Meet The Voice 2017 win­ner Ju­dah Kelly

HOW DO YOU IM­PRESS DELTA, SEAL, BOY GE­ORGE AND KELLY ROW­LAND AT ONCE? 20-YEAR-OLD LAI­D­LEY MAN AND WIN­NER OF THE VOICE 2017 JU­DAH KELLY SHARES HIS STORY.

Style Magazine - - Contents - BY DAR­REN HALLESY

“The dream was my mother’s,” says the 20-year-old singer-gui­tarist. “It said she’d have a mu­si­cal son and she’d name him Ju­dah — Mum said I was hum­ming be­fore I could talk.

“In my mind there was noth­ing else I was ever go­ing to do, it was al­ways go­ing to be mu­sic for me, and I’ve al­ways wanted to per­form.”

Over a grip­ping ten weeks this year, Aus­tralia watched as Ju­dah’s ex­tra­or­di­nary gift came to fruition in sea­son six of The Voice.

The born coun­try-soul singer’s blind au­di­tion of Ten­nessee Whiskey had Delta, Seal, Boy Ge­orge and Kelly Row­land all turn­ing chairs in breath­less ad­mi­ra­tion.

“I re­mem­ber when I was three or four, I was in New Zealand and my grand­mother wanted to show me off, so I sang in front of the whole church and that was the ear­li­est per­for­mance I re­mem­ber.”

Ju­dah took out The Voice this year and his de­but sin­gle Count On Me went straight to num­ber one on the charts.

In­clud­ing that life-chang­ing ver­sion of Ten­nessee Whiskey, the rest of the al­bum show­cases a unique and pas­sion­ate slant on the coun­try genre, as well as Ju­dah’s res­o­lu­tion to make his own mark as an artist.

Over 10 weeks the 20-year-old from Lai­d­ley spent most of his time wait­ing to be sent home, but when he made the top four his men­tal­ity changed.

“I was ap­proached to au­di­tion for The Voice last year through a friend, and the day be­fore the auditions I pulled out,” Ju­dah says.

“I read the email and thought I couldn’t be both­ered... [but] this time I wanted to put the ef­fort in.

“It wasn’t un­til I made the top four that I thought I could win it.”

Ju­dah didn’t think he would make it through.

“I kept think­ing I’ll be cut next, and it didn’t hap­pen, then I thought next week I’ll go for sure,” he says.

“I just kept think­ing it was my time to go, but then when I got top four I re­ally started to think that maybe I could have a crack at it — my men­tal­ity changed.

“It went from top eight to top four quickly, and peo­ple said to me they could see a change in my ap­proach from that point — I took that ‘take no pris­on­ers’ ap­proach.”

Ju­dah made his de­but aged four, in a New Zealand church where his grandma proudly propped him up to per­form.

His pro­fes­sional ca­reer be­gan at 10, when he started fronting his par­ents’ karaoke busi­ness in Bowen.

“Peo­ple wouldn’t rock up un­til 10pm,” he ex­plains.

“Some­body had to sing ‘til then and it was usu­ally me.

“Deal­ing with drunk peo­ple and what­ever else hap­pens in pubs — see­ing all that so young def­i­nitely helped.”

For five years Ju­dah has worked as a live bass player, gui­tarist and stu­dio ses­sion player.

Last year alone, he drove 90,000 kilo­me­tres to play in­nu­mer­able gigs.

“When I won, there was a few sec­onds of re­al­i­sa­tion,” he says.

“In that sit­u­a­tion I didn’t want to mis­hear what was said.

“I heard my name and I thought... re­ally? You sure? It was gen­uine shock, and I think the look on my face showed how I was feel­ing.”

The next week was a whirl­wind for Ju­dah, who was raced around be­tween pro­mo­tion and record­ing, while bat­tling sick­ness and lack of sleep.

“It took a week or so to sink in to be hon­est, there was no time straight af­ter the show to ab­sorb it,” he says.

“The Voice wrapped up, then there was an af­ter party, then I got about 30 min­utes’ sleep, then had to do the first of 36 in­ter­views.

