Breaking News
More () »

How Jacksonville's very own music superstar Paris Winningham became a voice of hope

“I fell in love with Jacksonville. I don't see myself going anywhere anytime soon. But as for right now, this is home,” Winningham said.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — His soulful voice captivated America.

“My dad always just told me, ‘Son, you want to make sure that you're doing what you love to do,’” Paris Winningham recalled. “Now I can say I actually love what I do, you know music is my full time. I couldn't be happier.”

After making it into the top three on 'The Voice' in December 2021, Winningham is using his new platform to be a voice of hope.

“I remember telling God I said, I promise you that the more you increase me, the more I'll continue to give you glory. I was like, I'm not focused on anything else. I don't care about fame,” Winningham said.

He's grateful for the support he's received from the First Coast and for everyone who voted for him on the show.

“Oddly enough, for those people that were rooting for me to win, thank you so much. I appreciate it,” Winningham said. “But I was content. I was content whether it was number five or number one. I didn't care. I was happy. I really wasn't pressed to win, I really wasn't.”

He credits Jacksonville vocal coach Deborah McDuffie, who has worked with Motown greats like Gladys Knight and the Temptations, with helping him make it to the finals.

RELATED: Jacksonville soul singer takes the stage in 'The Voice' finale

“Back in the day, folk sang, as we say," McDuffie said. "Today they sing, or maybe, you know, they've got all these electronic devices to make everything what it should already be. And he's just got, he's just got it naturally... he’s not begging to be a star. That's not who he is. He just wants to sing, you know, to make people feel better to make people happy. And I want to do the best I can to help him achieve that goal.”

Not winning The Voice, she says, has actually put him in a good spot.

“If you make it to number one, they are going to own you for three to five years. You can't go anywhere; you can't do anything,” McDuffie said. “You can't sing for anybody without them saying okay. It’s the way the record industry is.”

Landing in the third spot, she says he got the exposure, but also the freedom to sing where and what he wants.

RELATED: Paris Winningham finishes in 3rd place on NBC's 'The Voice'

“I kind of want a role as an independent artist for right now. I'm enjoying the freedom of being able to do what I want to do musically,” Winningham said. “I’m eager to see exactly where it's going to go from this point forward. I have some things that we were trying to work on, definitely working on an EP. So, for those people that have been crying and begging for me to do a cover of Tennessee whiskey, I'm going to put that on the album.”

Despite his newfound fame, Winningham, who landed in Jacksonville when he was stationed at Mayport Naval Station in 2014, plans to stay.

“I fell in love with Jacksonville. I don't see myself going anywhere, you know, anytime soon. But as for right now, yeah, this is home,” Winningham said.

While he maps out his future, his vocal coach says the sky is the limit.

“He can go as far as he wants to go,” McDuffie said.

“I definitely want people to believe that there's always hope. And as always, you know, something is right around the corner. You just got to keep on pressing, keep on pressing,” Winningham said.

Tonight on First Coast News at 11 a candid conversation with Winningham as he opens up about the struggles he faced before landing on The Voice and his message for those who feel hopeless.

Winningham is expected to make a special appearance at the Ritz Theatre’s Heritage Concert Series on Saturday night. The event is a Black History Month concert featuring the music of legendary rhythm & blues singers such as Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Al Green.

More details here.


Before You Leave, Check This Out