A contestant on the hit series “The Voice” says he learned a lot about songwriting and performing while living on a Hendersonville farm and honing his craft in Nashville this past year.
Thunderstorm Artis wowed the show’s celebrity judges during the blind auditions on March 2 when his soulful, raw version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” prompted three of the judges to turn their chairs in less than 30 seconds.
John Legend, Nick Jonas and former Hendersonville resident Kelly Clarkson turned almost immediately.
Blake Shelton soon followed.
“That is what this show is all about,” said Jonas. “That was unbelievable.”
Clarkson, who described the young singer’s vocals as “so beautiful,” asked if Thunderstorm was his given name. He said that it is.
“You are someone who could win this competition,” Clarkson added.
Clarkson isn’t the only one who thinks the Hawaiian native has a shot at winning the competition.
“His talent is immeasurable,” said local musician Cherish Hamby.
Hamby and her husband Adam first saw Artis perform in a music video of a song Adam wrote. The two, who make up the Nashville-based band Dark Waters Project, invited the young musician to stay at the Hendersonville-area home of Marty and Grace Guthrie last April and hone his songwriting skills.
“My dad was always saying if you want to be good, you need to surround yourself with people better than you,” Artis said in a telephone interview last week.
While staying at the couple’s farm near Long Hollow Pike, Artis would head to Nashville for songwriter rounds at places like The Commodore Grille and Douglas Corner Café – often joining the Hambys on stage.
“Adam and I have played shows with Thunderstorm and watched entire rooms be silenced by his beautiful voice,” said Cherish Hamby. “Hendersonville loves Thunderstorm Artis!”
Hamby says she and Adam and another couple were all set to watch Artis perform on “The Voice,” but the show was pre-empted locally by weather warnings. When one of the friends texted him after his performance, they learned Artis picked Legend to be his coach.
“We all jumped and cheered,” said Hamby.
Artis, 24, is one of 11 children – many of whom have equally unique names like sisters Praise Jesus and Spirit and a brother, American.
“My parents were creative with some of our names,” he laughs.
His parents are musically talented as well. His dad Ron was a session player who played keyboards with various Motown artists. His mother Victoria performed as a vocalist with Lena Horne and many other Motown artists.
Artis says he grew up listening to a lot of his parents’ music which has influenced his own. Other influences include James Taylor, Ed Sheeran, John Denver- and of course Legend.
“I grew up listening to John Legend so of course it will be such an honor to work with him,” he said.
Contestants work with a celebrity “coach” and then perform in what’s called a battle round against another contender on the same team.
The battle rounds are expected to air later this month – and then Artis will know if he moves on in the competition.
Either way, he says he feels like he’s already won by being able to work with Legend.
“I’m just going to try to go in there and be a sponge and learn as much as possible,” he said. “I hope to put down my guitar and work on my stage presence a little more.”
Hamby says they’ll be watching and cheering from Hendersonville.
“We believe he’ll win by a landslide, hands down!” she added.
To see Artis’ blind audition, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk9ae17IroU.
This story has been edited from its original version. The farm that Artis stayed at in Hendersonville is owned by Marty and Grace Guthrie.