After singing in Sonoma County for almost a decade, 17-year-old Dallas Caroline Duenas from Santa Rosa found herself swept away by a new and sudden surge of local fan support this week.
Appearing on NBC-TV’s “The Voice” Tuesday night, using her stage name — Dallas Caroline — she sang the Willie Nelson hit “Always on My Mind” to rave responses from the show’s coaches. And almost instantly, she began to hear the same from local well-wishers.
“I’ve gotten so many messages from different people in Sonoma County,” she said Thursday in Santa Rosa. “It’s really been positive overall, and exciting. It’s changed my life so far in that it’s given me a platform, even just locally, and I’m having people reach out to me.”
Caroline is a home-schooler who finished her high school education last summer, shortly before the audition process began for season 14 of “The Voice.” She plans to focus on her musical career for the foreseeable future, with a goal of moving to Nashville.
“As a country singer, I definitely think Nashville is the place for me to be. I love the city and the music,” she said.
Last June, Caroline sang her own original songs at the Country Music Association Festival in Nashville.
“I got to play on one of the stages at CMA Fest, which is such an honor,” she said.
Caroline has wanted to be a singer since age 8, and learned to play guitar and piano when she was 12, working with a series of mentors and teachers, including her grandparents, Bill and Debbie Mullen, and popular local musician Sarah Baker.
Asked how she chose which song to sing for her blind audition on “The Voice” Tuesday, she said, “ ‘Always on My Mind’ has been my grandmother’s favorite song as long as I could remember.”
After hearing heartfelt praise from country music star Blake Shelton, 2002 “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, Caroline accepted a spot on Team Blake.
“Wow! Here’s our next LeAnn Rimes,” Shelton said. “Here’s our next Tanya Tucker.”
Despite her youth, Caroline is already a seasoned performer. She has made a specialty of singing the national anthem, performing it at the Country Summer Music Festival in Santa Rosa for the past three years and the July 4 Red, White and Boom celebration in 2012, both at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and at a San Francisco Giants game in 2015. She also has performed at the HopMonk Taverns in Sebastopol and Sonoma.
Winners on “The Voice” are chosen by television viewers voting by telephone, internet, SMS text and iTunes Store purchases of the audio-recorded artists’ vocal performances. Winning contestants receive $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Music Group.
There are four teams with 12 people on each team. Eliminations start during the Battle rounds which begin Monday.
“One of the things that’s really cool about the show is that you get to be around so many different artists and people with more experience and who have been doing this for a long time, and then people like me who are younger,” Caroline said. “I think we all learn from each other.”
See her spin-worthy audition here: