Born William Wendell Gilman on May 24, 1988, in Westerly, R.I., he was raised outside Providence in the tree-lined neighborhoods of Hope Valley. And he grew up listening to Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Eddy Arnold -- the records his grandparents played.
His mother and father, while delighted with their son's gift and supportive of his efforts from the start, were not stage-struck parents hovering in the wings and egging him on. Through a series of introductions, Ray Benson, of the legendary Asleep at the Wheel, became one of Gilman's guiding lights. Benson recorded a demo with Gilman in Austin, Texas, and then introduced him to the Nashville scene. Benson also featured him in some of his shows.
He earned a standing ovation at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2000, his first major media exposure. When his debut single "One Voice" entered the Billboard chart, he edged out Brenda Lee to become the youngest person ever to have a song on the magazine's Country Singles Chart. The album One Voice was certified platinum (for selling a million copies) in September 2000, less than three months after its release.
Gilman released a second album, Classic Christmas, in October 2000 and saw it certified gold (for sales of 500,000) before the year was out. In May 2001, less than three weeks before his thirteenth birthday, Gilman's record company issued his third album, Dare to Dream.
Music Through Heartsongs, a collaboration with young poet Mattie J. T. Stepanek, was issued in 2003. Gilman, whose voice had changed by this point, and Sony Music parted ways shortly thereafter.
Gilman will release the album Everything and More on an independent label in May 2005.