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‘Voice’ runner-up Worthington is ready for a career in country

Texas country boy Jake Worthington may have come in second on NBC’s sixth season of “The Voice” in May, but graduating from high school less than a month later served as a bigger prize to the 18-year-old singer.

“That’s definitely Number 1. It may seem small to a lot of folks, but to me it’s me saying, ‘All right Jake, it’s time for real life,’ ” Worthington says from his home in La Porte, Texas.

Real life begins a bit differently from most high school graduates’ when Worthington joins Season 6 winner Josh Kaufman, cast-mates Christina Grimmie, Kristen Merlin and Jake Barker, finalists from Season 5, and Season 1’s Dia Frampton on The Voice Tour, which stops at Ovens Auditorium Monday.

Worthington is already eager to move on from the hit reality competition to the next phase.

“It’s not the same as if I would’ve released an album with my own songs to sing. The tour is based off the television show, and I’m ready for that to be over and focus on my career,” says Worthington, a Team Blake grad. “I’m willing to do that because of the folks that got me here. In some sense I don’t want to be a puppet kind of thing, where you’ve got to do this. There’s different ways in my opinion to pay your dues, and this is my way.”

Television producers love a story and the backstory about Worthington breaking his back playing football and turning to music for solace is a popular one. But he was singing long before that.

“Me breaking my back has nothing to do with me singing,” he says. “It didn’t cause me to sing. I was a professional shower singer. I thought I was Axl Rose in the shower, riding in the car. I guess I started sounding better, but I always sang, whether it was good or not.”

Worthington, who didn’t make it past the first cut in Season 5, didn’t want to return for a second go.

“They called me back and I was totally against it. Not because I had a bad experience. I met some people there that this is what they do for a living. I wanted to get through my senior year and I felt like those people, who are grown men and women that had children, single parent or not, living out of their cars – those people deserved that opportunity,” he explains.

His family and friends changed his mind. “They said ‘Do it for the folks that never had the chance to do it.’ ”

The gamble paid off. Worthington can no longer walk into Walmart without being recognized. He doesn’t mind, but is adamant about not changing because he’s a public figure – whether that means cussing on occasion or sharing a beer with his dad.

“I’m not doing drugs or driving drunk. I’ve grown up the same way many people have in the States. If I cuss and that bothers somebody, I’m not going to change who I am.”

That’s why Worthington prefers to meet the show’s followers in person.

“If they were ever offended by anything I did,” he says, “I can change their mind.”