Interview: 'America's Got Talent' hopeful Chase Goehring talks songwriting, Ed Sheeran and 'Hurt' response
America's Got Talent YouTube

“America’s Got Talent” season 12 contender Chase Goehring has been compared to Ed Sheeran a lot lately and it’s easy to understand why. He’s a musically talented ginger, for starters. And, underneath his shy, boy-next-door demeanor he possesses a strong penchant for writing songs that resonate with his listeners. Case-in-point, is his emotionally intense original AGT audition song, “Hurt,” in which he addresses domestic abuse with cutting clarity.

In his audition, Goehring strummed his guitar and sang through the opening verses, reminding the girl at the heart of the song, “Hey baby, you don’t have to live this way.” Then mid-song, he launched into a rap with word-winding precision and silky-smooth speed. All four AGT judges rose to their feet at the end of the song and Mel B was visibly moved by its empowering message.

The Nolensville, Tennessee native hails from a small town just outside of Nashville, the country music capital of the world. He’s gigged there, in famous singer-songwriter hubs like the Bluebird Café. But, the 21-year-old multi-instrumentalist admits to frequently feeling like “a fish out of water” in Music City because his pop-rap songs are glaringly different than the strong country vibe pulsating in and around most local music venues.

Goehring started taking piano lessons in eighth grade. But, he didn’t pursue music passionately until he became inspired by renowned ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro. He taught himself how to play ukulele just before going into high school and started “really liking music.” He cites Shimabukuro, Eminem, James Bay, Tori Kelly, Ed Sheeran and Jason Mraz as some of his musical influences.

A quick search of Goehring's YouTube channel calls up several riveting original tunes like “A Capella” and “California,” as well as some impressive covers including Ed Sheeran’s “A Team,” One Direction’s “Story of My Life,” and a sweet, acoustic rendition of Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches.”

Goehring has already had some reality competition experience, having competed in the third season of “The X Factor USA.” His loyal fan base, called Chasers, have followed his post-“X Factor” musical endeavors with ardent enthusiasm. He seems humble in the face of all the attention last week’s AGT audition has recently garnered. He’s most happy, overall, about the domestic abuse dialogue “Hurt” has ignited.

AXS caught up with Goehring via phone yesterday to discuss songwriting, Ed Sheeran, and his dazzling AGT audition in the following exclusive Q & A interview.

AXS: You’ve been compared to Ed Sheeran and Jason Mraz. How does that make you feel?

Chase Goehring: It’s a huge honor, because all of them are insanely talented. To have people say, “You remind me of somebody that’s so talented,“ that’s a huge compliment!

AXS: What is your songwriting process like? Do you start with music or lyrics?

CG: It’s a little bit different every time. Sometimes I’ll just have this chord progression that I stumble upon and I’m like, “Oh, I can write a song to this. This is a cool chord progression.” Or, sometimes I’ll just think of a catchy lyric and I’ll be like, “Oh, I’ve gotta write a song about this.” Some of my songs are personal. Some are totally made up. Some are title songs. So, I’ll think of a title, like, I just wrote a song called “Sidewalk.”

AXS: There are probably a lot of ups and downs in a competition like this. What pushes you and drives you to keep going?

CG: I guess I’ve always just believed the only way you’ll really lose is if you give up. So, I mean, if you don’t keep going, then nothing good will ever happen. That’s how I look at it. Giving up isn’t an option.

AXS: Can you talk about “A Capella” and the meaning behind it?

CG: “A Capella” was one of those songs where I had that hook in my head. I was like, “This is so catchy. I really need to put this into a song.” But, I didn’t know what to do. I was in kind of a writer’s block. Around the same time, Ed Sheeran was coming to Nashville to perform at the Bridgestone. I went and he is a phenomenal performer. I don’t go to a lot of concerts but I was like, “This is insane.”