“Then I was do­ing a video clip for the sin­gle, then it was straight into

record­ing the al­bum… there was no chance to take in what had hap­pened.”

Count On Me was the orig­i­nal song that won Ju­dah the ti­tle in the nail-bit­ing se­ries cli­max.

“We did the Count On Me al­bum in 10 days, so it was lit­er­ally a week af­ter I’d won we started,” he says.

“Nor­mally it takes three to six months to do an al­bum and we did it in 10 days.

“Un­for­tu­nately I had laryn­gi­tis for a few days, so I went from The Voice to no voice, and that was a stress that we didn’t need.” His tal­ent was clearly ex­cep­tional. “It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of en­ergy sing­ing live ver­sus record­ing in the stu­dio,” Ju­dah says.

“I think I per­form bet­ter live, that’s just me per­son­ally — it’s an en­ergy you don’t get in the stu­dio.

“If there was a way to get that, I’d be happy to go there and record.”

The self-con­fessed fan of mo­town and coun­try mu­sic is happy with the al­bum he’s about to re­lease, and hopes that peo­ple pick up his in­flu­ences in the mu­sic, and on the cover.

“Grow­ing up I lis­tened to mo­town, from Michael Jack­son to The Temp­ta­tions, then at some point I liked coun­try mu­sic, and turned to Merle Hag­gard, Ge­orge Jones, and Vince Gill,” he says.

“When I was record­ing the al­bum I found some songs come easy, some take longer — you ba­si­cally do a few takes and pick the best.

“The al­bum cover is a ref­er­ence to Johnny Cash, it’s the kind of vibe we were go­ing for, and I’ve played lots of his mu­sic over the years.”

Ju­dah re­alises he’s been given a great op­por­tu­nity and plans to make the most of the chances he’s been given, so you can ex­pect to see him play­ing live for many years to come, as he be­lieves that’s what he does best.

It’s a long way from the man who was of­ten skint.

“There’s a per­cep­tion that peo­ple on TV tal­ent shows aren’t good, and aren’t that tal­ented,” Ju­dah says.

“This tour in Septem­ber is just me and a gui­tar… there’s nowhere to hide.

“It will show that I can sing and I’m a mu­si­cian, not just some­one per­form­ing one song at a time on TV.”

“It’s true that I did have mi­nus ninety bucks in my ac­count when I went for The Voice.” - WIN­NER OF THE VOICE 2017 JU­DAH KELLY

To hear Ju­dah plead for love in the stark soul groove of If I Go, and wring pure tri­umph in his first recorded co-write, When I Get Back Home, is to hear his story etched in songs of the most af­fect­ing kind.

“It’s true that I did have mi­nus ninety bucks in my ac­count when I went for The Voice,” Ju­dah says.

“I was driv­ing a car that cost more in fuel to get to the gig than the gig was pay­ing.

“It’s a wel­come change now to be in this po­si­tion.”

The fu­ture [is] rush­ing just as fast into view.

“The goal is to keep play­ing shows, that’s the plan,” he says. “It’s where I ex­ceed, live per­for­mances. “That’s where I see my­self go­ing — I’ve been given a great chance, and I’m go­ing to take it and run hard with it.”

Ju­dah is still ad­just­ing to fame, but he re­mains with his feet firmly on the ground.

“I once had some­one cry when they met me,” Ju­dah says.

“That was a first, so I just gave them a hug.

“Th­ese are the peo­ple who sup­ported me through the show, bought the songs, voted for me… and if I have to stand there for a few sec­onds and take a photo, then I’m happy to do that.

“The main thing for me is to keep it real and to keep mak­ing mu­sic that makes peo­ple feel some­thing.

“I want to make some­thing with mean­ing, that’s what the goal is. As long as I can pay my rent, I’m happy. If it gets big­ger than that, that’s a cool bonus.”

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED BY CHAN­NEL 9

PHOTO: STU­ART BRYCE/SUP­PLIED BY CHAN­NEL 9

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