Jamie Lono is a 22-year-old Chicago area resident who performed on NBC's "The Voice" Feb. 20. The Vernon Hills resident sang Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" on air and impressed the judges Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine enough to move on in the competition.
Since then, he's become an overnight sensation. RedEye caught up with Lono to find out more about his musical background, experience and Chicago influences.
Were there any Chicago musicians that you idolized growing up?
Buddy Guy, Clapton you know. It's the home of the electric blues, dude. Jimmy Burns. Those are the main three I'd say.
Did you go into Chicago to see live blues growing up?
Growing up. I wasn't too into the scene. Just recently, I kind of took a dive into the blues about three and a half years ago. Ever since then I've loved it. I started going to Buddy Guy shows just last year when I turned 21. But other than that, when I was growing up, I never really got a chance to.
What are some of you favorite Chicago hangouts?
Definitely one of the coolest places and a place that's really awesome to me is the Elbo room. I have a show there coming up. But other than that I've only been playing out for like a year, so I haven't gotten to get to know the city as much as I would love to.
Have you always been musical inclined?
I started singing about three and a half years ago. I played guitar throughout high school, but I never really started singing until about three and a half years ago. My house had a fire and I was living in a hotel, and like I just started writing songs and stuff when we were living in the hotel. That was about three and a half years ago, and I just fell in love with it. It's just a crazy feeling how much I love music.
What inspired you to start writing songs?
I mean, I was in a hotel with four other people you know, so as a way to get away I would always play guitar, but like a had an acoustic guitar, and I would just go out to my car and get away from everything and play music and write songs. I pretty much had to just to get away from everything.
When did you start performing your songs for people?
I started playing out abouta year and a half ago. Everything has kind of happenedreally fast. I've developed as an artist, though, so that's good.
What are some of your musical influences and things you listened to growing up that informed your music?
The first CDs I ever got were like R&B music, so like Boyz II Men, K-ci &JoJo. But I remember like sitting in my dad's truck listening to James Taylor, Hootie and the Blowfish. Those are the kind of things that ingrained themselves in my soul. That's the music that I would love to listen to when I was growing up like four-years-old sitting in the truck with my sister.
What was the audition process for "The Voice" like for you?
It was crazy. It was the first time I had been away from home for more than like two weeks, and it was crazy. It was the biggest audition of my life. I was definitely nervous, but it was honestly the most different feeling of being nervous I've ever had in my life. It was just a different kind of nervous. Before, I've been nervous about not believing in myself, but when I was up there the only thing I was nervous about was different. I felt like I finally believed in myself. I took all that nervous energy and turned it into something positive.
How did it feel being on TV? Did you watch yourself?
Yea. It was pretty unreal. I've come a long way in the past four years, so it's like it's weird to see when you finally get up there and you finally accomplish something. When you come home you're waiting for that stuff to come on. It's like it's so hard. And when it finally airs it's just like relief and everything is like there, you know. It aired, and I had like 4,000 new followers on Twitter and all the support from Chicago and Vernon Hills and all the surrounding areas has been unreal. I couldn't ask for a better home town.
How does it feel being on Cee Lo's team?
Good. I feel like we vibe together well and I feel like we're the same kind of artist where you take something and you make it your own. It's kind of like a no nonsense approach. You do things your way no matter how much that takes, and so I'm excited to work with him.
What kind of shot do you think you have at winning?
I mean the support has been great. After hearing all these people, I almost feel like no matter what happens on The Voice, I've got a good support system now, and I almost have nothing to worry about. I just feel great now.