He did his song, “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You.” It’s all about him, what he stands for as an artist, what he’s about. I’ve never written a song about me. All my songs up until then were about somebody else or some kind of topic. I never really wrote a song about me. I was like, “I’m going to write a song about me.” So, there’s some inspiration from Ed Sheeran in “A Capella.”

AXS: You wrote an incredible tribute song to Christina Grimmie. In what way did she inspire you?

CG: I used to do a lot on YouTube. That’s where I started putting my stuff out. I remember her putting out these amazing covers on piano and I started on piano. So, I’d watch her stuff and it was super tragic what happened to her. She had so much going for her. She had so many good things to come. It’s just so sad. I was just really moved by that whole situation and I released the song. I had it on iTunes for a bit and all the proceeds were going to a school that set up a fund for her.

AXS: Can you describe your AGT audition experience? How did the positive audience and judges' feedback make you feel?

CG: I remember when I first started singing everyone was applauding and I was like, “This is good. Chill, they like the song.” I remember seeing the judges standing up and it was unreal. It was a surreal moment seeing the audience and the judges stand up for my original song that I put so much passion into.

I remember Howie was really impressed by the rapping. I remember Heidi said I was cute, so that’s always a win. Mel B was really touched by the message of the song, which probably meant the most to me because when I write songs, I really want people to feel something from them. I really want there to be a message that hits the hearts of people listening. I remember Simon going, “It was bloody fantastic!” I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe it.”

AXS: “Hurt” is an incredibly powerful song – what message do you hope people take away from it?

CG: The song is really about a girl that’s in a bad relationship physically and mentally. It kind of sheds a light on domestic abuse and toxic relationships. Stuff that people deal with, but I feel like they don’t have to. They don’t have to be in that situation, if they’re getting caught up in it. And, some people don’t know what to do, so they stay in that situation, because they feel like they don’t have the power to get away from it.

So, that song is a reminder you have power to get yourself out of this situation. You can do it and I believe in you. People have been coming to me with personal stories and how the song related to them. That put a whole new meaning into the song. That’s like the life and the heartbeat of the song right there. Because, I can write the song. But, if it doesn’t have any kind of impact or people don’t relate to it on a personal level, then it means nothing to me. So, that’s really humbling and they’re the reason for that song.

AXS: What has the support of your family and friends meant to you in your journey?

CG: My parents have always believed in me. Ever since I was a young age, they wanted me to try everything, to find what I’m passionate about and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I eventually just landed on music and they were all about it – super supportive. There’s never been a day when they aren’t supportive. They’re just great. My friends are extremely supportive and are all really excited about it. They think it’s just the coolest thing ever. So, the support is great. I can’t thank them enough.

AXS: Do you have a dream collaboration?

CG: Definitely Ed Sheeran, because so many people compare me to him and he’s had an insane amount of success-- and he’s a ginger like myself. That would be a dream, honestly. That would be insane. I’d also love to collaborate with people like Tori Kelly, I feel, would just be so cool. I feel like a collaboration with Justin Bieber would be cool too, because he’s collaborating with a lot of people right now. I feel like that would be a dope collaboration.

AXS: At this point, there are so many people pulling for you to go as far as possible. What would it mean for you to win?

CG: First of all, I’m super thankful for all of the support. I really wasn’t expecting it, honestly. I feel like (winning) could be life-changing. That would be a good term to sum it up. It could be a huge catalyst because I really want a career in music. I really can’t see myself doing anything else and I feel like to win “America’s Got Talent” could put me in a really good position to have that kind of career.

AXS: Do you have a message for your fans?

CG: I’m so thankful and I’m super humbled by this whole experience. I just can’t believe all the people that have come together to support this little ginger from Nolensville, singing original songs. It really has blown me away and it really is the reason I do it. Without all of them, my music would be meaningless. So, I really can’t thank them enough.

You can watch Chase’s “America’s Got Talent” audition in the attached video above. You can also watch the videos for his original songs “A Capella” and “Christina” below.

Follow @chasegoehring on Twitter.

“America’s Got Talent” airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on NBC.