Jason Wilkes, formerly of High Flight Society and Disciple, and JFH's Christopher Smith discuss WILKES' blind audition on The Voice, his musical career, and what's next for him as an artist...
JFH (Christopher): What was your experience like auditioning for The Voice?
This interview took place on: March 12, 2018.
JFH (Christopher Smith): First, for our readers who may not be familiar with your work with High Flight Society or Disciple, can you describe your musical background and what you've been up to lately?
I was the lead singer and rhythm guitar player for High Flight Society. We were together for 12 years. That band is what built my foundation as a professional musician. After High Flight, I spent almost 3 years in Disciple as the bassist and background vocalist. Since leaving Disciple, I have signed a publishing deal with Dan Hodges Music as a staff songwriter. DHM is a country publisher in Nashville and I've been writing for DHM going on 2 years now. The songs I write are both for myself to possibly record as well as pitching to mainstream country artists. On the artist side of things these days I am performing under the name WILKES. The best way to describe my music is "a pop/rock sound over country songs." I released a song called "Stealing From Heaven" as a single in late 2017.
My experience at The Voice thus far has been amazing! Everyone that works for the show is super nice and easy to work with. It's one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had. The audition process is pretty long but the people that work for The Voice keep it easy going and encouraging for everyone. Deciding to audition for the show took a ton of thought and prayer. I honestly didn't think I was going to do it at first but my wife (and guitar player, Shane) pushed me into it. *Laughs.*
JFH (Christopher): I noticed in your intro video that played before your performance that you were playing Jesus Paid It All on the piano in one of the shots. How hard is it to be bold about your faith on national television?
It's not hard at all. For one, there are a lot of believers on the show with me so I'm not alone in that. The show is very accepting of all the contestant's personal beliefs and encourages us all to be ourselves on camera. It's never been hard for me to show my faith. The only difference on national television is the fact that there are cameras capturing it. I'll never diminish my faith regardless of the situation.
JFH (Christopher): How does performing on the stage of The Voice compare to performing on stage at a WILKES, High Flight Society, or Disciple show?
The Voice stage is a very unique experience in every way--especially on stage. I've been doing this for a long time and I've seen pretty much everything you can imagine from the stage. Singing for four celebrities who are facing the other direction though... that was a first. The production value of the show is through the roof. Everything is the best of the best. The stage is run like a well-oiled machine, which is a nice change from what I'm used to. I'm not accustomed to everything going off so perfectly. The Voice has an incredible team assembled behind the scenes.
JFH (Christopher): The coaches took longer to turn around than I anticipated, especially given how strong your voice sounded in the chorus of "One Headlight." How much did it get to your head that they had yet to turn towards the end of the song?
I honestly didn't expect to get super-fast chair turns. The song I sang is a fantastic song and I did feel really good about, however, it only scratches the service of my vocals. Some of the other contestants blew the roof off the place. Going in I was expecting to do just well enough for them to see the potential in my voice without showing too many of my cards too quickly. I layed out my performance knowing that if I got a chair, it would likely be toward the end. They did turn at the VERY last second though which is something I wasn't expecting. Luckily, I was focused more on the audience than the coaches and the energy coming from them was fantastic. I learned how to stay out of my head while on stage years ago! *Laughs.*
JFH (Christopher): Between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, you picked Blake as your coach. What was that decision process like? Did you already map out in your head who you would choose in different scenarios or did you pick on the spot?
That choice was extremely hard. On the surface, I seem more like an Adam guy. But personality wise I'm much more of a Blake guy. I knew going in that I wanted to feel comfortable in the room with my coach and that my best bet for that would be Blake. We come from similar backgrounds and instantly understood each other, which is what I was looking for. I'm not the most comfortable around people I don't know but Blake felt like a friend from the beginning. I was open to someone else winning me over on the spot but had a good idea that I would pick Blake if he turned.
JFH (Christopher): Is there any anything specific about the way you sing that you are hoping to improve during your time on The Voice?
Not particularly. I've always been up for any sort of tips or advice that would make me better at any aspect of music though. I'm like a sponge when it comes to getting better in any way. I can learn something new from anyone. The fact that I'll be able to soak in advice from four incredible singers is an incredible opportunity that I will be taking full advantage of. One particular thing is I'm hoping I get the chance to showcase my lower register at some point.
JFH (Christopher): WHEN you get to the finals, what original song do you want to play and why?
*Laughs.* WHEN. I like that. I would for sure want to play one of my more recently written unreleased songs. I have a few in mind but we will cross that bridge when we get there. If you come out to one of the very few WILKES shows I will be playing between now and then, you may just get to hear one of them.
JFH (Christopher): Your musical career has spanned many genres: rock with High Flight Society, hard rock with Disciple, pop/rock and pop/country as a solo artist. Do you have any new music in the works? What direction will the next Wilkes project take?
I have a good bit of music waiting in the wings. Tons of songs. A handful of recordings waiting to be mixed. My most recent release "Stealing From Heaven" is a kind of general taste of what is to come. For the most part, it can be described as songs that sound pop/rock but read on paper as country songs. It all has an indie rock flavor, pop-inspired melody, and country lyrics.
JFH (Christopher): With all the Christian rock bands reuniting in recent years, do you think High Flight Society could ever get back together? Or would it be too hard because of the tragic passing of your drummer, Scotty?
I could maybe see us entertaining the idea of pushing out a new track or two at some point. Officially forming again to "reunite" though would honestly be impossible without Scotty being in the mix. High Flight without Scotty would be like a body with no heart. I have been wrong before though. At this point it's doubtful, but time will tell.
JFH (Christopher): What has God been teaching you lately?
I've pretty much been meditating for the past few months on wisdom. I've been pursuing wisdom more than anything. If I can get a little wiser every day I'm happy. God's been showing me a lot about the difference being wisdom and intelligence. I no longer care about obsessing over making the "right" decision. I don't stress about taking or passing on opportunities. I just want to walk in Godly wisdom. He first starting showing me things about this a few weeks before getting the call from The Voice. Perfect timing... as usual.
JFH (Christopher): Any closing thoughts?
I just want to say thank you to anyone who has supported me over the past 17 years in all my different musical endeavours. I wouldn't be making music right now if it weren't for all you guys. That includes JFH. You guys have been behind me since High Flight's first record. I really appreciate that and I will never forget it. This next chapter is going to be the best one yet. I can't wait to share it with all you guys and girls!