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Fourth time is the charm
Former Waynesboro resident featured on ‘American Idol’
By Russ Corey -
Michael Becker/FOX
Wayne County graduate Jimmy Smith sings at the Charlotte auditions for “American Idol” in an episode that aired in January.

They say the third time is the charm.

For former Waynesboro resident Jimmy Smith, it wasn’t until his fourth “American Idol” tryout that he was finally accepted as a contestant on the popular talent/reality show.

While “American Idol” rules prevent Smith from revealing where he is in the competition, he did say the fields will be reduced to 20 male and 20 female contestants during today’s show.

Smith, 25, said he began auditioning for “American Idol” while he was still attending classes at Belmont University in Nashville, where he majored in social work.

“I went for the musical opportunities,” Smith said. “I probably wouldn’t have an album out if I hadn’t gone to Belmont.”

Smith now lives in Franklin, Tenn., and is employed as a nephrology social worker at Dialysis Clinic Inc. in Lebanon, Tenn.

Smith said he didn’t plan on auditioning for “Idol” this year. He’s participated in three unsuccessful “cattle calls,” but saw a tweet announcing the last day to submit a video audition online.

“Six weeks later I got a call from the producers who told me to come to Charlotte (N.C.) to audition,” Smith said.

He said this was the first year the show has allowed people to submit entries online.

“I didn’t even plan on it until I’d seen that Twitter post,” Smith said.

He took a chance on singing an obscure song by country singer/songwriter Jonathan Singleton for his video audition, then chose a Rascal Flatts song for his audition before the producers.

Smith said his voice is similar in range to that of Gary LaVox, of Rascal Flats, who he cites as an influence, along with Keith Urban, who happens to be a judge on “American Idol.” His original music is country with a pop twist.

“I’m trying to be on CMT, not MTV,” Smith joked.

While he has the option to, Smith said he won’t play any of his original music.

“Because I’ve watched it for years and years and that’s not how it works,” he said. “It’s not a platform for original music. The time to do original music is after the show.”

Smith wants to continue to pursue a career in music regardless of how far he goes through the program, which is expected to conclude in May.

“Before the whole ‘Idol’ experience, I was in talks with management companies to make music more of a focus than my day job,” Smith said.

While he’s lived in Franklin since starting college in 2006, Smith said his mother and stepfather still live in Waybesboro, which is about 40 miles north of Florence.

Smith comes home every couple of weeks and frequently plays with a group called The Bravados at Jeanette’s Food & Entertainment in Waynesboro.

The restaurant’s owner, Kale Keith, said Smith came into the restaurant about six months after it opened, which was about three years ago. Jeanette’s advertises an open mic night and hosts a variety of local musical acts.

“Him being a singer/songwriter from here, he came in one weekend,” Keith said.

Smith ended up joining Keith and his son, who were performing an acoustic show that night.

Keith, a former teacher at Wayne County Middle School, said Smith performed in various school talent competitions as a student.

“We obviously think he’s special,” Keith said. “I knew Jimmy was going to do something. Once he got the opportunity and they were willing to listen, I was pretty confident he would do well.”

Keith said the Bravados are Jeanette’s house band and include Smith, Keith’s son, a bassist and a drummer.

Shoals musician Paige Hampton attended Wayne County High School with Smith.

“He was always very supportive of our high school band,” said Hampton, who plays drums for two Shoals bands, the Divine 6/7 and Ursa Locomodus. “The first time he sang the national anthem at a high school basketball game everyone talked about it for weeks. No one knew he had such a great voice.”

Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or

‘It’s not a platform for original music. The time to do original music is after the show.’

Jimmy Smith

‘American Idol’ contestant

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