It’s not easy to impress Simon Cowell, but singer-songwriter Hunter Price managed to do it when he appeared on America’s Got Talent a few seasons ago.
Stepping up to the AGT stage, Price initially began singing Bryan Adams’ "(Everything I Do) I Do it For You," but was stopped short by Cowell, who felt like he was watching a karaoke performance. Price was offered a second chance and instead performed an original heart-stirring country song called "Left Behind" which received a rousing response from the audience and a nod of approval from Cowell and the other judges.
"It was completely organic," said Price of the experience. "I did not know that he was going to ask me to sing a second song. I had know idea. It was completely candid."
"Left Behind" has since been streamed nearly 4 million times on Spotify. Price wrote the single on his front porch with a friend, and although he insists that it’s not about anyone specific, you could have been fooled into believing it was from the emotional response it elicited from the AGT judges and audience.
Price launched his music career when he was 18 in an unconventional way — through karaoke.
"I was just a normal dude going through school and college with no idea what I wanted to do," said Price. "My mom entered me into a karaoke contest in a really small town called Thomaston, Georgia. It was a six week long deal where you had to come back and compete every weekend."
The winner of the contest received the chance to open for country legend Travis Tritt.
"I ended up winning it, and I never sang before, didn’t know how to play an instrument, and really didn’t know what I was doing," Price marveled. "My first show was opening up for Travis Tritt in front of a couple thousand people singing to karaoke tracks by myself. I had know idea what I was doing, but did it and played it off."
Shortly after his debut, Price auditioned for The Voice and moved on to the next stage with a filmed segment. Unfortunately, his performance was cut from the show, but that didn’t dissuade Price from pressing on with his music.
Having moved to Savannah from Barnesville, Georgia, Price bartended at Wet Willy’s and gigged in his spare time. Eventually, he realized he could make as much money playing his music full-time. Over the years he built up his reputation opening for major country acts like Chase Bryant, Frankie Ballard, Kane Brown, and Corey Smith.
Price has been living in Nashville for the last several years, chasing his music dreams, but recently returned to Savannah to visit his parents.
"I’ve been going through life," said Price of his time home. "When I initially moved back I was just going to take a month or two to clear my head, get grounded, save some money, and drive back up there guns a blazin’ and get back to work."
Then COVID-19 struck.
Price’s stay has been extended since it is much easier to find gigs in Savannah than in Nashville where the market is more crowded and the restrictions are much tighter.
"It’s really tough out here for a musician," said Price, noting that he wasn’t the only musician to leave Nashville during the pandemic.
In the meantime, Price is working on songs for a forthcoming single or EP, with the hope of releasing it in the Fall.
Price is performing at Starland Yard for the first time on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at the invitation of Voodoo Soup’s James Lee Smith. Patrons will get a chance to hear the golden-voiced Price sing some of his original material, hits from the likes of Darius Rucker and Florida-Georgia Line, and possibly a few surprises considering he has a wide taste in music that he inherited from his parents.
"Growing up, my mom was Clapton, B.B. King, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and my dad was Earth, Wind, and Fire, Temptations, George Thorogood, and Patrice Rushen," said Price. "Growing up myself in a very rural, 6,000 people town, I was definitely around some country music. Frankly, I just enjoy good music."
After I pointed out how refreshing it is to hear a country singer cite R&B queen Patrice Rushen as an influence, Price responded, "If there’s a jukebox in a place, I’m playing ‘Forget Me Nots.’ That’s a jam."
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