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Originally published November 1, 2013 at 5:32 PM | Page modified November 4, 2013 at 2:55 PM

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Father’s guitar inspires Duvall singer on ‘The Voice’

Special to The Seattle Times


‘The Voice’

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When he’s playing under the bright lights of NBC’s singing competition “The Voice,” Austin Jenckes carries a piece of home with him — his father’s guitar.

The Duvall native learned to play on that guitar, and he uses it to honor his late father, who died when Jenckes was 16.

“It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the lights and the big stage and the idea that 12 million or however many people are watching,” Jenckes said. “But having that guitar there, it reminds me of where I come from and why I’m here. It just helps me stay focused.”

Now 25, Jenckes will need that focus as he enters the live-performance section of the show, known for celebrity coaches such as Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton. Jenckes narrowly squeaked by in the final head-to-head knockout round, thanks to his coach, country-star Shelton, choosing Jenckes to advance.

Tacoma singer Stephanie Anne Johnson also made it to the final stretch of live performances.

Jenckes said that despite the stress of competing, working through songs with Shelton has been a “pleasant surprise.”

“You never know with people who are doing music or being a celebrity at that level, and he’s such a down-to-earth guy,” Jenckes said. “He makes you feel like he really believes in you and who you are as an artist. He’s never made me go in any direction I didn’t want to go, and that says a lot about him and means a lot to me.”

Jenckes, who graduated from Western Washington University, was making a go of it as a full-time musician before moving to Nashville, Tenn., a couple of years ago. Between playing three-hour sets at bars and booking larger shows at venues such as The Triple Door and the Tractor Tavern in Seattle, he was making ends meet.

Moving to Nashville was a chance to make connections and maybe land a songwriting deal, but that all changed when a friend suggested he audition for the fifth season of “The Voice.”

Jenckes credits his family and friends back home for helping to get him this far. But it was his father, Zac, who started teaching him to play at age 9, took him to play at open-mike nights as a teen and showed him how someone could captivate an audience with only a guitar and his voice.

“He just had a quality about him, very inviting,” Jenckes said. “That’s how I learned what music is all about. Music is about sharing emotion with people. I think that’s why I sing the way that I sing.”

Owen R. Smith: on Twitter @inanedetails

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