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Blind Joe: North Dakota’s Outlaw Country Rebel

Best known for his stint on NBC’s talent show, The Voice, country’s budding star Blind Joe has overcome many hurdles on his way to the top, all the while remaining a beacon of hope

by: Jessie Harris

All images in this article from Blind Joe’s website.

Life doesn’t start out easy when you’re given a 98% chance of survival before being born 3 months premature or being born legally blind, yet somehow Joe Bommersbach conquered exactly that. Born and raised near the Fargo, North Dakota city limits, Joe quickly picked up the nickname “Blind Joe” and began playing and singing music from an early age. In high school, at age 16, Joe entered into his first talent show, nerves racing, and sang his song. The crowd went wild and the feelings that reaction evoked was life-changing. Then and there, he knew this was the path his life had chosen for him.

Recently, I had the chance to get to know Blind Joe a little better, in an interview for our magazine. He is one of the chosen musician’s for ReverbNation’s Top 15 Breakout Artists, and after spending just a little bit of time with him and listening to his country twang, it’s clear why he’s on the list.

You would think that the obstacle of being blind would be the toughest thing for Joe to have faced in his lifetime, but growing up and early on in his professional career, nerves were what got the best of him. Not only did he find the everyday nuances of life difficult, but professionally, the act of performing was just as daunting. He learned early on how to navigate the world as only he knew it by walking through busy intersections, utilizing public transportation, and venturing out into the “real world” solo and without any help. These tasks required concentration, focus, and a strong mindset. Over time, he became confident in his stride and when he met his wife, Liann, all the pieces of his life puzzle came together.

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Opening for bands big and small was a mountain to overcome all on its own, but with Liann by his side and the perfect peace that comes from his walk with God, he has been able to take on each and every challenge with his head held high. A couple of deep breathes here and there have helped, too.

In 2015, an opportunity unlike anything before presented itself to Joe and what happened next, he could have only dreamed of coming true. Joe auditioned for the hit singing show The Voice on NBC and not only did he get one of the four judges to turn their chair around in the blind audition, he got all four of them to do so. Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, and Pharrell Williams all were blown away by Joe’s rendition of “If It Hadn’t Been Love” by Cotton Eye Joe.

He ended up choosing Blake Shelton to be his personal coach and the experience changed his life. He speaks highly of Shelton to this day, saying, “Blake is really as cool and funny as he seems on TV.” Being on the show reaffirmed his career choice and the advice given by all the judges made it clear to him that his was the direction and path he needed to be on in order to succeed in the country music industry.

The response and publicity of the show catapulted his career from “a couple of bar shows a month to being able to tour nationally,” he says. Being able to support his family and make the music that he loves is what it’s all about for him.

He’s been on the road full-time for several years now and has had the opportunity to play with big names in the industry. When asked what the best piece of advice is that he’s ever received from a star, he quickly responded with a quote from country musician James Otto.

“I opened a show for [Otto] in North Dakota, long before my time on The Voice, and after the gig, we shot the bull for quite some time,” remembered Bommersbach. “I remember him telling me to keep doing what I do, no matter what, because the majority of people in Nashville wouldn’t be able to get on stage with just a guitar and sing and play like I do.”

He’s never forgotten that moment and every time he takes to the stage, those words play over again in his mind. The nerves that tend to creep up quickly go away when he thinks of that night and those wise words long ago.

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The three things he attributes to his success thus far are the following: his wife, his willingness to work hard and never give up, and, above all else, God. The have become the foundation for each step he takes and doors continue to open.

When he’s not putting time into his craft, you might be surprised to find him tinkering with all things electronic and techy. He loves to mess around with computers, smartphones, and video games, especially the old school SNES games. He still finds them difficult to master being blind, but like everything else, he is up for the challenge.

Some would ask, why do music? Why sing and try to make it big when life has handed you so many other difficult challenges along the way? The answer is simple for Joe. He just enjoys music and finds it of utmost importance in his life.

”I think music is one of the most wonderful things God has blessed us with,” said Bommersbach. “I love the heart and soul that goes into performing, as well as all the emotions that are able to conveyed through song.”

It’s easy to tell that he has a real passion for music and that nothing is going to hold him back from doing what he loves.

You can catch Blind Joe on the road this year. Having scored a deal with Solaris Entertainment, a division of Sony Music, he will be recording new music for us and touring across the states. His goal for 2018 is to play as much as possible and have 10 new songs for his fans by the summertime. In the meantime, you can keep up with him and download free tunes at www.blindjoe.com

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