Season three “X Factor” runner up and Detroit native rocker Jeff Gutt returned home following the exciting finale to take a much needed break to be with his son Talon, and his family and friends for the holidays. He arrived on the heels of one of the biggest ice storms Michigan has seen in more than a hundred years. And, in the midst of holiday hustle and bustle he found the time to make a three-year-old fan’s Christmas wish come true. He also played live in Shelby Township for New Year’s Eve.
The charming, ever-gracious and impressively grounded singer took some time out earlier today, Jan. 4, to talk with me about the tremendous support he’s received from family and fans, his future plans, songwriting, and some of his favorite things in the following Examiner exclusive interview.
E: The atmosphere at Ciccarelli's was so great the night of your final performances. What was it like seeing all of your friends and family and everyone supporting you when they cut to Detroit?
JG: It was awesome to feel that support because I’d heard about everyone supporting but to see it in front of my eyes was a different thing so it was it really awesome.
E: What was it like to play with John Rzeznik?
JG: I grew up loving that song and for him to take time out especially the way he did, to get on a flight the night before just to make it to there to have two hours of sleep to go up there and do that and get back on a plane again – and he wanted to do it, so it was really cool of him.
E: Your family has so many great reasons to be proud of everything you've done to get to this phase of your journey. What has having that support meant to you?
JG: It’s meant everything because it’s just been my life’s decision to pursue music. It’s good to finally show them that this is what I’m supposed to be doing so that they know, as well as me, I’m not going to give up on this and to have their support the entire way really means a lot.
E: The message from Talon was so sweet; you got kind of emotional. What did it feel like in that moment to hear that?
JG: I couldn't even watch it. As soon as I saw him there, I just lost it. So, I had to watch it back when I got home. I probably watched it like a hundred times. It was great to see him and hear him talking and he did a great job with it.
E: You recently gave a guitar to a three-year-old fan. What does it feel like to know that you’ve become sort of a hero for little children? How would you define being a hero?
JG: Mainly, I’m just trying to be a hero to Talon, and if I can do that, then I am doing well. For all the other little kids that get it, it just shows me that I’m really touching on the emotional side of the music and I’m doing it for the right reasons, because if they can get it, then anyone can get it.
E: Was it hard to part ways with Kelly (Rowland)?
JG: We got really close, especially toward the end. But I know she has her life and I have my life and we have to go our separate ways. Hopefully, we can reconnect in the future and share stories and stuff.
E: Did she give you a guitar? What kind is it?
JG: Yes, she did. It’s a Martin acoustic.
E: Do you play piano too, or other instruments besides guitar?
JG: Yeah, I can play piano; I just don’t know what I’m doing. I've played piano for an entire performance before, but I memorized every single note. I couldn't just play the chords and know what they were. So yeah, if I memorize everything, I can play piano.
E: How are your future plans coming?
JG: I’m on the phone a lot. I’m making head way trying to figure out who my team is going to be, who my band members are going to be and what the next steps are and all of that. This upcoming week I should get a better sense of when I’m going to be leaving and where I’m going to be going and what I’m going to be doing.
E: Your songs from your original record, “Humanity” are great. When you put your next CD out there, do you plan on being heavily involved in the writing process?
JG: I feel like the only way to make it mine is to be involved in the writing. I’m down for working with co-writers. But, if I’m not in it at all, then it feels like, why am I even doing it?
E: What kind of things do you draw on to write songs?
JG: I try to start with a situation or an emotion, or just something that affects me and I start from there and it usually turns out good. If I try to get too specific, then it doesn’t work.
E: Do you need to be in a certain place to write or can it just happen anywhere?
JG: It happens anywhere and everywhere.
E: Switching gears a little, can you tell us anything people would find surprising about you?
JG: I don’t know. That’s a good question! (Laughs)
E: What is currently on the top of your iPod playlist?
JG: I listen to a lot of Canadian bands. A band called I Mother Earth which was around ten years ago, twenty years ago maybe. I listen to that a lot and I listen to Our Lady Peace which is a Canadian band. Actually, my guitar player growing up is now their lead guitar player, so that’s a little strange.
E: That’s pretty neat.
JG: We went to a concert – me, my ex-girlfriend and him and the next year we went to the same concert in the same place, but it was just me and my ex-girlfriend and he was up on the stage playing, so that was a little weird.
E: What is the first live concert you ever attended?
JG: Jeff Healey, who played guitar in his lap, and Bon Jovi.
E: Is there a favorite live show you've attended?
JG: Slash left Guns N’ Roses and started a band called Slash’s Snakepit and he had a different singer because he and Axl Rose weren't getting along. This guy named Eric Dover, who used to be a guitar player in one of my favorite bands called Jellyfish and he became the singer of the first Slash’s Snakepit record. They only did one record together and he got different singers for different records after that. But, he’s one of my favorite singers ever, so that was definitely one of my favorite concerts I've ever went to.
E: Do you perform any rituals or do anything to prep before you sing?
JG: I usually just take a nap (laughing).
E: Let’s do a list of your favorite things. I’ll say a word and you tell me what your favorite is. Favorite food?
JG: Favorite food would have to be steak.
E: Favorite dessert?
JG: I don’t eat dessert (laughs).
E: Favorite junk food?
JG: Potato chips.
E: Favorite movie?
JG: “Basquiat,” about Jean-Michel Basquiat, the artist from the early ‘80s.
E: Favorite TV show?
JG: I haven’t had time to watch TV shows, but probably “The Walking Dead.”
E: Favorite sound or noise?
E: Favorite city (besides Detroit)?
JG: Probably Nashville. They have awesome boots.
E: Favorite thing to do on a date?
JG: I haven’t been on a date in ages. I don’t even know. I don’t even know how to go on a date anymore.
E: Favorite cartoon or Super Hero when you were younger?
JG: It’s always been Spider-Man, I think. That’s probably where Talon gets it from.
E: Favorite country outside of the U.S. that you’d like to visit – have you ever been outside of the country?
JG: I’ve been to Canada and Mexico. I’d like to go anywhere, actually. Anywhere would be good.
E: By the way, how does it feel to have such a large, growing international fan base?
JG: It’s great. It means I can tour for a long time.
E: Fifty years from now, if you were looking back at your life or others are looking back at your life, what do you hope that someone would say about you?
JG: I guess it would be that I was tenacious and that I didn't give up, because I think that’s the most important thing for anybody.