The best birthday present ever for an Okotoks teen is continuing to gain momentum.
Last year on Samm Smith’s 15th birthday on July 1, she received an email from a producer with NBC’s The Voice inviting her to join the ranks of 2,000 people to audition for the 10th season of the American reality singing competition.
“When it happened I was like, ‘You’re kidding, right?” she recalls. “These people actually see something in me that could potentially be big. It helped me realize maybe I have something special here.”
The producer heard Smith’s distinctive voice on a recording that gained online attention. Smith performed at the 2013 Harvest Festival and won a prize to sing on the Eagle Radio station’s morning show. She was 13-years-old at the time, however, the minimum age requirement to audition for The Voice is 15. The Producers waited and called her up again last year when she was old enough to audition.
Last summer, the contestants were split into groups of 12 and were each given 30 seconds to sing.
Smith impressed with an Adele version of The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson and was asked to sing her second selection.
For a second set of auditions in November Smith sent a recording of three songs, including Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, which got 5,000 hits on Facebook in 48 hours.
Smith was among the 200 shortlisted and asked to return Feb. 16 and 17 for a final stage audition and interview. About 75 contestants will be selected to sing in front of the show’s coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Pharrell Williams later this month. The blind auditions are when each coach sits with their backs to the contestants and blindly select 12 for their team to coach over the next four months.If more than one coach is interested in a contestant, that singer can then select his or her preferred coach.
Smith spent endless hours rehearsing four songs in preparation for this week.
“I went from practicing two hours a day to four hours a day,” she said. “Music has pretty much taken over my life.”
Smith hopes to impress again, this time with Ariana Grande’s Almost is Never Enough, Alicia Keyes’ If I Ain’t Got You and The Police’s Roxanne and Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, backed by her talent on the guitar and piano.
“It’s going to be the biggest day of my life,” she said. “If I don’t make the cut I come home and live my life. It will push me harder.”
If Smith is selected at the chair turning session, which will be recorded later this month, she could spend the next four months in the City of Angels.
The Voice premieres on Feb. 29 and will air Mondays and Tuesdays until late spring.
The winner, selected by viewers, receives $100,000 and a record deal with Universal Music Group.
Last year’s winner was 15-year-old Sawyer Fredricks.
The night before Smith hit the road on Feb. 12, the community rallied around her at a send-off party at Rylie’s Cattle Barn, the same place Smith stepped on stage for her first public performance at age 10.
She now hosts the open mic sessions.
“Dad suggested I go to the open mic at Rylie’s,” recalls Smith. “When he got me on stage I was so nervous I had to face away from the audience and close my eyes. The whole room was silent and at the end everyone applauded.”
Singing has always been a big part of Smith’s life. She has performed on stage in Okotoks, Calgary and alongside father David, a basement musician.
It was because of David’s American dual citizenship that he was able to get his daughter to audition for The Voice and is excited to see how far she makes it.
“It’s not an opportunity everybody gets,” he said. “We have friends who are professional musicians who struggle every week to make ends meet.”
While en route to Los Angeles last weekend, Smith performed at gigs booked along the way in Montana, Idaho and Utah.
David said the bills are adding up since Smith’s first audition last summer, which he expects to near $10,000 in travel costs, lawyer fees and to obtain a US VISA.
“This is my third week without work,” he said. “It’s been tight.”
The family has some relief from money Smith has raised through her Go Fund Me site at https://www.gofundme.com/e62j5d5xgc