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INTERVIEW: "The Voice" Winner Jordan Smith On Coach Adam Levine, His First Time As A Headliner, And More

Nicole Barylski

The Voice winner Jordan Smith. (Photo: Universal Music Group)

The second Jordan Smith began singing on The Voice, he immediately connected with millions, and luckily for him, with all four judges - Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Pharrell Williams, and Gwen Stefani - as well. Round after round on season nine of the NBC hit, the talented singer broke record after record. And, on December 15, 2015, he was crowned winner of The Voice.

We caught up with Smith, who will be performing at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, April 1 at 8 p.m.

Will this be your first time in the Hamptons?

JS: Yes, it will, actually. I'm looking forward to it.

What was your reaction when you heard The Voice was holding auditions near you?

JS: Well, I kind of freaked out a little, and then I talked myself out of it immediately. I had a few friends who knew I loved the show - I've been watching it since season one - and that I was a huge fan and I always wanted to be a part of the show and that I felt connected to the show, and they convinced me to drive a few hours across the state to Nashville and audition. And I decided to do that.

And obviously that was the right choice.

JS: At the time it was not because I did not make it my first time I auditioned. So I went, I did the audition, I waited in line for hours and got an initial callback. I went to that callback and then I got a no. I just went back to school and kept doing my thing - I was working two jobs at the time, just trying to pay my way through college. An entire year later, I got a call from someone in the casting department and they said, "Hi, Jordan. I saw a video of you singing online and I was wondering if you'd ever audition for a show called The Voice. And, the opportunity just completely fell in my lap again, and I decided to go back and try it, and that time it worked out.

What made you choose Sia's Chandelier for your blind audition song?

JS: You know, there was quite a process trying to choose the song I was going to do for that. Ultimately, it came down to two things: First of all, I wanted to do something that I thought would be impressive - that I thought would sound good vocally, that I thought would show the coaches that I wanted to challenge myself and that I wanted to be good and didn't want to settle for meritocracy. I wanted to do something that pushed myself. And the second thing was just the fact that I was there for a challenge, so I didn't want to do a song that was easy. I wanted to do a song that pushed me, that caused me to learn about my voice, and practice harder and work harder and be better than I ever had been. And that song was the song that fit all those criteria.

Your performance made all four judges turn around. Why did you go with Adam Levine?

JS: Going in, I kind of thought I was going to pick Pharrell as my coach - if I was given the opportunity. Just when I was standing there in front of the coaches and they were talking to me, Adam said something that really connected with me. When he said that yes, he thought I could win the show, yes, he thought I had a great voice, but he could already tell that there was work that we could do together and he was ready to start working. For me, I was there being a part of the show because I wanted to get better, and I wanted to be the best I could be, so to hear him say that just in my audition, that was probably going to be the right choice for me to do everything I could to get better and to learn from him. It ended up being a perfect fit - we work really well together and I enjoyed working with him.

Is there a piece of advice Adam gave you that stands out?

JS: I think I learned just as much from watching him as the things he had to say to me. I remember one night specifically when he chose a song for me that we thought was a perfect choice in the beginning of our rehearsal and I got into the rehearsal room and I started singing the song and we both realized, you know, this sounds great but it's not the right choice for this week. And instead of saying, "Oh well. It'll sound pretty good and you'll be fine." He said, "We're going to find the right song." And he, the band, the crew and anyone there stayed well past midnight that night trying to work out what would be best and figuring out what would be best for me that week. And he did that for a lot of contestants throughout the show, and that really showed me when something is the best, you really have to dedicate yourself to it. You can't just do whatever is easiest or whatever will be good. You have to not settle for just good. You have to be great. And you have to be willing to put in the work that it takes to be great. It was a really special moment for me.

What was the most challenge part of being on The Voice?

JS: For me, it was a huge adjustment almost immediately. My blind audition aired on September 21st, and I went to sleep that night after watching it, and I woke up the next morning and immediately I had millions of views on YouTube, which was such an insane feeling. Everything just changed overnight. So I had to get used to people knowing where I was everywhere I went and taking photos with people and then when I went back for the live portion of the show, I had to understand I'm going to get thousands of comments on anything I post on social media. I'm going to hear opinions of people from all across the world. One of the biggest things was just learning to trust myself and trust in my own abilities and the people around me that were encouraging me, and not listening to any other voices in my life - on social media, on anything like that. And two, I just needed to stay healthy. You're so busy, you get so little sleep, and you have to focus on taking care of yourself - mentally, physically and emotionally during that time so you can be on your A game.

