Effingham native Austin Weinstock’s band came in second place in the TV competition “America’s Got Talent” Wednesday night. Weinstock is one half of the country rock band Broken Roots.
As part of the finale Wednesday, Broken Roots performed “God’s Country” with the song’s original artist, Blake Shelton. The duo had covered the same song previously in the competition.
The finale was a follow-up to Tuesday’s final performances, after which TV viewers voted on which act would win. There, Broken Roots performed a cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”
In the lead up to that final performance, Weinstock talked about the moment he discovered his passion for music.
“I was in Effingham, Illinois. I was 9 years old,” he told the national TV audience. “I performed ‘Skip to My Lou’ at a recital. I got done and they all stood up and they were clapping and I was like ‘this is what I could do.’”
Broken Roots is made up of Weinstock and Joseph Karczewski, who performs as Joey Kar. The unlikely duo met after several venues that they both performed with tried to organize a show with both acts. After struggling to match musical styles and vocal ranges, the two clicked. Before they had performed anywhere else, they heard that America’s Got Talent auditions were happening and the two of them decided that the world premiere of Broken Root’s act would be on national TV.
After months of performing together on TV and practicing together, the two have bonded deeply. “If I had to hand pick somebody to be on this journey with me, I’d go back and pick you,” Weinstock told Karczewski on Tuesday’s episode of “America’s Got Talent.”
Despite their high-ranking finish, the show’s celebrity judges actually cut Broken Roots early on from the competition. The duo was removed during the “Judge Cuts” round, where the judges and producers cut some acts after initially advancing them past auditions. Broken Roots was invited back on the show after another contestant, Thomas Day, dropped out due to personal reasons.
Brandon Leake earned first place. He is a spoken-word poet from Stockton, California. Leake is the founder and CEO of Called to Move, an “artistry initiative” aimed at inspiring people to find meaning in their lives through creating art.
Leake is the first spoken-word poet to win the competition. Past season’s winners include seven singers, three ventriloquists, two magicians, one dancer, and one dog trick act.
The other finalists included Alan Silva, an aerial acrobatics performer, who earned fifth place; Roberta Battaglia, an 11-year-old singer, who earned fourth place; and Cristina Rae, another singer who earned third place.
The finale was a three-hour-long television event with performances from Usher, Ryan Tedler of OneRepublic, the Detroit Youth Choir, Julia Michaels, and J.P. Sax, among others.
When not performing on national television as Broken Roots, Weinstock does shows in venues and bars around Chicagoland under the name Austin Edwards. He also recently released a song on Spotify and SoundCloud. The song, “Summertime,” is a country song that he wrote while relaxing on Lake Shelbyville with his brother.
Weinstock premiered the single during a performance at a concert in Effingham in August.
“I released it the day of the Effingham Performance Center show,” he said in an interview with Effingham Daily News last week. “It was a proud moment.” His family and friends were in the audience listening with him.
Past singers who were runners-up at the talent competition have found success after the show. Cas Haley, a singer/songwriter from Texas who finished second in the show’s second season continues to release albums through Jimmy Buffet’s label, Mailboat Records. Emily West, who finished in second during the ninth season, released a studio album and was touring her one-woman show as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. There have also been several stand-up comedians who followed up their “America’s Got Talent” stints with their own tours.
“Joey and I will never stop playing music. It’s our passion. It’s in our soul,” Weinstock said in an interview. Even with his passion for music, Weinstock says his work isn’t just singing songs. “It’s not really about the music. It’s about spreading love, positivity, compassion, the values of humanity.”
Weinstock had a message for his audience on Tuesday night: “God bless you and we’re not done yet. There’s more to come.”