Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Josiah Hawley lends his voice to Food Bank

Josiah Hawley lends his voice to Food Bank

Josiah Hawley lends his voice to raise funds

for River Valley Regional Food Bank

Two exciting concerts Nov. 30 offer everyone the chance
to hear the reality show star’s new songs as the Fort Smith
native continues his career ascent

He’s our guy climbing the ladder to success as an entertainer – and Josiah Hawley’s Fort Smith fans, friends and very proud family think he’s going to the top. After talking Entertainment Fort Smith about an upcoming hometown concert and his recent experience on NBC TV’s “The Voice,” we’re convinced he may be unstoppable.

Due to 21st century entertainment culture, Josiah’s steps up the show business ladder have been broadcast to the world. He was chosen to appear on Bravo’s “Make Me a Supermodel” in 2008 as one of 35 starting contestants, where he won his way to an onscreen appearance, but was eliminated after making it to the first episode.

He continued to pursue his modeling career and enjoy it, while putting together a band and working on original songs. Music is his greater ambition, he said, but he also loves modeling. He has worked from coast to coast and in Milan and Berlin, appearing for clients from mass retailer Kohl’s to the high fashion label Diesel. His Facebook page is dotted with advertising images posted by friends who spotted his face in magazines or newspaper circulars.

Appearing on “The Voice” was not on his radar until he met Anthony Evans, a contemporary Christian artist and former contestant on the show. Evans encouraged him to audition, Josiah said. “He asked me ‘how often are you going to get in front of 15 million people?’”

“I kind of made a deal with myself that if the doors were flung wide open, I’d know I was supposed to be on the show,” he said. And they did open.

Josiah appeared at the beginning of the season in the pack of 73 hopeful singers. Unseen by the television audience, he had started the process in January, advancing through the initial public “cattle call” to get there – where he was still in peril of being eliminated in a first round, televised audition. On his first television appearance March 26, only his wife Hana, his parents Bruce and Lynette Hawley of Fort Smith and his six siblings and their families really knew the hard work it had taken for Josiah to win a place onstage on the popular prime-time program.

Josiah and Hana married in 2006, after meeting in church, and have supported one another’s careers with prayer and shared optimism. He has traveled extensively for his modeling work, time spent apart. They decided together to move to Los Angeles from Nashville recently to put Josiah where he needs to be to pursue music – to try for a shot at success. “There is no way I could have done it without her,” he avowed.

His “shot” was to sing, live, to four celebrity musician judges who sat with their backs turned, only listening.

The judges – Adam Levine of Maroon 5; country star Blake Shelton, the pop singer/dancer Shakira and R&B artist/producer Usher – are to be enticed to spin around to watch the singer. One judge may then choose the singer for his or her team. If multiple judges turn around, the artist may choose between them to join a team. Each judge hopes to mentor and coach a team member who will ultimately win the season’s contest.

Josiah boldly chose to sing “Sunday Morning” in the presence of Levine, the hit song’s original lead vocalist – and gave an exciting performance with enormous audience response. Shelton spun around first, followed by Usher and finally, Levine himself. Josiah had the good fortune to have three coaches try to recruit him – and chose to join Usher’s team.

From then through the end of the contest’s season, Josiah recalls that he hardly had time to think. Almost two months were taken up with a whirlwind of rehearsals and taping of performances.

“They kept us so, so busy – it was literally a seven-day shooting schedule,” he explained. “If we had the day off, I'm going to try to get some sleep, get a nap in, I'm going to work out a little but I have to practice!”

In his four appearances on the show, Josiah performed several solo songs. He reached the top 10 before being cut, but was asked to perform two more ensemble numbers, one with Usher, in the season finale.

During the airing of the show, watchers weighed in over social media to support the singers they liked best and his fans’ votes alone advanced him in one round of the show. That public attention started the night the first show aired. He was driving home for a watch party with Hana and friends when his cell phone “blew up.” 

“I didn’t know what was happening,” he said, “until I realized the show was airing on the east coast! I had to pull over, it was just going crazy!”

The onslaught of online support continued beyond his ability to even begin to keep up one-on-one, although the contestants were coached by producers to interact with their fans over Facebook and Twitter. His online videos were seen over a million times.

It was exciting but also overwhelming, he said. “I was seeing comments from all over the world! Brazil, Vietnam, Thailand ...” he recalled. His reaction was “are you kidding me right now? London? Australia? Some messages said ‘We're seeing it a week late, I hope you're still on the show next week!’”

Lots of the online support was from friends and his large family. “I knew for sure that my parents were having viewing parties - I knew there were a lot of people watching and supporting me at home,” he said in gratitude. Of course he managed to talk with his parents, but not with every hometown friend who sent messages. “Occasionally I would get to reply and I did my best to read as many as I could.”

He left the show with an online fan base of thousands, his parting reward and the asset he has been working to capitalize on ever since. If anything, he is busier now than when he was on the program.

“During the show they have you scheduled,” he explained. “In a way, it was extremely crazy, but they email it to you the day before and you have to stick to it. After the show, you are on your own. That's what gets crazy. I have to write songs, be meeting new people and producers, meeting with managers and speaking with record labels. It ends up becoming more overwhelming after the show. I'm speaking with entertainment lawyers in the meantime for their recommendations.”

Josiah will be releasing a Christmas EP and a solo EP?in January, both self-produced. Preview videos are already online. He has accomplished these without management or a record label, although his carefully-weighed management signing may be drawing closer, he said.

Even while focused on making the most of this career moment, Josiah recently took off a few days for a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico to help a friend rebuild a church. “Sometimes it gets to the point where you're working on business or career – all of that is wonderful stuff and what I need to be doing but at the same time there needs to be an element of service,” he said. “At the end of the day, my career is for others. It's not for me, it's for others. I need to make sure I'm not losing sight of that. Its always important to take yourself out of this equation. It's a great refresher.”

Besides being excited to be able to have Thanksgiving with the whole Hawley family at home in Fort Smith, Josiah is pleased that his performance here will help reduce hunger.

"I didn't realize there was such a great need in Fort Smith." I was speaking with Ken [Kupchick, of the River Valley Food Bank] about it and told me three out of four people in school now need free lunches. Great opportunity to raise not only awareness but to raise funds. I'm so grateful that he called me so I can be a part of something so wonderful.”

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Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online