CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It didn’t take long for local musician Jeffrey Adam Gutt to win a national fan base: just seven minutes of primetime exposure on FOX’s “The X Factor” that included belting a gritty-yet-soothing rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Thousands of fans cheered and applauded within the auditorium, as the Clinton Township resident’s performance won “yes” votes from all four judges.
“Jeffrey, I’ve heard that song a lot,” said “X Factor” judge and creator Simon Cowell. “I’ve sat in this chair a long time. It was one of the most brilliant auditions I’ve heard.”
Afterward, judge Demi Lovoto said aside to Cowell, “He’s like the Josh Groban of rock ‘n’ roll.”
“Better,” Cowell replied.
“I was completely confident in the singing aspect,” Gutt said. “I was more nervous about talking to them and the questions they were going to ask me.”
After that, Gutt, 36, made it through to the final rounds of cuts of the intensive “boot camp” portion of the competition. After that, only six acts in each of the four categories — 24 singers and bands of the thousands who auditioned — moved on.
Back in Michigan, Gutt was under contract not to discuss his elimination until it aired. Since its airing on Oct. 10, a network of fans began immediately voicing protest online, with a “Bring Back Jeffery Adam Gutt to X Factor” page on Facebook earning 1,912 likes; even Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” tweeted, “OMG my fav guy Jeffrey Gutt didn’t make it. What the hell XFACTOR. Kewl.”
But for Gutt, who first realized that he wanted to be a professional musician at age 6, the local performances continue to go on while he waits for his “X Factor” contract to expire, freeing him to pursue other endeavors.
He continues to play a steady lineup of gigs and charity events with the bands Punch and Band With No Name at venues around the metro Detroit area, including the Tin Fish at the Mall at Partridge Creek.
Candis Koch, owner of the Tin Fish, said she has been watching Gutt perform at her establishments as far back as 15 years ago. In person, he’s calm and respectful, but his performances are very energetic, she added.
“He’s the best singer who has played at my establishments,” Koch said. “I wasn’t surprised that he was a contestant on ‘The X Factor,’ but I was shocked when he got cut because he was by far way better than some of the contestants who they were moving forward on.”
But Gutt said he’s not disappointed about being cut from the show. For him, his “X Factor” success meant the validation that “I was right” in all the creative battles he fought for years in the music industry.
“By making me look good on TV and then cutting me, they gave me a bunch of power … in the music industry that I can use now to my advantage,” he added.
It was the punch he needed to break through the wall into the elite world of the music industry, since musical competition TV shows have become the music industry “norm” now, he said.
“Metallica did it by playing shows every night and creating an army of fans. I did it by going on ‘X Factor’ and giving one two-minute performance that could affect people enough to parlay that into a career,” he said.
But, for Gutt, there was a bit of love-hate involved with the show.
For nine years, between 2000 and 2009, Gutt lived in Los Angeles while singing as the frontman for the now-defunct nu metal band Dry Cell.
Gutt said it was during that time that he was exposed to what he called the “shady” side of the music industry. “They weren’t all bad experiences, but I definitely saw the greedy side of it, which was a big disappointment because I always thought it should be more about the art.”
An October 2002 New York Times article chronicled Dry Cell’s rise to the brink of mainstream stardom, and subsequent derailment, after relations soured with its Warner Bros. record label.
“Going to ‘X Factor’ was like going to see an old friend that had burnt me in the past,” he said. “I was only there for my son, but I knew what game they were playing.”
Gutt found out that he had a son, then just 8 months old, after returning to Michigan from California in 2009.
“I just felt the need that I had to be near him,” he said of son Talon, now 4. “When I came back, it was also a time for me to reconnect with all my family members because I didn’t see them for a lot of years. I gave up a lot of things, including friends and family, to go try to make this happen.”
The first time Talon heard his dad sing was during the televised “Hallelujah” audition. Afterward, the youngster rushed into his arms onstage.
“I don’t want to give up singing because I feel like that’s what I was meant to do,” he said. “But I need to take care of my son, so I saw (‘The X Factor’) as a perfect opportunity, even after all the years of thinking (shows like it) were the wrong thing for music in general, let alone myself. I just felt I had to do something big like that.”
Gutt traveled to North Carolina for try-outs before that first televised audition.
Looking back, he understands the gravity of the opportunity the show gave him. And with that opportunity, he said, comes a responsibility to put out “real music,” as opposed to what industry executives might want him to do.
“If I do anything, it’s going to be what I’m comfortable with, which is what ‘X Factor’ did for me. They gave me that opportunity,” he said.
Stepfather Jim Albert, who accompanied Gutt through most of the auditioning process for the show, said he wasn’t surprised at how well Gutt did.
“I just knew he was going to go through,” Albert said. “He’s just talented.”
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