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Interview: Jake Hoot opens up about winning ‘The Voice’, working with Kelly Clarkson and his new single ‘Night Left’

Singer-songwriter Jake Hoot was the winner of season 17 of ‘The Voice’ in the US in 2019.

Mentored by Kelly Clarkson, Hoot claimed victory and since then he’s been busy working on music and capitalising on the platform the show gave him. His duet ‘I Would’ve Loved You‘ with Clarkson and his EP ‘Love Out of Time’ have garnered plenty of attention and last Friday he released his new single ‘Night Left’.

I caught up with Jake to talk about his time on ‘The Voice’, discuss working with Kelly and to find out about his new music…

You won season 17 of ‘The Voice’ in the US in 2019 with Kelly Clarkson as your coach. What was that experience like?

It’s still something I think I’m trying to process even now. They invited me to come out and audition and I went out and auditioned then of course Kelly turned her chair. Every week I had my bag packed to come home but to have her on there and just her confidence boosting abilities – she’s just great about encouraging everybody that’s around her – definitely helped with my confidence. To get to record a song with her after the show was incredible, too. She’s just such a great genuine person. ‘The Voice’, even though it’s a singing competition, it never felt like a competition. We all just became family on the show so it was a great experience. I tell everybody, and I’m sure it’s the same way with ‘The Voice UK’, to go do it because you’re gonna meet a lot of incredible people and have a lot of great experiences. I’m very, very thankful that I was able to do that.

Kelly went through a similar process when she won the first season of ‘American Idol’. Was it useful to have a mentor that understood what you were going through?

Absolutely. On that season there was Blake (Shelton), Gwen (Stefani) and John (Legend), and while they didn’t have the singing competition background that Kelly did, I think they all have a grasp of what’s going on. But to have somebody who walked in that world before, especially being the first ‘American Idol’, I do think Kelly does have a different appreciation. She’s kind of like mama bear when it comes to that show. She’s very protective and very much adamant about taking care of all of her people on her team, even people that aren’t on her team she goes out of her way to talk to. While she had her Vegas residency, she would have people from all different teams come out that she had had that personal connection with. She’s just a great person and a great encourager and supporter of all her people.

The moment you won, Kelly was almost more excited than you. Her reaction was brilliant…

I tried to not pass out while she was screaming and running around. She only comes up to about here (Jake points to his chest) so it’s funny for her to be jumping up and down. That’s just the kind of person she is. She’s just such a huge encourager and she just loves to love on people so it’s special to have her as a coach.

Since winning the show you’ve come out of the gates strong with ‘I Would’ve Loved You’, featuring Kelly, and your ‘Love Out of Time’ EP. Was it hard to adjust following your win as you started to forge your own path in music?

Yeah, absolutely. I had played music at local bars, breweries and restaurants, for years leading up to ‘The Voice’ but never fully had the confidence to go out and do it as a full time gig. I think one of the hardest things for people that are on singing shows, whether it’s The Voice’ or ‘American Idol’, is trying to find your way after the show’s over. Whether it’s getting the right team around you, whether it’s getting with the right label, or whether it’s writing the right songs; it’s such a hard thing to navigate. We came out strong and we were booked through the next year at all these different venues, festivals and shows, and then COVID put everything on pause. At first I was like, ‘well, I can get my feet underneath me’ but after a while you’re just twiddling your thumbs and you’re lost in that aspect, too. There was a lot of adjustment periods and a lot of having to just learn on the go, and making the most of a lot of situations along the way. That led us to the ‘Love Out of Time’ EP because I just told everybody, ‘hey, if I’m going to be stuck at home, I’m going to be writing and I’m going to stay as busy as anybody else’. We wrote a lot of good music and recorded a lot. Being able to do that was fun and I’m learning everyday, by no means do I have it figured out. We constantly run into things daily, that you stomp your toe on something and you learn not to walk that same way the next time. You learn to pick your feet up the next time. It’s been a very hard learning process but it’s been very fun too. I’ve got a great team around me to help me out.

I always find it wild when I speak to artists, especially when they have a voice like yours, and they talk about struggling with confidence. If I had a voice like yours I’d be singing on street corners, to my neighbours… basically anywhere. Did ‘The Voice’ help you to find your confidence?

