Sundance Head's expectations after winning The Voice in 2016 crashed head first into reality months later.

"What I thought was, we'll just make a record and go to the Grammys," he admits, half-joking.

As the winner of The Voice, he was guaranteed a contract with Republic Records out of New York City. The reality, as he puts it, is he that signed with a hip-hop label who couldn't find a country music partner, so his record was permanently shelved. Coach Blake Shelton — whom Head credits as being the only consistent professional voice of support in the two years since he won the NBC reality show — seemed to know what was on the horizon for his protege. He and Adam Levine have both been critical of what happens to artists after winning.

"He knew it, but he didn’t want to tell me, I'm sure," Head tells Taste of Country.

He wrestled his way out of that recording contract and booked shows as an independent artist in 2017 and 2018. In fact, he played 280 concerts last year, he says, which kept him motivated and inspired. Still, that old familiar fatalism returned even when legendary song writer Dean Dillon approached him about a new record label venture called Wildcatter Reocrds. Even now, after those conversations bore fruit — his newly-released Stained Glass and Neon album — he's not counting on tomorrow.

"I knew going into the studio that this may be the last record I ever make, and maybe the last shot I get, so I left everything I had on that record," he says.

Head's goals are modest. He wants music writers and social media influencers everywhere to listen to his 13-song album. If that happens, he figures, they'll want to share the music with readers and followers. From there radio success will come, but without major label support and knowing that the heat from his television appearances has long cooled, the Texan wants to start a new story somewhere. Stained Glass and Neon is filled with soulful, smartly-written country songs that do more than showcase his reliable voice. Dillon helped him find the right songs and taught him about co-writing.

"He has this plethora of songs from these first-tier songwriters in Nashville," Head says, recalling their first meetings together, "That normally guys who are doing their first record would never be able to listen to."

The best include "Drive Me to Drinking" and "Close Enough to Walk."

"I had gotten into an argument with my wife," Head recalls, "and I said, 'Hey, you don't have to drive me crazy, I'm close enough to walk.' And I was dead serious. And she said, 'You need to write that song.'"

If you believe success and failure make for good country music, pay attention to Head as he navigates 2019 ahead. "Leave Her Wild" was his first radio single from Stained Glass and Neon, but he admits his purpose with that song was to get people to see him differently. The rest of the album is filled with personal, authentic ballads and love songs, and he believes any of them could work in today's radio climate. If not, he'll get back to work. This album took twice as long as he'd guessed it would initially, but looking back, it's right on time.

"It's just life. For me, it's just life. Like everything else, it took the longest route possible," he says.

Country's 10 Most Successful The Voice Contestants Yet: