The unlikeliest of superstars, singer Neal E. Boyd won the hearts and votes of millions of fans when he appeared as a contestant on the wildly popular NBC show “America”s Got Talent.” Now, with the release of his highly anticipated debut CD “My American Dream” on Decca (June 23rd), Neal is determined to make sure that his example””and his music””inspires others to succeed.
A struggling singer who has overcome a lifetime of setbacks, his journey is a true story of triumph over the odds, finding mega success in the unlikeliest of places. The decks were stacked against his success from the very beginning. For Neal, growing up biracial, overweight, and bullied in rural Missouri wasn”t always easy. Neither was watching his single-parent mother struggle financially. But when Neal discovered opera by chance one day, a whole new world suddenly opened up to him.
“Succeeding has been my chance to show my family, friends, and community what is possible. That has been the ultimate challenge for me,” says Neal sincerely. “Moving forward, my goal is that my voice and my own story help people realize that if they work hard enough, they can realize their own dreams. I”m lucky enough that now I can reach people across the country and across the world with this message: we can achieve anything.”
As he proves on track after track of “My American Dream,” Neal E. Boyd is more than ready to step out as a solo artist. This big singer with an even bigger heart has already won millions of fans across the nation since taking home the America”s Got Talent top prize of last year. His top four videos on YouTube have cumulatively earned more than 1.1 million views, thanks to his giant success on TV”s smash hit.
“I grew up in a small town called Sikeston, Missouri. Financially, it was hard,” Neal, who was born to an African-American father and Caucasian mother, recalls. “We did our best to stay together as a family, which wasn”t all that easy. My father left when we were very little. My mom was working all the time,” he says, admiring her tenacity; the track “Mama” is dedicated to her.
Even though he loved music since he was a young boy, with favorites spreading from Motown to the Beatles to Billy Joel, Neal hadn”t come across any opera or classical music until one fateful afternoon. “My older brother”s class had acted up at school, and as a punishment they were sent home to listen to The Three Tenors,” he reminisces, chuckling. “Well, he didn”t think much of it, but the moment I heard Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras, they just blew me away.”
“That day changed my heart,” Neal continues. “Even though they were singing operatic arias in languages like Italian and Spanish,” he recalls, “I realized that I didn”t need to understand the words to understand the music.”
Soon, he counted Il Divo, Russell Watson, and Andrea Bocelli among his other heroes. “I”m all about the story in singing,” he says, “which is one reason that I also adore country music stars like Keith Urban, Garth Brooks, and Lee Greenwood. It might sound funny, but I really think there are many parallels between opera and country music. Both of them boil down to telling compelling stories.”
Soon, he found himself performing in school choirs and singing locally. Even so, public service also caught his attention, and he studied and worked in political science during his college year. He soon found out, though, that he couldn”t quit the music bug.
“While I was in college,” he explains, “I was working as an intern at the Missouri state house, and one afternoon I heard a children”s choir singing in the rotunda. I stopped to listen, and found myself singing along. And it was at that moment I realized, “What am I doing working here? I”ve got to see this dream of singing through.”" He went on to win a national music teachers” award and a solo debut in 2001 at Carnegie Hall.
However, ever mindful of the circumstances he grew up in, Neal felt compelled to keep a day job. Before he won America”s Got Talent, he was working for Aflac Insurance””but all that changed as week after week, he soared closer towards his ultimate and inspiring victory.
Fans who loved his America”s Got Talent renditions of such selections as “Nessun Dorma,” “Ave Maria,” and “Somewhere” from the Broadway classic West Side Story will undoubtedly be thrilled to find them here, with lush orchestral accompaniment that help Neal soar to even greater heights. Neal has had the best in the business to work with him on My American Dream: producer Simon Franglen, who has also worked with such mega-stars as Celine Dion, Russell Watson, and Katherine Jenkins.
All of the tracks hold deep meaning to Neal. “I adore “Nessun Dorma,” of course,” he says. “”Somewhere” is my favorite song from my all-time favorite Broadway show, and I grew up singing “Ave Maria.” Even though I”m a very strong Southern Baptist, I spent a lot of time while I was younger singing in Catholic churches, and that selection really represents a very important part of my life. “Amazing Grace” is another favorite of mine, and it testifies to my strong faith.”
The singer says, “We live in a difficult time when it”s sometimes hard to find hope. What I want to do with my music is to provide some little spark of hope””all you need is one little switch to make your heart move again.” And ever the patriot, Neal adds: “I love my town, I love my state of Missouri, and I absolutely love America””it”s truly the greatest country on earth. Now, my opportunity is to make my country proud. I hope I can.”