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Local ties for Kaufman of 'The Voice'

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Sam Woolf may be gone from “American Idol,” but another singer with local connections is still going strong on a national TV contest.

Josh Kaufman, who was born in Sarasota, sings on the April 28 edition of NBC's talent contest "The Voice." (Photo provided by NBC)

Josh Kaufman, who was born in Sarasota, sings on the April 28 edition of NBC's talent contest "The Voice." (Photo provided by NBC)

Josh Kaufman, 38, who was born in Sarasota and spent weekends with his father in South Sarasota County, cracked the Top 5 Tuesday night on NBC’s “The Voice.” Las Vegas pegs his odds at 7-2 to win it all, second among the remaining contestants.

Unlike Bradenton’s Woolf, Josh Kaufman is not a teen idol in the singer-songwriter style. With his trademark Fedora, horned-rim black glasses and beard, Josh brings together blues, soul and rock in a way that could light up a gritty small nightclub — the exact places where he honed his craft.

Mark Kaufman said his son’s performances before TV audiences estimated at 13 million viewers have resonated locally, where people stop Mark on the street to gush over his son’s success. Mark, who owns Englewood-based Mark Kaufman Roofing, said even his employees cannot escape Josh’s newfound fame.

“My guys said they were talking at lunch, and a homeowner came out and started talking about ‘The Voice’ and Josh,” Mark said. “When my guys told them I was his dad, they started freaking out.”

Josh was born at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and spent his early childhood in Sarasota until his parents divorced when he was about 4. His mother moved to Lake Wales to attend college, while Mark moved to South Sarasota County.

Josh spent most of his time with his mother, but would spend weekends and vacations with Mark.

Mark said Josh’s love of singing became apparent at a young age.

“It’s always been his favorite thing,” Mark said, adding he would often sing with his son. “We’d perform at the First Church of God in South Venice. We sang there four or five times.”

As Josh grew older, he joined a statewide gospel choir and participated on a talent show called “Star Search” when he was 16.

The same year Josh competed on “Star Search,” he moved with his mother to Virginia, but continued to regularly visit his father in Sarasota County.

He moved up to Indianapolis for college in 1995, and ended up staying after he met his wife.

By trade, Josh was an SAT tutor. But on the side, Josh’s band, New Etiquette, had a residency at a small Indianapolis bar, and Josh would play solo performances at Potbelly’s, a sub sandwich chain.

But after he had three children - ages 2, 4 and 6 - he realized he either needed to make a name for himself in music quickly or resign himself to teaching.

“The Voice’s” St. Louis auditions last year provided the perfect venue for Josh to give music one last try.

Mark said Josh was stunned after all four of “The Voice’s” judges - Usher, Adam Levine, Shakira and Blake Shelton - begged him to be on their teams.

“If you listen they all said the most amazing things,” Mark said of the judges. “I knew he was a great singer but there were so many others who auditioned, I didn’t know what would happen.”

Josh chose Levine before Usher “stole” him away.

Now, Mark sometimes flies to Indianapolis to help Josh’s wife and his three grandchildren travel to Los Angeles to watch Josh perform.

After every episode, Mark’s phone is inundated with messages from well-wishers as he frantically keeps tabs on NBC’s voting page.

“I barely can sleep, I’m just trying to watch to see his chances,” Mark said. “After it’s over, people text me and Facebook is lighting up.”

Josh appears to be getting stronger with each show. After this week’s effort, Entertainment Weekly opined: “Josh Kaufman (let’s just engrave the trophy now).”

For Josh, the experience has been like living a dream.

“I will definitely get a ton more opportunities,” Josh said. “It’s been something I never imagined could happen. It’s been crazy.”

But Mark sees Josh’s rise as a musician finally playing for the audience he deserves.

“I remember watching him sing at a small bar in Indianapolis and people were talking and half paying attention,” Mark Kaufman said. “But you could see how talented Josh was and that he deserved an audience. And now he is getting an audience bigger than he ever imagined. It’s been great to see.”

INTERESTED?
Josh Kaufman performs with the band “The New Etiquette.” The band’s record is available at thenewetiquette.bandcamp.com
Box: About the Voice
What is it: A reality show singing competition based on “The Voice of Holland.” American version began in 2011.
Format: Four celebrity coaches guide their teams of singers. Current coaches are Shakira, Usher, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
Airs: 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC
Prize: Winner receives $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Music Group.
More information: www.nbc.com/the-voice
Last modified: May 7, 2014
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