12:02pm PT by Rebecca Ford
'The Voice's' Blake Shelton on Cassadee Pope: She's 'Destined to Be a Star'
The Voice coach Blake Shelton -- whose contestants have now won two out of three seasons of the NBC singing competition -- was beaming like a proud father after his contestant Cassadee Pope was crowned the winner of season three.
Pope, 23, had been a strong contender for the title for several weeks now, due in part to Shelton’s decision to have the pop-rocker sing country songs in the competition.
STORY: 'The Voice' Recap: Season 3 Winner Is Crowned
Shelton says it was when Pope performed his wife Miranda Lambert’s song “Over You” that things started to change for her on the show.
"We both went, 'What do you think it was about that? Why did you think that happened?'" Shelton says. "We all figured out that Cassadee has a gift of telling the story and making people feel what you’re thinking and what you’re talking about. You can’t teach somebody that."
Pope continued to put her pop-rock twist on several other country songs throughout the season, and even her final performance of the competition was a country song: Faith Hill's "Cry."
"She’s magic. She’s just a special artist that God gave a little extra to," says Shelton of his contestant. "I wish I could sit here and scientifically explain to y'all what it is about her, but the truth is, none of us can explain it. She’s just one of those special people that is destined to be a star."
Now that the show has ended, Pope will go on to work on her music, benefiting from the record deal with Universal that she won on the show. Pope tells THR she hopes to release a single by January.
STORY: 'The Voice' Winner Cassadee Pope on Blake Shelton, Avril Lavigne Duet and What’s Next
And one person she’ll always have in her corner? Her coach.
"Here’s the truth: I’m here for Cassadee as long as she wants me to be here for her," he says. "That girl is family to me, I love her so much."
"I know a lot about the entertainment industry, and I’m going to defend her against what I know about it and be there as a friend," he says.
After she was crowned the winner, Pope described Shelton as a "proud papa," and it’s been clear Shelton has played a fatherly role all season.
"I guess I tend to feel more protective of the girls that I work with, especially if they’re young," he says. "Knowing what I know about this business and how it can eat you alive and spit you back out, that’s unacceptable to me as a guy who is a friend to these people."
Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford