On Dec.18, Detroit native “X Factor” Top 3 Finalist Jeff Gutt’s friends, family and fans came together to honor and support him for “The X Factor” hometown live TV feed during the contenders’ final performances.
The air at Ciccarelli’s Sports Bar Theater in Shelby Township, Michigan, was charged with excitement and enthusiasm as members of Jeff’s family, his longtime friends and local admirers who have followed his career for years rallied to remind Jeff that everyone back home is rooting for him to finally realize his lifelong dream.
Distinguished attendees at the celebration included Mayor Charles Brown of Marine City, Michigan where Jeff grew up, Detroit Redwing Hall of Famer and venue Proprietor Dino Ciccarelli along with several members of Jeff’s family including his step-mom, Shelley, and several aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends.
Regardless of tonight’s results, for the 400 plus people gathered there to show support for Jeff Gutt on the eve of what is certain to be an intense live results show, feel he is already a winner and a hometown hero.
Several guests graciously took time to speak with me about following Jeff on his incredible “X Factor” journey and one unifying sentiment became abundantly clear: They are immensely proud of all he’s accomplished thus far and the fact that he’s never given up pursuing his dream continues to inspire them all.
Many of the people gathered at Ciccarelli’s have known Jeff for most of his life and have watched him relentlessly and fearlessly pursue a path that was not without its share of struggles and challenges. Many of them also marvel at his sheer grit and determination to keep pushing for success in an industry that is often cruel and unforgiving.
The people who know and love him best have witnessed Jeff’s unwavering passion for music – even at times when it seemed like serious recognition kept slipping out of his grasp. One thing they collectively agree upon: Jeff Gutt has what it takes to win “The X Factor” title and nobody deserves it more.
Longtime friend Jessica Gadawski said, “He’s been doing this longer than anyone else on the show and he’s been working so hard as long as I've known him, I know his whole family. He’s just hard-working. He’s a great dad. I think out of everyone, he deserves it the absolute most. I love you Jeff and you have the ‘X Factor,’ no matter what.”
Melanie and Cat had a beautiful custom sign designed for the special event. Cat said, “It’s so exciting that for a change we've got someone that’s struggled their whole life and the raw talent, they take that out of the box to a contest that is really out of their element, for a rock and roller to get this far.”
Jeff’s cousin, Ed Green, credits Jeff’s mother, Adele, as the source of his undeniable grit because “she’s feisty.” He added, “He’s stuck with it since he was a kid. I remember him playing at his brother Dan’s graduation party and he was a kid. He’s been doing it for a long time and never gave up.”
At 37-years-old, Jeff is the oldest of the Top 3 Finalists and with his age comes a discernible wisdom. He’s learned from his mistakes and moving forward, he has a much clearer vision of what he wants to achieve in his music career.
He has wowed the viewing audience and “The X Factor” judging panel every week by delivering some astounding performances that impressively topped the iTunes Rock chart holding six out of ten places in the Top 10.
At this point, with only two artists standing between him and the title, Jeff continues to be living proof that dreams can come true with hard work, talent and undeterred focus.
Another aspiring Michigan musician, Lisa Kasperek, has followed Jeff’s career extensively and has made the reality competition show circuit herself. She has been impressed by everything Jeff has achieved this season and is so proud to see what Jeff's success has done to boost local morale and pride.
She said, “As an artist he always puts so much effort and enthusiasm into his show. I’m really excited because being from Detroit, Michigan it shows he can bring something back from us because we’re Motown. We have the talent. Many shows don’t come to Detroit. So we’re so proud to have him there and just really show off.”
Among those performances, Jeff’s uncle and godfather, John Reinhard, named Jeff’s incomparable semi-final performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as his favorite. John is beaming with pride for his nephew and ultimately wishes that win or lose, Jeff will get some sort of a record contract as a result of this incredible experience.
He also noted the great love that Jeff has for his 5-year-old son, Talon and spoke about what an inspiration Jeff continues to be to his family. “He’s very unique in what he does,” said John, “and he gives us all a lot of inspiration to keep doing our jobs hard and try to do the best we can, just like Jeff.” He added a message to his nephew, saying, “We’re all behind you and support you and keep up the good work Jeff!”
During an Examiner exclusive interview, Jeff humbly conveyed that it’s hard to gauge from there, the level of impact his performances have made for not only friends and family, but millions of viewers across America.
