On Jan. 14, Jeff Gutt’s growing global fan base aka JAGarmy, replied via email and Facebook messaging to a Flint TV Examiner request posted in Jeff Gutt Facebook fan groups asking for comments about their favorite singer.
In the following Examiner exclusive interview, members of the humble rocker’s JAGarmy shared candid responses about how Jeff Gutt inspires them. They also weighed in on the kind of songs they hope Jeff will write for his next CD and revealed what they would like to say to Jeff, if they were given the chance to speak directly to him.
The steady stream of numerous heartfelt responses contained an impressive resounding theme: Jeff Gutt’s songs have healed hearts and fuel dreams.
Making a Connection
Songs tell stories and great artists deliver them in a way that makes a strong emotional connection to their audience. For this reason, a song is arguably one of the most powerful forms of artistic expression. In fact, many people can chart a timeline of their entire life according to the song that was playing at a pivotal moment. A first dance, first kiss, high school graduation, college frat party, a breakup, a wedding, a funeral; the list goes on.
It’s been almost a month since Detroit native singer/songwriter Jeff Gutt scored his second place finish on season three of “The X Factor.” Over the course of the intense competition, the 37-year-old single father received multiple four-judge standing ovations, dominated the Top 10 iTunes Rock Charts, hushed an entire live audience with his emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” and brought the same audience roaring to its feet in thunderous applause following his sensational signature version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Perhaps the humble rocker’s most impressive feat, however, is the imprint he’s made on thousands of hearts around the world.
Touching Lives and Healing Hearts
In covering his “X Factor” journey, members of Jeff Gutt’s fan base have repeatedly reached out to me via email and social media to praise him after reading one of my reviews. It quickly became clear the passionate singer has touched many of his fans on a deeper, emotional level.
Jeff's music and his journey became a source of light for supporters who have struggled through a variety of their own challenging life circumstances. Here are some of the stories fans graciously shared about how he has touched and in some cases transformed their lives.
At 63, Margie Rovarino went through the arduous and emotional task of putting her elderly mother in a nursing facility, selling her house and getting rid of her things. She drew strength from Jeff’s journey in this incredibly difficult time.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it took a village to get me through this past year,” said Margie. “I don't know what I would have done without the wonderful distraction and inspiration Jeff gave to me vis a vis ‘X Factor.’ Every week I would gear up for the week's performance(s). I would download the music and listen to all the songs on the difficult 90 mile trip to and from my mother's house. I often found Jeff's songs to be particularly inspiring, knowing that he had failed once at getting through ‘X Factor’ last year. I felt a sense of ‘you can do it because HE is doing it’ every week. I know it sounds silly, but Jeff became my beacon of hope and light in a dark, dark world for several months.”
First grade teacher from Fontana, California, Clarice Riggio Ocampo is inspired by Jeff’s tremendous talent, perseverance, and his obvious love for his son, Talon. Watching him bounce back from his season two cut to fight for his dream again this year touched her heart in a very personal way.
“Jeff's story brought me back because I lost my father from cancer and immediately to sepsis four years ago. I hadn't come to terms with a lot of things, but hearing Jeff's beautiful voice allowed me to gradually have a healed heart,” Clarice offered. “My dad worshiped me. The bond we had is something that I can see Jeff and his son having. My dad looked at me with such proud eyes. Hearing Jeff's songs, I am able to close my eyes and hear and see my dad once again. I cried at many of Jeff's performances because he is THAT GOOD, but also because of what he was able to do for me personally … I thank Jeff so much because I am now dealing with feelings and emotions that I pushed aside that day I lost my world--my dad, and I can't begin to thank him from the bottom of my heart. His whole story, all of his songs, and he himself has inspired me and taught me that I can feel again and I am worth persevering to reach my own goals.“
Lexi Filatkina, one of Jeff’s ardent Russian fans compared him to a legendary Jedi master from the blockbuster “Star Wars” movie franchise.
She said, “Once Jeff said that John Shanks is his Obi-Wan Kenobi and I can definitely call Jeff my Obi-Wan.This extremely talented, honest, humble, handsome, amazing man brought me back to myself and gave me FORCE that I believe will be with me ALWAYS. So, I'm back to accomplish my way toward my two biggest dreams. It’s never too late. When I succeed (I know, I will), I have a few points on my mind that I'll dedicate to Jeff.”
Anja Buzga from Slovenia is impressed with Jeff’s ability to manage the “rollercoaster in his life.” She said, “Jeff has an amazing vocal and the fact that he sings with his heart and soul is a wonderful thing. There have been some beautiful times and of course some rough times too. [You can tell] he's a brave and strong man.”
During an Examiner exclusive interview, Jeff and I discussed music’s power to touch and heal lives when people need it most. He has already impacted countless numbers of hearts with his gift and his recipients couldn't be more grateful.
Chuck Jones credits Jeff with getting him through a dark place. “Jeff inspired me, watching how humble and hungry he was to succeed, captivated me,” said Chuck. “He will never know how much he changed one single life, let alone thousands.”
Like many of Jeff’s fans, Donna Padilla from Joplin, MO, started following him after hearing him sing “Hallelujah” on “The X Factor” in 2012. Being compelled to research his early career and seeking all of Jeff’s music she could find, led her to Facebook. The social media site opened up a new world for Donna, who was homebound. Connecting with members of Jeff’s swelling JAGarmy enabled her to forge some rich and lasting friendships.
She expressed heartfelt gratitude saying, “You, [Jeff] without knowing it, have changed my life so much for the better. The outside world is now here in my home with me and not just America, but people from all over the world. I cannot thank you enough for gifting me with your wonderful vocals and for opening a new world to me. I am proud to be one of your many fans and am so behind you in your journey ahead. You will make a world impact in the music business without any doubt as your time is NOW.”
