He's may be only 16, but Hamden resident Avery Wilson is a veteran performer.
So when he made an appearance on "The Voice" on last month and blew the judges away with his voice, it didn't come as a surprise to many here in Hamden who have been following his career for years, dating back to when he would perform in front of only a handful of people -- anyone who was willing to listen to him.
But now he has the attention of the nation, and especially Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, the judges on the NBC show who all said they want Wilson on their team. Ultimately, Wilson chose to join Green's team.
On Wednesday, the sights and sounds of LA were a memory as Wilson returned to his roots: the dining room of McDonalds in the Hamden Mart, which hosts an open mic night every week at which Wilson has performed for years.
Avery grew up in Hamden, attended Church Street School and Hamden Middle School. He's currently attending Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven.
It was his father who started the talent nights at the restaurant as a way to give kids a chance to both show off their talents and get them off the streets. And, it also offered his son a venue to showcase what his father knew was an extrodinary voice.
At first, it was difficult for him to get up in front of an audience, Avery said, though you would never know it Wednesday as he held his audience spellbound with his voice.
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"I used to be very shy," he said later. "But after doing it over and over and doing different things I began to built confidence.
"At first I didn't feel like I had a voice," he said.
It all started when, as a child he would be in his room cleaning it up and he would begin to hum, he said. The humming turned to lyrics and singing, he said, catching his father's attention.
"Ever since then I've been pushing," he said. And it paid off big time on the Sept. 17 show of "The Voice," when he performed the song, “Without You.”
“You deserve to be a star," Green told him. And it looks like that's exactly what he will be.
But it's not the prospect of fame and fortune that drives him, Avery said.
"I really want to touch people's hearts," he said. "The money, the nice cars -- that will come. That's all nice. But that's not what I'm in it for. I'm not fame driven at all. I really want to touch people."
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