For Nikki, a Detroit area single mother of five children ranging in ages from 15 to 3, the power of Jeff Gutt’s music is immeasurable. Her nine-year-old daughter Summer is battling terminal brain cancer and has become completely enraptured with Jeff’s chart-topping performance of “Hallelujah.”
She said, “My friend Stacey Holland told me I had to see this (Hallelujah) video and I loved it. So, I shared it with my kids. My 9-year-old has a tumor on her brain and she’s not doing well. But, I’m telling you, this song. This song does something to her. It does something to us. Every time I hear it, it gives me chills. We love it and I would be in no other place right now than right here, in support of such a great guy.”
She wanted to send Jeff a special message on behalf of herself and her children: “Congratulations to the 2013 winner of ‘The X Factor!’ You need to bring it home!”
Nikki’s touching and heartfelt story speaks to music’s power to move people spiritually and touch lives and hearts in the most profound ways. It’s very clear to Nikki and to everyone at the local live feed event that Jeff Gutt possesses the extraordinary ability to reach people on a deeper, spiritual level with his gift.
The level of local pride in the room at Ciccarelli’s simply couldn’t be contained as Jeff delivered one astounding performance after another. Cheers and chants, singing and dancing, laughter and tears rippled through the room from his commanding presence in the “We Will Rock You” group opener, to his mesmerizing extended reprise of his season three audition song “Creep.”
Throughout the competition, Jeff continually raised the bar for himself. Each performance was a little stronger than the previous one as he flexed his vocal and creative muscles across many different genres.
His tantalizing delivery of Aerosmith’s mega-anthem “Dream On,” nearly raised the roof at the local live feed, where the crowd’s excitement reached a monumental fever pitch. And, the judges were equally impressed, with Demi Lovato noting “you took it to a whole new level” and Simon Cowell adding, “You are the real thing. I can’t imagine a record company not signing you after that performance.”
Hometown spirit continued to soar as the crowd raised their “Gutt Bomb” shot salute, while chanting “Gutt, Gutt, Gutt!” to toast his triumphant duet with Goo Goo Dolls front man John Rzeznik.
All in all, it was a night to remember as a local hero was awarded the key to Marine City by an ecstatic Mayor Charles Brown who shouted to Jeff via the live feed, “I’m behind ya, Mayor Brown from Marine City, your home town! Here’s the key to the city! It’s all for you Jeff! Bring it home! Bring it home!”
Jeff’s love and appreciation for everyone back home and beyond was easily apparent in his tearful and emotional messages of gratitude throughout the show.
There can probably be no bigger pride than that of Jeff’s parents. His very vibrant and gracious step-mom Shelley shared what it’s been like for she and Jeff’s father, Greg, while they've supported Jeff on this life-changing journey.
She said, “It’s been exciting. It’s been fulfilling to see one of your kids do this. A lot of people every week when he performs, they start texting and calling us and they say 'Oh my God!', because they’re so surprised. We’re not surprised. We expect this from him because we know he’s got it in him. We weren’t really surprised. We don’t expect anything less. Every week it’s just getting better.”
Exciting seems like an understatement after watching a quiet, hard-working, and talented Michigan musician earn local, national and international acclaim. In this grueling-yet-remarkable journey, Jeff Gutt has obviously emerged as a versatile and vocally dynamic artist.
Under the guidance of his wise Grammy-winning mentor Kelly Rowland, Jeff has dominated the iTunes Rock chart with 6 songs breaking into the Top 10. He has performed in front of millions, taken the stage with one of his Grammy-nominated heroes, made a renowned rock opera his own, paid a very heartfelt musical tribute to his brother Dan, earned the key to the city where he was raised, and on a more personal, spiritual level, he has touched the heart of a terminally sick little girl and her family with his song.
Jeff’s step-mom probably sums up this astounding list of achievements the most succinctly, with her single-word description of his journey: “Wow!” Her heartfelt message to Jeff also probably echoes the thoughts of many of Jeff’s growing legion of supporters, the JAG Army.
“Jeffrey I love you. I couldn't love you anymore if you were my own and you make me proud.”
Tune in tonight on WSMH FOX66 to see “The X Factor” Season 3 Finale results show in Flint on WSMH FOX66 at 8 PM ET.