Jordan Smith is one of the brightest stars ever to have graced NBC’s The Voice. When he won season 9, no one was surprised because of his incredible vocal talent and just as importantly, the incredible heart that he sings with. Now flash-forward a few years and Jordan is once again on another NBC series; he’s representing his home state of Kentucky on American Song Contest. And once again, he’s outshining the competition.
After Jordan advanced to the semi-finals, I spoke with him about what made him want to dive back into the TV world, how he crafted a song that’s supposed to represent an entire state, and how much he’s grown as an artist in the better part of a decade since viewers have last seen him. Catch up with everything he’s accomplished and keep following his journey as American Song Contest continues.
Brittany Frederick: How did you become involved with American Song Contest? Did NBC seek you out because of your success on The Voice?
Jordan Smith: I found out that they were on this search for people to represent states, and so when the opportunity was presented, I was like “You know what, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring on this.” Because while the idea of going back to reality television kind of made me want to throw up a little, it was unique in the way that I got to represent my home state, which I love very much. I’m very proud to be from Kentucky. I’m a Kentuckian and through and through. And so that was what drew me back in.
BF: You’re now competing for the entire state instead of just yourself, so does that make this feel like a different experience?
JS: It doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily about me and winning this for me or anything like that. It just feels like a way to give back and shine a spotlight on people who were really supportive of me during my time on The Voice, and even just as a kid growing up in Kentucky. So it feels different in that way.
BF: There is a degree of familiarity, though, in that you’re back on NBC and working with some of the same people. Did that provide some comfort to you or make the process of American Song Contest a little easier?
JS: There was an element of that. Obviously, we’re still on NBC. I know a lot of that team really well and I’ve worked with some of them even since [winning] The Voice; I’ve been able to return to The Voice a few times. So I knew I was going to see some familiar faces. On the music team, I knew some people…and so it was very much exciting as far as that goes.
There was an element of the unknown to this. This is the first season of the show; it’s never been done. And I was somewhat familiar with Eurovision [which inspired American Song Contest], but I wasn’t an avid follower. We’re sort of the guinea pigs, figuring out the system, figuring out how this is going to work. The team has done a really great job of organizing the show. I watched it last night here from home in Kentucky and I’m just blown away at the production. Obviously the contestants and the performances are amazing, but the way they’ve built this whole show is pretty amazing.
BF: You were a clear front-runner from the beginning of The Voice. How did you feel about your chances for American Song Contest? Because in this case, you’re not solely judged by audience votes.
JS: I definitely knew that I would have support from people who knew me from The Voice [and] have followed me since then. I’ve been really fortunate in my career so far to have an incredible fan base. I still walk down the street and people are like “Oh, my gosh.” Even if they don’t remember my name, they know they’ve seen my face and they know I was on one of those singing shows on television…But like I said, it’s brand new. You have no idea what to expect. The whole jury aspect is brand new. And you feel a bit apprehensive because there’s this giant group of faceless people who are judging you on the other side of the screen.
I wasn’t as concerned about winning over America’s votes because I’ve been through that. I understand that. But you start being judged by what I would consider some of my peers in the industry, that’s whene it starts to become a little bit nerve-wracking. Honestly, every single week, the jury decisions and the way the votes are falling, there’s been a couple of ones that were surprising to me. There’s definitely been some ones I was expecting to go through that didn’t go through. So it’s hard to get a read on exactly what the jury is looking for, but I’m just going to do me. Obviously that has been successful in the past, and that’s what I did the first time I was in this sort of situation. So I’m just going to continue to do me and hope for the best.
BF: You’re not the same artist or same person you were since then. For fans who haven’t followed your career as closely, how would you describe yourself now?
JS: I think I’ve grown a lot over the years and it’s been fun to explore who I am as an artist…I’ve fallen in love with writing songs; I’ve had some success as a songwriter. This was a really cool chance for me to not just go on television and sing cover songs that I love, but to share my gift and my heart as a writer. You feel a little bit nervous whenever you’re putting yourself out there with the song that you’ve created. This song [“Sparrow”] specifically, I wrote the entire song myself, then I took it into the studio with a couple of other writers and we tweaked it and we worked with an incredible music team on the show.
The whole team came alongside me and helped me to get this song to where it needed to be for the show. But I was very heavily involved in the creative process, from the birth of the song all the way through to the end. And you feel a little bit vulnerable bringing that sort of offering that is so original and so much of your own and putting it out on display like this—in front of the world in such a big way. Millions of people are on the other side of that camera, so that was a bit nerve-wracking, but it was a lot of fun. It’s been very rewarding. And it’s all the more rewarding to hear stories of people connecting with the song and being inspired by the song. It’s validating not just as a singer and a performer, but as a songwriter and an artist as well.
BF: How has your career developed between The Voice and American Song Contest?
JS: It’s really special to have this opportunity to get back out there in front of people. Whenever you come off of The Voice or a show like that in general, you’re thrust into the spotlight and afterwards, it’s sort of like being shot out of a cannon because there’s so many opportunities coming your way. You’re being pulled in so many different directions. In that first year [after The Voice], I did two full-length albums. I toured extensively. I’ve done full arena tours since then. I’ve done my own tours and smaller theaters and clubs. I’ve traveled internationally and performed. So it’s been really like a whirlwind the last seven years. But the thing for me is I’ve been on a journey as an artist.
I’m currently signed to a Christian label out of Nashville and I’m writing and releasing. I just released a new EP last year of Christian music. I’ve always wanted to live in that space of music that uplifts and encourages people, whether that’s pop, whether that’s Christian, whatever genre. I’m just feeling really fortunate as an artist and a songwriter to be able to come back to television in this way. I never thought it would happen again. But to come back and be in people’s homes every week and be able to bring a song like “Sparrow” that I believe in so strongly. To bring that message of hope and the fact that we can come together and lift each other in a time where we’re so isolated and things have been so difficult…I just hope people take away from the song and the performance that we can rise together and that we can come through anything as long as [we’re] united and that we understand that each of us are important and each of us matter.
American Song Contest airs Mondays at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
Article content is (c)2020-2022 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.