Writing Future Songs
Jeff's “X Factor” live performances commanded 6 of the Top 10 spots on the U.S . iTunes Rock chart and fans have been busy downloading songs from his first CD, “Humanity.” Along the way, Jeff has garnered fans from all over the world in Brazil, Canada, Japan, the UK and Russia just to name a few.
Unfortunately, Jeff’s “X Factor” performances are not currently available internationally. So, the JAGarmy created an e-petition for FOX network and “The X Factor USA” to make his performances available for worldwide download.
On Jan. 14, Jeff posted a picture on his Facebook page of a spiral notebook lying next to his guitar to indicate he’s writing again.
When asked what kinds of songs they would like to see Jeff write for his next CD, JAGarmy members offered a variety of enthusiastic replies.
Carolyn from Chicago wondered if he would be open to pursuing other genres, especially after the tremendous job he did with Big Band week and “Feeling Good.” She suggested he lean toward a jazz sound and said, “He has both range and power. I think he could have endless opportunities if he is willing to expand his horizons.”
Nami Yoshino of Japan said, “I want him to write his particular passionate and beautiful songs and acoustic heartfelt songs like ‘Daniel’and ‘Stay.’”
Jamielynn of Memphis offered effusive praise saying, “I just want him to keep making music exactly the same way. He says he writes about things that happen in life and I think that’s what writing is all about. I love, love, love his songs. ‘Stay’ is one of my favorites.”
Die hard rock fan Cheyenne Patterson of Augusta, GA is banking on Jeff Gutt to revive rock and roll for the current generation. She shared some very specific advice for his future music endeavors. “ I hope he writes about how he made it and how he never gave up,” said Cheyenne. “His last album ‘Humanity’ was a lot about heartbreak. So, I would like something that would make him feel happy when he goes back and listens to it, not just JAGarmy. I want him to listen to it and say ‘Yea I made it’.”
Say You, Say Me
Jeff Gutt has effortlessly displayed a sort of sixth sense about finding the emotional core of a song and therein hitting his vocal stride. He tunes into listeners' hearts and transports them to a visceral place in which they feel the anger, sorrow, love and passion in every song.
Melissa Marchesani of Ridgewood, NJ discussed this rare talent saying, “Jeff is absolutely incredible; when he sings you can’t help but get drawn in. His gift is unique, not many performers can make someone feel the music with them.”
While oceans and continents may separate the rising star from most of his supporters, his songs and soul-stirring delivery bridges the distance between them. Jeff has been kind, gracious and attentive to his 100,000 plus Twitter and Facebook followers, in posting frequent updates, friendly greetings and gratitude. In person, Jeff Gutt is just as real, humble and grounded as has been on TV or in live interviews.
While many of his local followers have watched Jeff play live at various Michigan venues over the years, most of his fans have never met him. This fact doesn't stop them from reaching out by streaming messages of encouragement and adoration across Twitter, Facebook and his YouTube channel.
When asked what they would say to Jeff if they could speak directly to him, JAGarmy members first and foremost sent messages of love and gratitude.
The attached video conveys some of the things they wanted to tell him, along with the following heartfelt comments.
Lachica Chikee Marilyn, a Phillippines native currently in L.A. said, “You caught me at first with ‘Hallelujah’ but I never got tired of watching your ‘Creep’ audition over and over again. Your looks set you apart. You sing amazingly. I feel your sincerity.”
Tara Elizabeth of Centerville, OH offered, “Thank you for not giving up on your dream. I'm so proud of how far you have already come and I can't wait to see where God takes you next.”
Alicia Maryweather said, “Thank you for all the friends I never would have met if it wasn't for you. I’m so proud of you. You make me proud to be from Michigan. I'll always be a fan and I can't wait to see your career take off.”
“Thank you for your music and bringing hope into my life that one day when the time is right my dream will come true too,” said Tonya Doty of Greenville, MI.
Jackie B. said, “Thank you for having the courage and determination to compete on “X Factor” again, for putting your life on hold, and having your life out in the open. People make rash judgments about people. You are a single dad, and showed that Talon is your main focus in life. Thanks for showing that emotion and your family’s importance. As Simon said “If you’ve got it, you’ve got it” and Jeff Gutt, you have it in spades.”
Fortune 500 company employee Sally Maione of Ft. Lauderdale, FL has proudly shared Jeff’s music with people of all ages. She advised him, “Stay true to yourself and your convictions,” and added a personal request, “Hug Talon for me and write me back Dude!”
Jeff Gutt enjoyed a relaxing time with his family over the holidays here in Michigan and played live in Shelby Township on New Year’s Eve. During his performance he made a special dedication to one of his loyal JAGarmy members, Karen Julian of IL. She offered Jeff this heartfelt message:
“Jeff Gutt – I feel there’s not enough time or paper for me to express how this man has touched my heart and soul. Jeff has a voice of an angel and in many ways he’s my angel. At Jeff’s New Year’s Eve performance he dedicated and sang a song for me. It was not only a surprise but it was so beautiful. Jeff’s character is what makes him as amazing as he is. Single parents everywhere look up to him. He has changed the face of music and made it his own. I look forward to buying his first album. You can guarantee he will put his heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears in it. I’d like Jeff to know I am so thankful for him. He will forever be in my heart and have a piece of my heart. I love you my friend and God Bless.”
Finally, Valerie McCarty of Michigan channeled Richard Curtis with her Jeff Gutt spin on one of the most famous lines of dialogue in a romantic comedy by saying, “We are just some fans, standing in front of a rock star, asking you to love us.”