California is a long way from Arkansas, but Cody Belew said his feet are still planted firmly in Beebe.
Growing up in Antioch, just outside of Beebe, Belew, 27, said he always knew he would be a star. The many times he played outside with his brother, Casey, he said, there was a lot of playing make believe.
“The pasture and the pond levy were my stage and stadium,” Belew said with a chuckle. “I just allowed my spirit to visualize this to be my life.”
The life he’s living now as a contestant on Season 3 of The Voice in Culver City, Calif., isn’t the beginning of his musical career. He was the lead singer in his cover band, Cody Belew and the Mercers. The band played various venues around Arkansas.
Belew moved to Nashville in May 2011 to further his career, but it was his work in Arkansas that got the attention of The Voice producers.
“They found me via something I had put on YouTube,” Belew said. “Their interest in me had nothing to do with my work in Nashville. I’m here because of my work in Arkansas.”
Once Belew agreed to the blind auditions on NBC’s The Voice, he said he knew he would have an equal chance onstage, which he said was unlike his American Idol audition.
“I have played a wide scope of music as a cover artist, but soul music speaks to me more heavily,” he said.
His performance of The Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” was the song that prompted CeeLo Green to choose Belew for Team CeeLo, although Belew didn’t realize he had been selected because he had turned his back to the judges.
As the show’s four coaches and vocal mentors — Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, CeeLo Green and Christina Aguilera — sit with their backs to the contestant, they turn their chairs around only if they would like to have contestants on their team. Belew was the last performer, and when he finished singing on the Oct. 1 episode of the show, he was surprised when he discovered Green had chosen him at the last minute.
“It was pretty grueling for that 90 seconds,” Belew said about thinking he had not been chosen. “I am one who relies on crowd interaction, and it’s hard to sing to the backs of four chairs. I turned around to cut the band off, and I was gathering myself up to give the whole, ‘Thank you for allowing me to be here,’ speech.”
His reaction, which went from feeling defeated to instantly being thrilled, was genuine as he jumped around on the stage and ran up to Green, giving him a bear hug and shouting a few expletives.
“I kinda lost my marbles there for a few seconds,” Belew said with a laugh.
Levine said he believes Belew’s reaction to being chosen was the best reaction he had ever seen.
“I have been told no before, and I’ve conditioned myself for this business,” Belew said about his ability to flawlessly finish singing, thinking he had not been picked. “When you grow up, you lean to take the blows, and you take it graciously. So I had to be professional and finish the song.”
Belew said he knew from the very beginning that he wanted to be coached by Green.
“I’ve gotten to watch him in seasons 1 and 2, and he pushes his artists to put on a great stage show,” Belew said. “I want people to ask, ‘What are CeeLo and Cody going to do next?’”
Hoping to learn the business from Green, Belew said he has spent a lot of time perfecting his craft as an artist, but he has a lot to learn about show business.
“I spent a lot of time figuring out who I am as an artist, but I have very little knowledge of this business and how to not get eaten up by it. I want to learn from [Green] and make good music,” said Belew, who graduated form Arkansas Tech University in 2007 with a music degree. “I want to go to the moon! I hope to be selling out arenas, and I hope to come back and play at Verizon Arena. I believe [the show] will be the vessel to get me there.”
He also said he hopes to come back to Arkansas and help where he can in his hometown.
“I’ve still got both feet planted there, and I’ll never leave that place,” he said about Beebe. “It’s my center of gravity. … I will be vocal in putting Arkansas on the map of shows. My biggest and my first fan base is in Arkansas.”
Belew won his battle round last week and said the knockout round is coming up on Monday’s episode of The Voice, but he couldn’t reveal any information on the song he has chosen to sing.
Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.