A shocking loss. America’s Got Talent season 15 contestant Nolan Neal has died. He was 41.
The medical examiner’s office in Nashville, Tennessee, confirmed to Us Weekly on Tuesday, July 19, that the musician was pronounced dead one day prior, although a cause of death is currently unknown. Neal’s cousin, Dylan Seals, told TMZ that the TV personality was found unresponsive in his Nashville apartment.
Ahead of his death, Neal had long been open about his struggles with substance abuse over the years. In July 2020, he told WBIR that — despite being clean for 10 years before his first attempt at reality TV success — he began drinking while competing on The Voice in 2016. “I kind of lost my way on The Voice and continued drinking,” Neal said. “You can see it. I can see it.”
Though he was eliminated in the Knockout round on season 11 of the NBC series, the Tennessee native took another shot at stardom four years later on another competition show — and this time, he was completely sober. During his America’s Got Talent audition, which aired in 2020, Neal told the judges that he wanted to use his platform to “share a little bit of my story” with people watching at home.
“When I was 26, everything was happening in the way I wanted it to, but my dad called me and told me he was going to take his life,” the “Lost” singer recalled at the time, noting that after his father died by suicide, he “felt like I didn’t matter that much. I was like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t important enough for him to stick around.’ I blamed myself.”
Despite his grief, Neal focused on his music and eventually landed a record deal. “I was like, ‘This is it!’ And I partied really hard,” he continued. “Pretty soon, I became unmanageable because I thought I was a rock star. … The label decided to drop me and I went back to Nashville and I kept downward spiraling.”
After going to rehab and getting clean and sober, Neal decided to go after his dream once more. “I really do believe in fate and it means the world to me to have this chance,” he said at the time. “I’m glad to be here today, sober, very clear and focused. … I’m healthy.”
For his America’s Got Talent audition, Neal performed an original song called “Lost,” which he explained was the first tune he wrote after leaving rehab. His emotional performance won over the judges and he made it to the semi-finals before being eliminated from the competition.
“I get up every day and ask for God’s will,” the former Hinder frontman told WBIR in July 2020 after making it onto the reality show. “I found happiness by helping others in recovery. I found a way to be happy without the things I thought made me happy before.”
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