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Hallettsville singer hopes dreams come true on 'The Voice' (video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Oct. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.
Updated Oct. 14, 2013 at 5:14 a.m.

Preston Pohl sings as part of  "The Voice" blind auditions.

Preston Pohl picked up a guitar before he entered kindergarten.

He kept asking his parents, Alton and Peggy, to buy him a guitar, until one day, they did. The only stipulation was he had to practice and practice often.

"We wanted him to play if we were going to buy him one," Peggy Pohl said.

Preston Pohl described himself as a typical teenage musician who played music with his friends, formed garage bands and performed in front of audiences at talent shows.

"It just never stopped. I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't playing music," he said.

He was born in Hallettsville but didn't live there for long after. His dad worked for an oil company when Preston was a child, so they moved around. The Pohl family lived in Victoria, Corpus Christi, the Houston area and then moved to Friendswood, where he attended Clear Brook High School.

Pohl honed his skills on the guitar and developed a close relationship with music director Ron McClelland at the Abundant Life Christian Church, where he grew as a performer.

The two played together at events and talent shows and were approached by talent scouts to join a band based out of Florida.

He couldn't turn down the offer. His family fully supported his move across the country to pursue his dreams.

"It was the right move," Pohl said.

Break from music

Then-17-year-old Pohl and his music partner, McClelland, joined the Christian rock band StorySide:B. The group topped the charts in the Christian music industry and toured the U.S. Pohl played the guitar and sang backup vocals for the band from 2003 to 2009.

Things were great until one day, his friend passed away unexpectedly. McClelland was on a cruise playing basketball when he collapsed and died.

Pohl remembers dropping off his friend and his wife, telling them he would see them when he picked them up.

Grief-stricken, Pohl put down his guitar.

"I didn't want anything to do with music," he said.

His parents, a thousand miles away in Hallettsville, heard about their son's loss and prayed he would be OK.

"That was his defining moment," Peggy Pohl said. "He was a grown man but had never experienced a loss like that."

A depressed musician, he locked up his guitar and all his recording equipment. He said he shut his friends out, went out to the bars a lot and gained about 75 pounds.

It wasn't until about a year later that he realized his friend would have wanted him to do better.

"He would have wanted me to continue my journey as a musician," he said.

StorySide:B disbanded, and he bought a new guitar. The other is still locked silently in a storage unit. It represents another chapter of his life, he said.

He started performing on his own at bars and various venues in Saint Augustine, Fla., and working on his music.

His friends caught wind of "The Voice" auditions and encouraged him to try out.

"Why not give it a shot?" Pohl recalled.

Preparing for battle

With the TV show's battles beginning Monday, Pohl is excited to see how this experience unfolds.

"It's as exciting for me as it is for everyone else," he said. "It's a humbling experience."

In the meantime, he's trying his best to stay grounded.

He and his fiancee, Sarah Marie, recently moved to Modesto, Calif., where she works as traveling physical therapist. He'll work with his vocal coach, Adam Levine, to prepare for his battle rounds, practicing songs and playing his guitar in his spare time.

Looking back, he said, he was surprised he didn't play his guitar during his audition.

"He's known for playing his guitar," Peggy Pohl said. "I'm sure at some point, he will play his guitar, and he'll give them his heart and soul 100 percent."

His dad is impressed by the talented coaches on the show, and he's grateful for the opportunity his son will have to grow as a musician and songwriter.

That's one of the reasons Pohl auditioned for "The Voice" and not the other music competitions.

The coaches still believe in the music, he said, and the talent of the artists.

"You have to bring something to the show," he said. "Everyone on the show is incredibly talented."

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