When Katy Cole first started giving Sawyer Fredericks voice lessons at her Cobleskill home, the 11-year-old was so shy, he made her leave the room when he sang.
On Wednesday, he let her watch — along with about 2,800 others who filled nearly every seat in the Palace Theatre to see the 16-year-old “The Voice” contestant from Glen sing in person.
“He didn’t want to sing in front of me or his mother,” said Cole, now of Troy, a little teary-eyed as she awaited his performance inside the theater with her 7-year-old daughter, Addison. “I would play piano in the living room, and he would be in the back hallway singing.
“He’s come a long way from his stage-fright days.”
Fredericks, now a semifinalist on “The Voice,” showed no signs of nervousness during his hour-long performance, which was taped for a hometown episode of the NBC vocal talent competition.
After being introduced in person by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who declared Wednesday his day in the city, Sawyer stepped up to the microphone, picked up his guitar and brought down the house with a gut-wrenching performance of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”
“Thank you,” he said afterward, flipping his long, blonde hair. “Thank you all for coming.”
Fredericks was relaxed throughout the night, even when technical difficulties forced him to stop singing halfway through his second song, Howie Day’s “Collide.”
The song’s lyrics, “Even the best fall down sometimes,” were appropriate.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said with a smile and laugh, “but I was getting a lot of static in my ears.”
The fans didn’t mind — they got to hear it again. And then one more time.
Fredericks performed two covers, “Simple Man” and May Erlewine’s “Shine On,” twice, and “Collide” three times to give the producers of “The Voice” more than enough footage to work with on the upcoming hometown episode. After performing the covers he has sung on the show, he took a quick break before returning to play his lesser-known original tunes.
“He’s better in person than on TV,” said Annette Ortiz, 24, of Amsterdam, awaiting his return to the stage.
“He’s just so humble,” said her friend, Ashleigh Scott, 26, of Fultonville.
“And you know it’s all him” Ortiz said.
Two hours earlier, fans lined up down Clinton Street and around the corner of Ten Broeck Street to get the best seats possible for the general admission show.
Shaelyn Oathout and Emma Fiore, two 13-year-olds from Johnstown who had seen him sing earlier in the day at Fonda Speedway, wore black “I HEART SAWYER” T-shirts and black hats to match the bowler hat Fredericks hardly ever performs without.
“I like his voice and his hair,” said Shaelyn, whose own hair is also long and blonde.
Addison Cole, holding a “WE HEART SAWYER” sign at her side, said she liked him “because he plays music a lot and especially because I got to sing with him, too.”
The daughter of Fredericks’ former vocal coach, now 7, was 3 at the time.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” she said.
When Fredericks returned to the stage, he introduced his own songs as “very depressing, so I’m sorry for that,” before warning his fans that the first song, “What I’ve Done,” was eight minutes long.
His fans loved every slow strum and sorrowful word, swaying along as he sang “When you told me you loved me, I didn’t feel a thing. Guess I just didn’t realize what it means to be loved.”
Fredericks then played Ray LaMontagne’s “Burn,” another slow tune, before switching to a country-rock original that had the audience on its feet and clapping along. When he ended the song and told the audience it was the last song (“terribly sorry, terribly sorry”), they sighed for more — and got more.
“This is my latest original,” he said, “and it doesn’t even have a name yet, so I hope you enjoy it.”
Katy Cole, whom Fredericks worked with from age 11 to just before his 15th birthday, had hoped he would get to roll out some originals at Wednesday’s concert.
“He’s a prolific songwriter, especially for his age,” she said.
When she first heard him sing, he was one of six children in her summer children’s choir in Fonda, and she said he had the voice of an angel.
“He opened his mouth and it was incredible,” she said.