If you have been following “American Idol” this season you will certainly remember country contestant Jimmy Smith. The Nashville born singer grew up performing at church and school talent shows never imagining one day he could be singing on a stage for America to see. While Jimmy’s journey has ended on “American Idol” making the Top 40 and getting to sing for one of his own Idol’s, Keith Urban, is surely something he will never forget. The show was not Jimmy’s first attempt at music by any means. He put out an album “Stay Right Here” in 2011 that features a great country sound and songs he penned himself. CMTT was lucky enough to catch up with Jimmy to talk about how he got started in music, his album, and of course his experience on “American Idol.”
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CMTT: When was the first time you knew music was what you wanted to do with your life?
Jimmy Smith: My senior year of high I did a talent competition where we actually got to perform at the Opryland hotel. There were probably about 2,500 people in there and it was my first really big crowd. After the response I got from being in there I was like ‘wow.’ Not only did I love it, but other people seemed to like it too and I decided this could be really fun.
CMTT: What would you say sparked the start of your music career?
Jimmy Smith: After I graduated high school I went to Belmont University. I didn’t go to school for music thinking I should be realistic about it and so I studied social work. Being at Belmont you get music opportunities regardless. I was in a choir while I was there, I met my producer while I was there, and I probably wouldn’t have an album out today if it weren’t for Belmont.
CMTT: Tell us about making your debut album “Stay Right Here.”
Jimmy Smith: Let me start by telling you how I met my producer. I was in my dorm room singing pretty loudly and I got a knock on my door and thought it was going to be my R.A. telling me to be quiet. It was actually my neighbor telling me I had a really good voice and that he was studying sound engineering and that we should work together sometime. That is what started the production of this whole album. I did actually write every single song on it. I never knew I could be a songwriter until I went to Belmont and was hanging around other people who were doing it. I started putting my thoughts down, and out of necessity and expression I started writing songs. One thing that is really funny is I wrote “What If She Loved Me” sitting right next to the girl it was about.
CMTT: Who are some of your musical influences?
Jimmy Smith: One of the first artists I latched on to when I was younger and have followed closely is Sara Evans. I think she is underappreciated as an artist. My cousin, who is like a sister to me, turned me on to the “Born to Fly” album. Sara started out real traditional sounding as well and kind of broke through when she added a little pop tinge to it and I think that has really had an influence on me and the way I write my music and sing my songs.
CMTT: What made you decide to try out for “American Idol” this year?
Jimmy Smith: I have actually tried all throughout Belmont to pursue the “American Idol” route. This is my 4th time auditioning. This time I was 80 pounds lighter, changed my hair, got Lasik surgery…I am not saying you have to do that, but I finally got it together in the health department and I felt more comfortable going after it this year because I finally had my own album under my belt and can get serious about it now. The other times I just thought I am a good singer, maybe I can do this, but this time I was really pursuing it as an artist. I believe that if the right people hear it I can really make a career out of this. Idol is an amazing platform, and this year I finally got my chance at it and it’s been awesome!
CMTT: While on “American Idol” you got to meet Keith Urban and perform for him. What was that like for you?
Jimmy Smith: It was pretty incredible. He is definitely one of my country music idols, so to be in front of him and receive praise was the best affirmation in the world.
CMTT: After you got eliminated did the judges leave you with any advice that stuck with you?
Jimmy Smith: It all actually happened really quickly, you say goodbye and walk out. However what you didn’t see on camera was after I actually had performed that night Keith called me up to the judges table and shook my hand and told me I did a really good job. That meant a lot to me to receive praise from someone who is doing exactly what I want to do.
CMTT: Is there anything you would have done differently on Idol looking back, or are you happy with the choices you made on the show?
Jimmy Smith: I have absolutely no regrets about it. Looking back I may have chosen a different song that last night because I knew Paul Jolley was doing a Keith Urban song as well. So looking back now I would have wanted to perform the first song I auditioned with which America actually never saw because I auditioned through an online video and randomly got a call to come audition for the producers. The song I did on the video was “ Probably Just Time” by one of my favorite Nashville songwriters Jonathan Singleton who has written hits for a ton of artists. He has written for Gary Allan, and David Nail just to name a few and I follow his career pretty closely.
CMTT: What is next for your career now?
Jimmy Smith: I am actually in the studio working on 2 brand new singles that I hope to have out in the near future. I will continue writing and pitching things to labels and see if I can get a publishing deal.
CMTT: What are a few things you want country fans to know about you or about your music?
Jimmy Smith: First of all I want everyone to know that if they have a dream to absolutely go after it because it just might come true. As far as me personally, I have been through a lot of hardships, but I believe you can overcome anything if you have faith in God and faith in yourself.
Jimmy has been busy lately playing gigs, writing and recording. He is excited about all the doors “American Idol” has opened for him and looks forward to what’s to come in the future. His album “Stay Right Here” is available on iTunes so you can click this link to check it out! CMTT recently reviewed the album and you can check that out HERE!
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