There was only one place Jordan Smith wanted to be to celebrate the release of his debut CD, Friday.
“Maintaining the connection that I have to Harlan, my hometown, has been super important to me,” Smith said in the back of the Harlan Wal-Mart while fans lined up in the store to have him sign their copies of his debut album, Something Beautiful.
The feeling appeared to me mutual as more than 1,000 fans, according to police and Wal-Mart management estimates, lined up to have Smith sign CDs and other memorabilia from their hometown hero who became a star late last year winning NBC’s singing competition show The Voice.
“He’s such a super nice guy and we’re so proud of him for where he came from to where he’s gone, and where he’s going to in the future,” said Clara Blevins, a family friend who was in line with a crew of supporters. “We just really love him. He’s a really special guy.”
The line for the 11 a.m. event started forming at 6:30 a.m., when Annette Saylor of Cincinnati arrived.
“I just fell in love with Jordan’s singing on The Voice and followed him through The Voice, and the more I watched, the more I fell in love with his personality,” Saylor said. “I’m very happy for him; he’s going to have a wonderful career.”
Saylor was far from the only out-of-towner at the event. Doris and Robert Gribble drove in from Dunn, N.C. to meet Smith. Gospel songwriter Charles Newton of Danville was near the front of the line, saying he hoped Smith would record one of his songs someday. And Tammy Seales of Morristown, Tenn., got off a 12-hour shift as a home healthcare worker, got her granddaughter and came up for the event.
Despite the fact that runner-up Emily Ann Roberts was from her neighboring Knoxville, Seales said she was always in Smith’s corner, watching The Voice. (Smith is a student at Lee University in nearby Cleveland, Tenn.)
“He’s so down to earth and such a spirit-filled individual,” Seals said. “You can feel him through his music, and that’s why I’m here today. He’s going to be a real role model.”
Seals joked that she wanted to ask Smith to marry her, “but he’s already taken.”
The woman who took Smith, his longtime girlfriend Kristen Denny, was standing close by as Smith met his fans.
“It’s been a little crazy, but a ton of fun,” Denny said of the few months since Smith won The Voice, which included Smith proposing to her over the holidays. “It’s great to see his dreams coming true.”
Denny recounted some of the big events she and Smith have been at since his win, including the Super Bowl, but said, “by far the best was him singing the national anthem at the UK game and getting floor seats,” which also happened in December.
Waiting to meet his fans, Smith looked dapper in a crisp white shirt, burgundy sweater and tailored trousers. He acknowledged that it was certainly an update from the famous cardigan and plaid shirt he wore for his first on-air Voice audition.
While things have changed for him though, Smith said before the meet-and-greet, “I’m still often the guy in the plaid shirt and cardigan.”