MATTOON — Broken Roots, a musical duo with Central Illinois ties, made the most of a second chance, finishing as the runner-up Wednesday in this season’s finale of NBC's "America’s Got Talent."
The duo, which includes Effingham native Austin Weinstock, who goes by the stage name Austin Edwards, was originally eliminated from the competition during the celebrity "judge cuts" round of paring down the competitive field. They were called back to the competition after another contestant dropped out due to a personal conflict.
Broken Roots consists of Edwards, who has Mattoon family ties, and fellow musician Joey Kar from the Chicago area. On Wednesday, they performed “God’s Country,” the song that propelled them to the finals, for the second time with one noticeable addition. They were joined on stage by country music superstar, Blake Shelton, the song’s original artist.
"It would mean financial stability for our families, it would mean the ability to possibly open up the music school Joey and I want to open up for the kids, it would mean the world," Edwards said when asked about what it would mean to be crowned champion prior to the winner being announced.
Brandon Leake, an award-winning spoken word poet, emerged as the winner, earning the million dollar grand prize and the opportunity to headline a show in Las Vegas.
Edwards, who has a background in country music, has said that he and Kar, who has a background in rock music, have received invitations to perform across the United States and overseas since they first started performing on "America's Got Talent." He said they hope to accept such invitations and tour after restrictions on large gatherings and travel caused by COVID-19 are eased.
"We really owe 'America's Got Talent' a 'thank you' for the opportunity that has been granted," Edwards has said. "We would absolutely love to get out there and start playing shows and build an even bigger fan base than we have."
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