I think it’s a lot of factors. First and foremost, ‘The Voice’ helped a ton of that, whether it was Kelly’s coaching or it was our vocal coach Trelawney, who is behind the scenes but she works with every artist. You see millions of people respond to your voice and your music, and that’s definitely a confidence booster. If you pay attention to the negative ones, it could easily tear you up and get you in your head too because there’s a lot of haters out there but that definitely helped. Of course, you just meet people along the way in life. If you surround yourself with people that are genuinely in your corner and genuinely want to see you succeed, they’re going to build your confidence because they’re in the trenches with you. They want you to succeed because they believe in you. I think a lot of people get their confidence hurt because they surround themselves with people that are either fake friends or that have strings attached to everything. When those people blow up and leave, they leave that hole and they leave all those questions and doubt and stuff in people’s minds and hearts. I’ve been very fortunate, whether it’s my wife, whether it’s my team, whether it’s Kelly Clarkson or whether it’s other big name artists in the industry that have gathered and rallied around me and encouraged me and helped me along the way, I think every little bit has boosted my confidence. I’m by no means wanting to go out like you and sing on the corner to the neighbours and stuff, but I definitely step out there with a different kind of confidence now than what I did before ‘The Voice’.

I definitely won’t be singing to the neighbours because I’m pretty sure they’d just call the police…

(laughs) But you know what? I feel like that’s a pretty good reason to have the police called on you. There’s worse things (for them) to be called for y’know…

That’s true. I could be doing a lot worse. Your new single ‘Night Left’ is out now and it’s rockier than what we’ve heard from you so far. Why did you decide to put that one out as a single?

I feel like if you listen to the EP there’s a huge variety of different sounds and different vibes. Even before the EP, we released four singles last year and I wanted each one of them to be able to be a standalone song and have a different vibe and a different feel. One song that I found out that I was missing was that party summer vibe, just that rock and roll type song. I wrote it with Danny Myrick and Kylie Sackley and I told them, ‘I want this party type song, I want the song that people are listening to on their boats while they’re out on the lake, or that they’re listening to around the campfire at night’. We wrote the song and there’s a lot of fun lyrics and a lot of little catchy things that when we play live I see people singing along. I’ve got a six-year-old daughter who knows every word to the song and she loves it. I hear her walking around the house singing it so anytime you can capture that age of an audience, you know it’s a pretty catchy song. That’s why we went that route because I didn’t have anything that’s rock and roll in your face country right now. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out.

We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in the UK so it’s perfect for us to blast out while having some beers in the garden…

Heck, yeah! Well, if you’re going to be singing any song to your neighbours, be sure to sing ‘Night Left’. Just go ahead and give them a little taste of that song.

Yeah, I’ll let you know how that goes (laughs)

(Jake laughs) 

What’s your plan with music after this single? Are you working on a longer project?

We’re playing shows all the time. We would love to come over to the UK and as soon as we can get some shows booked overseas, we’re going to come over there and play some music. I am writing a lot of music and we’re hoping to do a full-length album probably at the beginning of next year. There’s no tentative date yet but I’m writing a lot of really good songs that I feel like people are really going to love. I’m staying as busy as I can. I just got married in March so I’m trying to be a great husband and a great dad, and being very present in family life is something that’s very high on my priority list. We’re just excited about what’s what’s to come. We’re playing a lot of big stages coming up here in the next couple months. Hopefully we’ll get ‘Night Left’ on the radio and hopefully it’ll start making things happen, bigger and better for us. Regardless, we’re just excited that people want to hear our music. As long as there’s a stage to play on we’ll be on it so we’re excited

We’ve definitely got to get you over to the UK…

Y’all just tell me! I’m there! I don’t care, I’ll come over with just a guitar and play. We’ll have a good time whenever we make our way over there.

I can’t wait. We’re so starved of live music that we’re chomping at the bit…

Absolutely. Unfortunately, COVID put everything on pause but playing live shows here in the United States right now, there’s a weird energy. I feel like it’s going to be the same thing over in the UK. When live shows do happen again, there’s almost going to be an over exaggeration with over populated shows because people are just dying to get out and listen to music and have a good time again. Music is a way for people to disconnect from all the cares and all the issues of what’s going on right now. We’re seeing it here and hopefully before too long live shows will start happening over there and it’ll be the same thing.

We’re a drunk rowdy bunch at the best of times but having not been to a gig for almost two years, we’ll be a mess…

They need to make a movie about that! I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of entertaining things over there… (laughs)

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ambulance at every show for the first few…

(laughs) They’re just wheeling people out, yeah? I love seeing people just have a good time. I feel like everybody in the world has been living in fear for the past year and a half. Just to see smiles on people’s faces and people be able to just relax and have a good time has been special over here. I’m sure it’s coming over there soon and hopefully we’ll be over there to play some music when it does happen.

Jake Hoot’s new single ‘Night Left’ is out now. Listen to the song below:

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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