'Voice' Winner Jordan Smith Talks 'Something Beautiful,' Rihanna & Confidence [Exclusive]
At times, it may seem as though The Voice contestants come and go with the wind, but season 9 winner Jordan Smith refuses to be forgotten.
Fresh off his win as a member of Team Adam in December 2015, the young man with a magical voice released his debut album Something Beautiful in March. And, in bucking the tradition of Voice alumni who don't fare that well in sales, the 12-song LP debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. charts, right behind former The Voice coach Gwen Stefani's new album.
Ahead of his upcoming tour and a big summer wedding, Music Times chatted with Smith about his big sales week, his chaotic post-reality TV life and what even made him choose to go on The Voice in the first place.
CM: How has life been since winning The Voice?
Jordan Smith: It’s been pretty, pretty wild, I guess it’s the word I would use. It’s been happening so quickly; things have been ticking up pretty fast. But honestly it’s been rewarding too. I have had a lot of really cool opportunities open up, and I have been able to do some really fun performing. Obviously I recorded an entire album and everything already so it’s been happening quickly but its been really hard.
CM: You won The Voice in December and your debut album Something Beautiful came out March; that’s a very quick turnaround. What was that recording process like?
JS: Yeah, it was a pretty quick turnaround, once I won the show on Dec. 15, I got to have a few days at home with my family to celebrate with them, and then I was immediately back in L.A. on Jan. 4 to start recording the album. We finished 16 songs in about three and a half weeks, so it was a very quick process, a very fast turnaround. But the whole album itself came about really organically. We just kind of sat down and used our first instincts. So, it made the process much easier because we didn’t have to manipulate or worry about changing the arrangements or making it our own but we just, you know, did what came naturally did what came to mind.
CM: Your album is about half covers; how did you pick which songs you wanted to include on your debut?
JS: I did get to hand pick each song on the album. There are four original and eight covers, and it was a fun process picking the songs. I wanted to chose songs that told a story and told part of my story and that people could relate to, and so there is a lot of different songs in there. It's very eclectic there is a bunch of different genres.
I have Rihanna and Josh Groban and "Over the Rainbow" and Billie Joel on there, so it’s a very mixed bag. I think that each of the songs have a pretty personal message and are relatable to a lot of people and they tell a story so it was really fun and also a unique challenge to put a collection of songs like this together that work out and still told my story and the story that I thought needed to be told.
CM: You obviously got famous from doing covers on The Voice now this record is, I guess you said two-third covers. Do you have any worries about being pigeonholed as like a cover artist or is that something that you genuinely really enjoy doing?
JS: The songs that I’ve been able to do so far -- because I just believe so strongly in music itself and in the responsibility to give music -- I do in depth. [The songs] are partially my own anyway -- I don’t do a song that I don’t believe in. So for me because I believe so strongly in them, they kind of become my own, and I think if you look at the original music that is on the album, I think you can already start to see part of me in that as well.
So I am not too worried about, you know becoming a cover artist, I have only actually only been an artist making music in the industry for less than a year now, for a few months. I think that I am going to have plenty of time to put out more original music and I am currently still working on writing on my own and I am constantly making new music and stuff like that. So I am not too worried about that, I think I’ll have plenty of time to be able to you know show who I am to more original music in the future.
CM: The big stand out song on your record was your single “Stand in the Light.” Can you tell me the story behind that track?
JS: I love "Stand in the Light” and I was happy to make that the single. I worked on it in the studio with Stephan Moccio, who is now a Grammy Award winner and Oscar nominated, which is so fun to say. I am so happy for him. But that was one of the most rewarding part of the whole recording process, was being able to work with Stephan.
The first day that I walked into the studio, I sat down and he wanted to play a song for me, it was a song that he had written with a friend of his and he played it and it was ‘Stand in the Light” and I looked at him immediately and I said, “I have to have to have this song, like it needs to be mine.” It just so beautifully tells so much what I believe and how I feel about life and what I think the world needs to hear. So I just knew I immediately had to have that song, and we recorded it with him the next couple of days. It was really fun to work on it because as we did the song, we did take after take and it slowly became less about which take was more in tune or which take was better and more about which take was most emotional, you know, which take we could feel the most emotion in. I had so much fun recording that, but yeah that’s the story, I heard it the first time and was like “I have to be able to record this song”.
CM: Getting to know you as a viewer of The Voice, it's clear you have an incredibly positive beautiful outlook on life, where does which come from? Because it is very admirable.
JS: Thank you, I think if I am being truthful, a lot of that comes from growing up in a home that was positive and that was encouraging. I started singing at home and at church and I grew up in church and I grew up learning that you always do what you can to help other people and that you always love other people and you always look beyond what is on the outside and you love people for what they are on the inside... So that was just instilled in me always growing up.
As I got older, I personally dealt with some confidence issues. I would never say that I was really bullied, but I dealt with having to accept things about myself that other people wouldn’t necessarily find acceptable or flaws that people would tell me that were bad. I had to learn that those were part of who I am and that they make me the person that I am and I had to even love the bad things and the things I thought were bad about myself.
