BENTON CITY, Wash. — Cale Moon of Benton City recently auditioned in Los Angeles for The Voice.
And while the 17-year-old country singer didn't get chosen to appear on the NBC-TV reality show, the experience was unforgettable.
"It was an honor to be called by NBC because not just any one can audition. It's by invitation only," Cale said. "I had fun preparing for and doing the audition, but quite frankly, I'm glad I didn't make it. I listened to a couple of the contestants from last year, and they said it was more like a nightmare than a dream come true."
Heidi Moon, Cale's mother, said the audience at her son's NBC audition did something for him they didn't do for the three prior participants.
"It was interesting that when Cale was finished, people started clapping and cheering," she said. "There had been no applause for anyone else at all. The judge came over to Cale afterward and told him, 'I am not sending you on, but you have incredible stage presence and a great voice, so keep singing.' "
Despite the loss, Moon is happy to be home again and concentrating on his music and upcoming appearance at this year's Columbia River Cowboy Gathering, which is April 13-15 at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick.
At first glance, Cale's cherubic face doesn't give an inkling to the deep baritone that emanates from his vocal chords.
"I had this really high squeaky voice when I was 12 that turned into a sub-baritone," he said with laugh. "Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember."
His style is to blend country with gospel for good reason, he said.
"Country music is real, it's not full of fluff," he said. "It can make you feel good, make you laugh, cry, sometimes all in one song. I also like to throw a little God into everything I do."
Cale, who is home schooled, is the youngest of Heidi and Nathan Moon's three children. The family moved to the Tri-Cities from Elko, Nev., in 2004.
He has written about 100 songs, including one he dedicated to his older sister Haley. She is a better singer than he is, but has no desire to perform in front of an audience of strangers, Cale said.
"I fell into a post-recording depression once, and Haley tried to help me out of it, but I snapped at her instead," Cale said. "I ended up writing a song and dedicating it to her, sort of an apology for my behavior. We're not just family, we're best of friends and The Best of Friends is the title of that song."
A fan of the late Roy Rogers, Cale is dedicated to making it in the music industry and has made a few trips to Nashville, Tenn., with his parents. Their last trip was two years ago, and it turned into an opportunity of a lifetime, Cale said. There, he met songwriters Steve Dorff and Bobby Tomberlin, who helped him with A Country Song on his debut CD The Beginning. Dorff is a three-time Grammy and five-time Emmy nominated songwriter.
Last year, he also recorded an album with Fred Vale, owner of Treasure Isle Recorders in Nashville. That album is scheduled to be released later this month.
And when he isn't recording, Cale performs at fairs, festivals, talent shows and private gatherings around the Northwest.
He already is a favorite at the Cowboy Gathering, said Budd Massengale, an organizer for the event.
"Our mission is to preserve the western way of life by providing a festival honoring the cowboy way of life and heritage through music, poetry, western arts," Massengale said. "We try to showcase local talent, especially the young artists like Cale Moon and (Idaho's) Shiloh Sharrard. We are thrilled to have them both with us again this year."
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com