No more chicken catching for Kentucky’s Kevin Skinner!
The unemployed farmhand — and longtime musician — was named the winner of NBC’s America’s Got Talent Wednessday when he beat out golden-voiced opera singer Barbara Padilla, his final competitor after almost 100,000 hopefuls auditioned for the fourth season of the talent show.
“My heart was pounding, almost to the point that I thought it was going to come out of my chest,” Skinner told PEOPLE after winning the $1 million prize and a contract for a Vegas show. “I had never experienced anything like that and probably never will again, I would say, that dramatic. It’s just the greatest feeling. I’m 35, so I have been chasing the dream for the while, and it hasn’t come true. Now it’s more than words can explain.”
Said judge Sharon Osbourne to PEOPLE of Skinner’s win: “Apparently, it was a really huge win, too. It’s just such a feel-good story that just want him to win because he’s the everyman. He’s the underdog. All his life he’s been the underdog … He’s so genuine, what you see is what you get. He’s not contrived, and so many that come on this show kind of get sophisticated and they know how to play the game.”
Like Britain’s Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle, who performed on the AGT finale in her American musical debut, Skinner became an Internet viral video star earlier this season. Wednesday, he beat out fan favorites Barbara Padilla, Recycled Percussion, The Texas Tenors and Voices of Glory. While Monday’s performance finale of Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” wasn’t his strongest, according to the judges, Skinner already had enough of a niche carved as the show’s country singer. That was all he needed.
Keep reading for more of Skinner’s interview with PEOPLE just moments after winning the big prize. –Nicholas White
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?I’m hoping in five years, I will be selling out shows, be on tour, have a lot of fans behind me. I love to write music — I got enough probably now for two CD’s of my own stuff that I wrote. I’m getting ready to get in the studio and cut some of it. That’s for my fans, that’s what they want to hear.
What’s planned for Vegas?I’m excited about it. I have always been a performer, I have performed in front of a lot of before. If you’re a performer you know how that feels. It’s good. It’s like flying a kite. It’s natural. You sing to the , you sing to your fans, you try to be real.
No more chicken catching?Yeah, yeah. No.
What are your songs about?My songs are about my past. I wrote it from things that have happened to me in my life. I brought a lot of to tears with some of the songs I wrote that are so real. People that have gone through that before, you can touch them. Real music, that’s what like to hear. When you’re singing to that crowd, they love to hear real music. That’s my goal, keep on writing from the heart.
How do you celebrate this win?I celebrate being with my family. Family is all you got in this world. You have friends too, but family is very important.
No beers?Yeah I might have one or two. I’m not much on drinking heavy. I always have a heavy load the next morning when I do. A lot of time, I just prefer to drink lightly.
Tell us: Are you happy Kevin Skinner won? Would you buy his album? Who else were you rooting for?Trae Patton/NBC