So with that kind of journey, and self-acceptance and discovering who I am through my life and being brought up in a home like that, it just kind of brought me to this place here, where I realize that I have this amazing, amazing opportunity to sing for so many people. I am not very good at much stuff: I am not great at math, I thought I would be a doctor, but my grades weren’t good enough. So this is what I am good at. And I have to be able to find a way to use that thing to affect as much change in the world as possible to do.
CM: Something Beautiful was the biggest selling debut from an act who was on The Voice. That show doesn’t have the most amazing track record with its artists putting out music and having it sell well, so what do you think was the key behind your success translating to a No. 2 record on the Billboard 200?
JS: I think there are a lot of different factors that play into the success that someone can have after The Voice. I think that on The Voice, success is measured in a different way; I think that usually instead of putting out you know, global superstars who become household names and have the most well-known careers, The Voice is more about putting out well-rounded artists that know who they want to be and know what kind of music they want to make. They are then more prepared to do that and have a career in the industry and make a living for themselves as musicians.
To me, during my time on The Voice and even afterward with this album, I wasn’t focused on making music that I thought would sell. I wasn’t focused on changing what I wanted to do so I could get more votes or trying to appeal to the people watching the show because I wanted to win. I was more just about doing the music that I loved and doing what I thought represented me. So I think that attitude sort of translated into what I did on the show and into this album as well. I made this music because I love it and when you listen to it, I think you could feel that love of music and that love of people. I think that that’s one reason why it was so successful, because it was so genuine and authentic and it was what people were looking for from me after what they had learned from me on the show.
Also I think with the success I had on the show, I had an amazing team of people that were ready to take that and push me forward to propel me forward and use that momentum to really drive this project as far to the top as possible. I had an amazing team around me with Republic Records. They've been working so diligently to make sure that this project had the attention it deserved. I now have a great manager and a lawyer and agency and everything, so it’s been a whole group effort to make sure it succeeded.
CM: One of the big things when you were on The Voice was that some of your songs outsold Adele's "Hello" on the iTunes charts in December, which was insane. How did that feel?
JS: Yeah, it felt incredible. That actually happened three times, with three of my songs, and it was so insane every single time, to see my name up there at all but let alone at No. 1 above songs like ‘"Hello" or an artist like Adele. It showed me that people were involved and wanted to be a part of my art and a part of the music that I was making, and that means more to me as an artist than anything else, that people want to buy your music that people want to be a part of your art. Every time I see the success, every time I see the success of this album, you know No. 2 on Billboard and No. 1 on iTunes and all that, it just showed me people really do like you, and they want to be involved in your music. And there is no higher compliment than that.
CM: There are a million ways to make it in the music industry. What made you to decide to go the route of reality TV and The Voice?
JS: That’s a great question. I wanted to be on The Voice for a very long time before I ever auditioned, and I think the initial fascination I had with the show and what pushed me to audition is that I saw people on stage just being there because of their voice. It was not because they were a total package or because of what they looked like or who they were, but just because of their singing. That really spoke to me, and I always always felt like I was meant to be a part of that.
I actually auditioned for the show an entire year before I made it, and I was told no the first time. And a year later someone in the casting department called me and asked if I have ever heard of the show called The Voice, because they saw a video of me singing online and wanted to know if I was interested in auditioning. So it was kind of crazy how it all worked out. But I just always, I don’t know, I watched the show and always felt like it was meant to be.
CM: You worked very closely with Adam Levine on the show; what was the best advice that he gave you?
JS: Oh he gave me so much good advice; he really did show us that he was invested in the contestants more than just being there for a job or putting on a television show. I think the way I learned most from him was not through what he told me but things that he showed me through his actions. The biggest thing was when you feel like something is good for you or you feel like you need to do something, then you need to stick with your instincts and that gut feeling and do it.
There were lots of times on the show were we would have chosen a song that wasn’t necessarily the best fit, or you know, he thought something else would be better. Even though it meant extra hours of work and keeping the crew later and having an entirely new song, he would be honest with us and he would tell us what you know what he thought was best. He would make his best decision by us, and I think that that spoke to me when I was working on this project. It told me that regardless of how much work that it takes or how difficult it might be, to always be authentic and to always stick with your instincts and do what you think it’s best for yourself.
CM: Yeah, that is great advice. What is next for you as an artist? Where do you go from here?
JS: Well, where I go physically is a question because I never know day-to-day where I am going to be next. But I have been doing a lot of promotion for the album of course, I have gotten to do some cool talk shows and lots of interviews and some performances here and there. What I am excited about is being able to get this music in front of people. I love performing, and I love that connection between me and an audience, so I can’t wait to get in front of people and experience this music in person. I think with this kind of album there is nothing quit like singing it live and feeling it live. So I want to be able to get on the road and go on a tour so I can get this music out there for people to experience for themselves.
CM: Very cool, and you are also recently engaged so congratulations, have you even started planning your wedding yet? How is that going?
JS: Oh, absolutely, we are getting married this summer, which is kind of a little bit insane but we are getting married this summer. So, wedding planning is going well. We are going to celebrate and have our wedding back home in Kentucky with our family and friends, and we are just so excited. My fiancée was with me long before any of this journey began, and she is still with me now. She has been a grounding foundation for me to hold things, so we’re just so excited to get married and to be able to continue on this journey together.
CM: Yeah, that’s awesome. What a great year for you.
JS: Yeah it’s a good year.