Along with winning The Voice, you had several impressive accomplishments while on the show, including being the "Best-selling artist in the history of The Voice" and the first artist from any season to hit the iTunes Top 10 every single week of the live rounds. That must have been pretty surreal.

JS: Yes, it was very surreal actually. I never expected to have that kind of success. When I auditioned, I knew that I had made a team, but I didn't realize that people actually wanted to hear what I was doing. So when people starting buying the music and, you know, I had multiple songs go to number one on iTunes - so that was such a humbling, surreal experience because it meant that people were buying the music and wanted to be a part of it and that ultimately led to me being a best-selling artist. I still think it's completely crazy, but, for me, I think it's the music. I think people want to be inspired and encouraged. I try to do that with my music, and I'm surrounded by a team that also wants to help me do that - that pays off. People want to hear it and be a part of it. It's a very humbling thing.

You had the opportunity to work with Grammy Award®-winning producer David Foster, Academy Award®-nominee and songwriter extraordinaire Stephan Moccio, and Grammy Award®-winning artist and writer Kirk Franklin on Something Beautiful - your first album. What was that like?

JS: I was honestly pinching myself every single day during my time working on that album because they are just absolute legends. David Foster, and Stephan Moccio as well, but David really taught me things about my voice and myself that I never knew I could do. He really pushed me, and he got the best out of me that I could get at that time. I thank him for that, but it was such a learning time. I've been a very big fan of David for a long time, and I've been a huge fan of Stephan's music for a long time, so to be standing in a room with them and working on my own album, at times I would just get overwhelmed because I would come to the realization that I was in the room with them and doing this and it was real life. It just felt so surreal and crazy. It was extremely rewarding. I can't say enough about how much I grew during that time and how much I enjoyed getting to do that with them.

The album is half covers. How did you go about choosing which songs and artists to include?

JS: When I started choosing songs for the album, first of all, I hand chose each song myself, which I was extremely happy to do and it was an eye opening experience because when you think about songs you want to sing, there are a lot of things that go into that, a lot of different factors, a lot of criteria. For me, I wanted the album to tell a story, and even though I didn't write every song myself, I knew there were songs I connected with that could represent different parts of my life and that people all over the world - from all different walks of life - could connect with. So I tried to see past genre and specific artists and just let the music speak. That resulted in quite an eclectic collection - kind of a mixed bag - I had Billy Joel, Rihanna, and Florence and the Machine, and also Sarah McLachlan. So it was kind of all over the place, but when you sit down and listen to the album, you can hear just like life, there are different moments in it. There are sad moments, there are happy moments, there are fun moments, there are some kind of angry, questioning moments, and I wanted it to be a representation of life because you never know what you're going to get in life and I wanted to represent that not randomness, but that kind of unexpected twists and turns as you listen through the album as a whole.

What musicians inspired you growing up?

JS: Growing up, I was very involved in the music in my church, and my mom loved listening to gospel music, so I grew up every day listening to gospel music with my mom. And it wasn't until I got into high school that I started branching out and listening to other music. One of the first artists that I discovered that I really loved was Sara Bareilles, which seems kind of like a different choice for me because I have more of a soulful sound and you can hear the gospel influence in my music, but I love the way that Sara writes music and crafts songs. I think she's an amazing songwriter and I want to one day be able to write songs that are as beautiful as her songs, but also make you feel just as emotional as her songs do. I think she's mastered the art of combining beauty and emotion - it's really something special to me.

Funnily enough, I saw her perform years ago and I'm pretty sure she was opening for Maroon 5.

JS: She and Adam are really good friends, so I might have to invoke that card to get to meet her.

What can the audience at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center expect?

JS: This tour has been really, really special to me. First of all, it's my first headlining tour so I'm learning a lot during it - about touring, about headlining. These venues are not necessarily huge, they're smaller theaters. For me, it's been really fun and interesting to get to be in an intimate environment with an audience. I'm so used to performing on television for millions.

Tickets to Jordan Smith's performance at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center are $39 to $59.

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For tickets, call 631-288-1500 or visit www.whbpac.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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