Meet the voice behind The Voice: A Kentucky Boy Can Survive
BY KEVIN ELLIOT
December 15, 2015 – Los Angeles, California
The normally chaotic capital city of worldwide entertainment, along with 15 million anxious viewers across the nation, comes to a collective, breathless halt. The winner of the ninth season of NBC’s enormously popular reality singing competition, The Voice, is about to be announced.
We Kentucky folk are especially engaged as one of our own, Harlan native Jordan Smith, is still standing. The stage is as big as the City of Angels must have seemed to this talented 22 year-old college senior when he first arrived some two months before. His meteoric rise to stardom was about to take yet another leap.
Jordan Mackenzie Smith was born on November 4, 1993 to Kelly and Geri Smith in Whitley County. Raised in the small Harlan County town of Wallins Creek, Jordan was immediately surrounded by music. Not only was his father a professional pianist and his mother a singer, but his extended family also shared and ingrained in him the same passion which led him to realize his own gift. His journey towards a career in the music industry had begun. “My parents and my aunt, Amy, instilled a love for music in me at a very young age,” Smith said in our recent post-competition interview.
“As I grew older, my fascination turned into an appreciation which I fed by participating in activities in church and high school such as choir, band and theater.” This appreciation continued to grow as Smith focused his sight on a degree in Music Business at the Christian-based Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. While a student at Lee, Smith would join the school’s Lee Singers and experience his first of many high-profile performances including singing at President Obama’s second inauguration and a showing at the Vatican. Although a gamble, he took a semester off from his senior year to take a second shot at auditioning for The Voice, (he was turned down in season 8 before the blind auditions), and possibly becoming America’s next music superstar. The gamble paid off.
Host Carson Daley keeps the live studio and nation’s captive audience on the edge of their seats as he turns his eyes to read the card… “The winner of The Voice is… Jordan Smith!”
The Kentucky son and obvious nationwide favorite had pulled off the improbable. His silky, range-defying voice along with his heart-melting persona had captivated the nation…and we had all let him know.
After his blind audition, all four judges’ chairs had turned for this Kentucky kid with the golden voice. Having his choice of mentors, Smith chose Adam Levine, the multi-talented lead singer of the popular pop/rock band, Maroon 5. Levine is a veteran judge on The Voice, having been on the show since its inception. Having recently tied fellow judge Blake Shelton’s record of three previous winners, Adam was a natural fit for Smith. The two worked well together and their collaboration led to week after week of Smith’s rise through the competition’s ranks. The country was so taken by him that his first released single from the show, the classic hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” shot to number one on the iTunes singles charts, temporarily unseating Adelle and her monstrous hit, “Hello.” This wouldn’t be the last time this rising star would battle with the new Queen of Pop. His next release, a cover of Queen’s “Somebody To Love,” would take the top chart position again a mere thirty minutes after he performed it live on The Voice in front of millions, at one point holding four spots on the iTunes top ten. Smith would see much more of this chart topping in the weeks following his victory. He had yet another number one with his rendition of “Mary, Did You Know” and set a record on Billboard’s Christian Songs chart when that song took the number one spot from another of his covers, “Hallelujah,” thus making him the only artist to have ever held the top two positions concurrently. On top of that, his rendition of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was still on the charts at number eight making him only the third artist to have three songs in the top ten simultaneously. A meteoric rise, indeed.
Now a bona fide star, Jordan Smith went back to where he began.
A parade was held for him in his hometown of Harlan where he strode through a huge crowd of proud supporters with his long-time girlfriend, now fiancé, Kristin Denny. They were engaged on New Year’s day. When asked about his most exciting experience on The Voice, Smith had no hesitation… “One of my favorite moments was getting to meet the legendary Dolly Parton.”
He says of his guest coaching encounter, “She has always been an inspiration of mine, so to finally meet her in person and have the chance to hear her story and advice for us as young musicians was an unforgettable experience.”
With the guidance of his heroes and the sudden thrust into the spotlight, some may ask… What is next for Jordan Smith?
With the unfortunate resumes of past The Voice winners along with voiced concerns of post-show talent management both from judges Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, blockbuster careers are not necessarily a foregone conclusion for the winners. However, the exceptional chart topping success of Jordan throughout this past season and his strong social media following should bode well for his future success. Jordan was quick to tell us that plans and actions are already in the works. Alongside the $100,000 prize and Republic Records recording deal and for becoming the ninth and, thus far, most successful champion of the top nation’s top ranked competitive reality singing program, Jordan has attracted some of the top names in the music biz. Smith just made an appearance on the People’s Choice Awards performing the Joe Cocker classic, “You Are So Beautiful,” with famed songwriter/composer David Foster. Foster, a 16-time Grammy winner known for his work with such artists as Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand and many others, is now writing with and producing Jordan’s upcoming debut album.
This solidifies the fact that the industry’s attention has been caught.
This article originally appears on page 11 of the February 2015 printed issue of Ace.
Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, and entertainment, delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.