It’s been a little over a year since Detroit singer-songwriter Jeff Gutt finished the tight race to snag a runner up finish on “X Factor USA” season three. The stint on the show was his second time there, having been sent home by Simon Cowell in season two at boot camp level. Cowell openly voiced his regret at that decision when Gutt returned to audition last year. He went on to earn repetitive praise from the judging panel, several four-judge standing ovations and mass critical acclaim until he sailed through to an extremely close second place finish.
Since then, Gutt has maintained single-minded focus about his music career goals. He spent most of 2014 back home in Detroit writing new material and performing a few local shows with his newly formed band. Fellow Detroit natives Gary Pittel and Cyamak Ashtiani are on guitar, KC Jenkins is on bass and Brandon Brown, who Gutt previously played with in Dry Cell, is on drums.
As a 38-year-old single dad, Jeff Gutt’s incomparable talent, humble attitude and intense drive to realize his dream to make things easier for his young son Talon, continues to inspire his large international fan base (aka JAG Army). Gutt has established a strong emotional connection with his fans through his music and they have passionately supported his creative endeavors before, during and after his “X Factor” run via several Gutt-dedicated Facebook fan pages, Gutt's Facebook page, Twitter and other social media outlets. Many fans even credit Gutt’s music for changing their lives. Therefore, it was no surprise when they turned out en masse at his post-“X Factor” debut show at Detroit’s Masonic Temple to wildly cheer him on.
His family, friends and fans’ unwavering faith in him and his son’s future continue to be Gutt’s driving forces. He’s an artistic perfectionist and will settle for nothing less than giving the best of himself in every song he writes and every show he plays. 2015 marks a new year filled with new possibilities. Gutt is currently in Los Angeles cutting an EP with multi-platinum record producer Matt Squire. Squire has engineered, produced or written tracks for Katy Perry, One Direction, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and more. This collaboration marks an exciting and important step in Jeff Gutt’s musical journey.
On Jan. 8, Gutt launched an Indiegogo campaign to help cover costs associated with his current project. As of Jan. 14, over $7,000 has been raised of his $50,000 goal. There are 40 days left in the campaign and several great perks are being offered at different donation levels. Visit the campaign page for more information.
I've had the pleasure of speaking with Jeff Gutt several times over the course of his whirlwind past year. The ever-charming Detroit area rocker graciously took time out of his busy schedule on Jan. 13 to catch up with me via phone to talk briefly about his previous shows and his current effort in the following AXS.com exclusive interview.
A: It’s been a while since we last connected. How was it playing for the Masonic Temple crowd?
JG: It was awesome just to see all the people that voted for me on the show, to see them all there. We had the Humanity CD out and everyone had time to get to know those songs. It was cool to have them singing the songs back to me and I did some stuff that I did on the show. It was fun and awesome and I couldn't have asked for a better night.
A: You also just did the Alice in Chains tribute show at the Detroit Pub. How did that come about?
JG: We did it like two years ago as a one-off thing because the bass player in that band, that’s what he does. He puts together theme nights called “Tru Presents” and they’ll do Guns ‘n Roses nights, they’ll do Foo Fighters nights, they’ll put together different bands with different people and have a theme night like that. He asked me a while back if I wanted to do the one a couple years ago for Alice in Chains. It was a great success the first time and the busiest night they ever had in the bar. This winter, we were approached and asked if we would do it again. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, so I was in the middle of writing and so I needed to do something that was different and not my music; something else I could concentrate on for a little bit to get out of my own head.
A: How did you spend Christmas?
JG: I spent it with Talon, went and did the family thing. It was cool being able to do that because I’m going to be busy coming up. Who knows where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it home for the holidays always. But, if there’s good stuff happening somewhere then I've got to go do it.
A: How did the idea for your Christmas EP, A Detroit Christmas, come about?
JG: It was something I wanted to do for the JAG Army and all the supporters who haven’t left, who are still there and still post, share and retweet and all those things. I wanted to do something for those people because I haven’t put out anything. I’ve just been working behind the scene on everything. So, I wanted to do something for them. It’s just a small gesture, three tracks. It was more about doing something for the people who are always there, being so supportive.
A: Did you make a New Year’s resolution?
JG: I think my New Year’s resolution is not to make any dumb decisions. That’s what I’m working on. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t mess it up. That’s all I’m trying to do right now. And, I’m trying to write the best songs that I can and make something that matters at the end of the day.
A: Congrats on connecting with Matt Squire! How did that happen?
JG: Thanks. That happened through an old friend who helped get Dry Cell their second record deal. He works with a lot of high end producers and he called me one day. His name is Rene Mata. He’s from New York and I've known him forever. He’s an old friend and he said, ‘I want you to meet with some producers.’ So I started meeting with producers and met Matt Squire. He was really receptive to my vision of what I wanted to do and [I was] open to his ideas. It just worked. You know if you have that, it just kind of clicks, when you talk to someone face to face and you have that conversation. He’s awesome. I couldn't ask for a better producer.
A: How is working together going?
JG: It’s awesome. We have five songs that we’re recording. We just did the drums yesterday. We’re doing vocals today. We’re going to start doing other stuff tomorrow. We have a lot of work yet to do, so we’re plugging away at it, working every day.
A: Is he co-writing with you also?
JG: Yes, absolutely.
A: Are the guys with you there on the project?
JG: On certain days, certain guys will be there. Brandon’s usually there with me because I’m staying with him and he’s a great resource for songwriting ideas or melodies or lyrics. He’s always just great to have in the room. It’s sort of a small room. So, the guys have a song and they’ve mostly been working on them on their own. When we did drums, Casey was there and Cyamak was practicing at home. It’s all working.
A: Can you tell us anything about the record? Is it going to be 5 songs?
JG: I’m not sure if they’re going to use 4 or 5. I don’t even know if it’s going to be released. It might just be used to shop for a record deal because Matt knows everybody in the music industry. We’re going to what and see what happens. Hopefully, there will be more than one company interested.
A: The Indiegogo campaign is going great so far. Can you talk about what kind of songs you’ve been writing?
JG: I’ll keep it a surprise. Very good ones. All I can say is, they might be a little unexpected. But, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised at how they are coming out.
A: Are you in L.A. indefinitely?
JG: Just until the EP is done. I have to be in New Jersey at the end of the month, back at Rider University to do a reunion show and a song there. Then I’m going to be coming home and see Talon for a while and visit the family and come back.
A: What has been your ongoing inspiration in all of this?
JG: Kind of just, everything coming full circle and coming to fruition. That’s been the motivation. Being away from Talon helps with the motivation because I’m a dad at the end of the day and my responsibility is to him. So, I have to do whatever it takes to make sure that he can have all he needs in his life. That’s my main motivation.
A: Do have a message you’d like to send out to your fans?
JG: I’d like to thank everyone for how the Indiegogo started so strong and just ask them to keep it going and keep sharing. Every day is a new day. So, we can reach out to new people every day. I don’t have a lot of time to be online right now. But that’s a good thing. It’ll all be good in the end.