SOLANA BEACH — When the season seven winner of TV’s “The Voice” learned how the Belly Up got its name, it confirmed to him that the Solana Beach tavern was the perfect venue for his first California appearance.
“It’s very fitting. He wasn’t a quitter either,” Craig Wayne Boyd said, referring to Dave Hodges, who in 1974 used the phrase for his new nightclub after his friends called him a fool and said that was the direction his business was headed.
Boyd has displayed similar tenacity throughout his career – or better yet, his life, which reads like the lyrics of a country music song.
Born and raised in Mesquite, Texas, Boyd comes from a musical family and started playing the mandolin at age 4.
“I played bluegrass at the local barber shop with my dad on Saturdays,” he said.
“My mom was a Pentecostal church-going mom who sang gospel music. I was very confused as a kid, but that’s what makes my country music what it is.”
Boyd, 34, was kick starting his career when he first visited Nashville in 2004 for the country music festival and realized he needed a presence there to get ahead.
“On my way back I looked in the sky and said, ‘If I’m supposed to be there you’ve got to help me do this,’” he said. “When I got home, my wife had left me while I was gone. That was the 2-by-4 that hit me across the head.
“It was very life-changing,” he added. “I knew I had to start over. Be careful what you ask for.”
Boyd moved to Nashville, where his career continued to have ups and downs. At one point he was a staff writer for a record company. He also formed a band but the group fell apart in the midst of recording.
“So I went out on the road to hone my skills as a front man,” Boyd said. In 2010 he released the single “I Ain’t No Quitter” and was about to sign with a record label.
“But everything was pulled out from under me again,” he said. “While the single was out I came off a radio tour and the funding was pulled from the label. I went in and they were literally moving desks out of the office.
“I had adversity to overcome over and over again,” he added. “At that point I had to reinvent myself again.”
Boyd was ready to give up on his career when he received an email from the casting director of “The Voice” in October 2013.
“I replied, ‘This is a joke, right?’” he said. “But they were serious.”
He auditioned the following February.
Boyd describes his time on “The Voice” as an amazing learning experience.
“I felt like I was broken,” he said. “My confidence level was low. I was very unsure of myself as an artist.”
He said fellow country music artist Blake Shelton taught him to trust his “gut instincts,” while Gwen Stefani helped him realize his music was not a niche market.
“She told me I could be a global performer,” he said. “She really inspired me and helped make my style appealing to more people.”
Stefani sort of changed the package without altering what’s inside. Boyd also credits some of his success to a return to his roots.
“I grew up in a religious home,” he said. “I strayed. There was a point in time when I realized I wasn’t the one in control. And I’m kind of a control freak. There’s a higher power really watching out for me.
That’s one reason he chose to sing “The Rugged Old Cross” during the semifinals.
“It’s an old hymn I grew up singing,” he said. “I knew it was chancy but I felt I had to pay homage to who I personally felt was helping me.”
Boyd’s sound has been described as “topped with a rebellious flair.”
“It’s the attitude,” he said. “It goes against the grain of what’s being pushed out there now. It’s not your grandmother’s country music anymore, but I have a little bit of that flavor.”
Boyd said his life has changed completely since he was named the winner in December. He’s currently opening for Rascal Flatts in Las Vegas. When that ends in mid-March he’ll be touring until early October.
“I can’t go to Taco Bell to eat in peace anymore,” he said.
But Boyd isn’t complaining. He said he was very excited when he was asked to perform at the Belly Up March 9.
“It’ll be my first time going to San Diego, so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
Visit bellyup.com for tickets and more information.