When Joe Kirkland watched himself on TV a few days ago, auditioning on the first night of The Voice, he was practically experiencing it for the first time.
"I don't remember doing all that onstage," the Fort Worth native admits. "All I remember is blacking out."
But even while performing on autopilot, he had what it took to impress coaches/judges Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
Kirkland chose to become a member of Team Adam, and now he'll be vying for the major-label recording contract that goes to the winner.
"It was definitely surreal," Kirkland says of the blind audition, in which musician coaches have their chairs turned away, so they can judge contestants only on their voices, not their looks.
"But once you've watched yourself on TV, it's like affirmation that it really happened."
This is the latest chapter in Kirkland's roller-coaster music career.
The 24-year-old had been playing in a band called Artist vs. Poet. It was fortunate enough to be signed to a recording contract. The band even played the Warped Tour in 2010. But when the lead signer left and Kirkland stepped up as the new vocalist, the label was unhappy with the band's new sound and let it go.
"The industry is extremely, extremely cutthroat, and it was honestly a very difficult time," he says. "We were given everything. We were a favorite on the label. But once everything went down, it was like, 'Um, who are you again?' It literally went from love to, like, nothing.
"But being told no is probably the best thing that can happen to someone in their career, because it straightens you up and makes you figure out what you need to do."
Kirkland is determined now to prove that he has what it takes to be the frontman.
"I had a lot of negativity when the transition was made, because our old lineup was set in stone," he says. "So it was very difficult to prove I could do it. But I've watched people do it. I knew what it took.
"I guess it just took the guts to get up and do it."
That's why, when he had the option to join Team Adam or Team Blake, Kirkland chose Levine, frontman for the Grammy-winning band Maroon 5.
"I know a lot about Adam's history," Kirkland says. "He actually used to not be a frontman. So I enjoyed the idea of him helping me figure out how to be that frontman. He comes from the same music background I do. It seemed like a perfect fit. So I feel he's the one who can help me the most."
Kirkland, who can play guitar, piano and drums, was born and raised in Fort Worth.
"I moved to Los Angeles only about a year ago," he says. "I miss Fort Worth every day."
He could have auditioned for any of 1,001 singing competition shows. But he decided The Voice was right for him because he thinks the show has integrity.
"I wasn't that familiar with the show, but I got an invite to audition, and I checked it out and I noticed that they held true to us as artists," Kirkland says. "They didn't try to make us seem any different from what we really are.
"They were very open to the fact that I was in a band and that I was trying to lead that band. They didn't try to make me over into who they thought I could be. Everybody that they've chosen, they're all unique individual artists. The Voice promotes that instead of trying to hide that."