Voice."
"It's working out for me so far," she said.
Brand said she enjoys travel, so going to Los Angeles for the show was a treat in more ways than one.
"Being on the show has been the most incredible experience," she said. "Everybody is so nice. You would think that it might be a competitive environment but everybody is so fun to be around."
Brand, who grew up in a musical family, said she is making new friends on the show and is planning to collaborate with some of the other artists for future music projects.
"I've always wanted to do the show, but this has completely surpassed every expectation that I ever had about what it would be like," she said.
Wilson said he didn't get to see much of Los Angeles while he was there, but made the best of the experience.
"There's still a lot of COVID restrictions out there," he said. "We were mostly confined to the hotel room."
Wilson has been enjoying his time on the show as well, getting to know the other contestants while adapting to living in a hotel room.
"It was easy getting along with everybody," he said. "We didn't know one another but we had to make a home out of a hotel room. We were kind of all in the same boat. We'd get into trouble singing in the hallways. It was pretty much instant friendships."
Wilson's focus will remain on the music, though.
"I was an artist before the show, and I'll be an artist after it," he said. "As far as 'The Voice' takes me, I'll ride it out. I'll use it as a stepping stone."
How to watch
"The Voice" airs at 7 p.m. Mondays on NBC. Holly Brand and Walker Wilson will be featured in upcoming battle episodes, but there are no firm dates on when their episodes will air.
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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: 2 Mississippi natives ready for battle in next round of 'The Voice'