When Alex Whalen talks you can hear that he is from London. When he sings it sounds like he grew up not too far down the track from Blake Sheldon or Luke Combs. 43-year-old Whalen spent eighteen years driving tubes in London. In 2015, Whalen’s wife, Erica, accepted a job in South Carolina. Alex didn’t have a US work visa, so he concentrated on his music and uploaded videos to his YouTube channel.
In 2020 Alex and Erica Whalen moved to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, where Alex Whalen started gigging at bars along the beach six nights a week. This year Whalen entered The Voice US to try and move up from “playing thankless gigs to people who don’t want me there” nearly every day. Here is an excellent pre-The-Voice video of Whalen playing House Of The Rising Sun. It was posted in March 2022.
There is a long history of British musicians dabbling in country music. Almost Blue is an album by Elvis Costello (1981), Costello took The Attractions to Nashville to record a country-themed classic, The Mekons’ Fear & Whiskey (1985) is a seminal country-punk album, and many Music Man readers will remember Woke Up This Morning, the Alabama 3 song that was the theme song for The Sopranos. There are others. In their appearance and singing accent, none of these acts look & sound as country as Alex Whalen.
For his audition on The Voice 2023, Whalen sang Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through the Night. Sammi Smith had a hit with the song in 1970, and won the Grammy for the Best Female Country Vocal on the back of it. Whalen did himself and the song justice, earning four chair turns. Judge Kelly Clarkson said: “You have a gorgeous, gorgeous voice. When you go low, that’s your superpower, man”, but it was country star Blake Sheldon’s comments that everyone waited for. First the video:
As you might have heard, Sheldon praised Whalen on his performance and on his appearance (“You’ve braided your beard nicely for television. I mean, you just look badass. I like your swag, man. I like the hat. I like the glasses on the hat”. Sheldon also commented: “In all these years, I’ve never had a chance to work with a country singer from London.”
Alex Whalen joined Team Sheldon and was all set to sing Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine with his Battle Round partner Neil Salsich. On the episode of the scheduled performance, April 4 2023, Blake Shelton announced that Whalen had left the show for “personal reasons.” Salsich had to sing alone, prompting Sheldon to privately joke with Salsich before he got on stage, saying that if you “lose this Battle, it will be the worst fail in history.”
The next morning, April 5, Whalen posted a video message he recorded before the The Battle Round. Essentially he had tested positive for Covid19 and this forced him to end his participation in The Voice season 23. “I feel fine. I’m asymptomatic, at least for right now. It’s unfortunate, but it is life,” he said.
On 9 July 2023, three months after he left The Voice, Alex Whalen posted a video on YouTube, in which he expresses his hope of escaping his beach-bar-gig routine. The Music Man wishes him luck.