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Lee University student Jordan Smith sings at 8 tonight on NBC's "The Voice." Although Smith could not reveal his song selection, he did tease, "I think this could turn out to be one of my favorite perfomances so far."
I am different, my voice is different, and I'm not afraid to show that.

Tune in

The remaining 12 contestants on NBC’s “The Voice” sing tonight at 8. The two singers receiving the least votes will be eliminated in Tuesday night’s episode, which also starts at 8 p.m.

 

It took Jordan Smith two attempts to land a spot on "The Voice," but once there, the small-town singer has become a national sensation as much for the message he spreads as his unusual vocal talent.

Smith says he's been a fan of "The Voice" for years, so when he heard the show was holding open auditions in Nashville in February 2014 he and two friends took off from Lee University's campus and drove to Music City.

"I got a callback from that. I went back and sang two songs, auditioned for some producers and did an interview, but didn't hear anything more," the 21-year-old recalls during a phone interview.

Although disappointed, Smith had plenty of music to focus on at the Cleveland, Tenn., college, where he was a member of the Lee Singers and director of the Singer' auxiliary group, Second Edition traveling ensemble.

So he says he was surprised in February of this year when he got a call from a talent producer casting Season 9 of "The Voice." Would he be interested in auditioning again?

Nine months later, the guy from Harlan, Ky., is being touted by numerous entertainment magazines as the front-runner to win "The Voice" crown. His performance of Sia's "Chandelier" in the opening blind auditions caused a quadruple chair turn from the judges. There Smith stood in the spotlight while four entertainment superstars pleaded with him to become his coach.

Viewers will recall that it was Smith's unusually high voice that surprised judges and audience — as well as his perfect intonation and vocal control. He told judges Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell and Blake Shelton that people often mistook him for a woman on the telephone and he'd had self-esteem issues as a kid.

"I haven't always been the coolest person," quipped the stocky guy in a plaid shirt and gray cardigan, wearing black-rimmed glasses.

Now he is.

His impressive vocal performances have drawn repeated standing ovations from "Voice" audiences, and last Monday all four judges stood with them after he sang "Halo." Levine said the sincerity of Smith's performance brought tears to his eyes.

Smith is using his "Voice" celebrity to share a message: Stay true to yourself.

"I loved the show and what it stood for — the idea of it being about the voice and helping artists get their songs out. I sang 'Chandelier' because it was a song that was extremely difficult but well-known. It would prove what I could do as a vocalist, show the versatility of my voice and who I was," says Smith.

"Not only did I want to convey the message of hope and show people that there are other people out there who have been happy on the outside, but on the inside are empty and searching for something more, I wanted to inspire people in that position. I thought it would show I am different, my voice is different, and I'm not afraid to show that."

"I remember the first time I heard him sing. I couldn't believe that voice was coming out of a male body," chuckles Dr. Brad Moffett, director of the Lee Singers. Smith was a tenor in the Singers for three years.

"My reaction was similar to the judges', except I was staring at him when I heard him the first time. It's one of the finest voices I've every heard," says Moffett.

Smith has taken a sabbatical from school to focus on "The Voice" and has now advanced into the competition's Top 12 singers. He'll perform tonight when the show airs at 8 p.m., and viewers will learn whether he advances into the third live round on Tuesday night.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

FIVE QUESTIONS:

Q: Other than the fact you and Adam Levine both have high tenor voices and you related to that, why did you choose him to be your coach?

A: Honestly, in that moment I think what he had to say to me, how emotionally involved in my story he seemed, how interested he was really spoke to me. While I don't agree that I'm the most important person on the show (Levine's quote to Smith in the blind auditions), I appreciated that he saw my heart and that the world needed to hear what I had to say. I knew if he was emotionally involved, interested in more than my singing, we would have a really good working relationship.

Q: What have you learned from Adam Levine?

A: I have been singing a long time. A lot of my training and skills I owe to my time at Lee. But working with Adam has been a completely different ballgame. The thing I think he has taught me the most is putting my heart into what my passion is: singing. He's taught me to put my heart into everything I do.

He has turned out to be such an honest person and the coolest person ever. Everyone is drawn to him. He 's so involved in what we are doing. I think he really enjoys this and is really invested in the process. He doesn't do anything halfheartedly.

Q: How much input do you have in song selection?

A: Song selection works differently for each round. For the blind auditions, obviously I chose my song. For battle rounds, we are given a song to tackle together. For the knockout round, I was able to choose. For the first playoff song, Adam chose the song, but it was a song I had mentioned wanting to sing.

Q: Has the media buzz about the Blake Shelton/Gwen Stefani romance affected the contestants in any way?

A: I have to say I wasn't surprised by the news. They are together all the time working on the show. I think they are such a cute couple. We (the contestants) all like to talk about it.

They take their jobs seriously and haven't let their relationship affect the jobs they do on the show. I'm happy for them and that they are happy. It's been funny and interesting to watch, but it hasn't affected us.

Q: What did you learn at Lee that has helped you in this competition?

A: I'll have to say Lee was my training ground, and every little thing I did prepared me for this. Being part of the Lee Singers and being on the road, I learned what it was to be a good traveler. I learned how to work well with other people on the road, how to focus and get a job done.

I grew so much in my faith. I developed a love in leading worship that I think translates to being onstage here and sharing my gift with people. Lee was perfect preparation for this.

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