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Zachariah Smith, From Flipping Burgers to American Idol

A Our Mississippi Home Exclusive Interview

Zachariah Smith, photo courtesy of ABC, American Idol.

Zachariah Smith is a husband, father of three, and a Bill’s Burger employee in Amory, MS. Smith is also a golden ticket winner for American Idol, Season 21.

Smith grew up singing and learning guitar, dreaming of one day being a musician or performer. He even considered auditioning for American Idol when he was 15 but shared he didn’t feel ready or like he had the expertise.

At 19 years old, Smith is about to hang up his apron for a microphone as he works with vocal coaches and prepares to compete on American Idol.

His audition left judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan in awe with a cover song of John Mellencamp’s “Hurt So Good.” His wife Crysta supported him backstage as viewers all over the country cheered him on.

It was a unanimous yes from all three judges, and Luke Bryan said, “You’re three for three,” certifying Smith’s Golden ticket to Hollywood.

Our Mississippi Home had the opportunity to sit down with Zachariah Smith at Bill’s Burgers in Amory. Although Smith won’t be grilling burgers for much longer, he was still working at Bill’s Burgers today. In fact, before the interview began, he said, “Give me just a minute; I need to get these people their food first.”

Zachariah Smith
Zachariah Smith at Bill’s Burgers in Amory, MS. Photo courtesy of Bill’s Burgers.

What’s been the most surreal thing about being on American Idol?

There are many things, but at the top of the list is the amount of support that has come in from Amory, Mississippi, and my original hometown of Wabash, Indiana has been unreal. Everyone has pulled through. The followers on my social media accounts and their support and kind comments are incredible. It’s the real deal. I appreciate it so much.

What’s been your favorite part of this whole process?

This is a tricky question because it’s all fun, but it’s exhausting as well. Viewers see the auditions and Hollywood week but rarely see the long hours put into this process by everyone. But, behind the scenes is a lot of fun. You get to see the judges, talk to Ryan, and get some experience along the way. Working with the vocal coaches, your call time is 6 am, and you’ll work until 9 o’clock at night or so, and you’re working these long days, but it’s a fun process.

Who has been your favorite judge to work with so far?

Lionel. I love Katy and Luke. They’re all great. I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, and you know, he and Lionel co-wrote together a lot. They did “We are the World,” among other things. Just hearing Lionel’s story about how he got started is so inspiring. He is definitely very supportive of everyone. Even if you didn’t sound your best today, he will always tell you, “Work on it tonight, sound better tomorrow.” He’s so down to earth. I just love him.

What made you choose your audition song?

I was battling back and forth between “Old Time Rock & Roll” by Bob Seger and “Hurt So Good” by John Mellencamp. At one time, I had even considered “Believer” by Imagine Dragons. I got into the room with the vocal coaches, and they said, “Why don’t you try ‘Hurt So Good?’ At that time,” Old Time Rock & Roll” was my number one choice. They encouraged me to make my audition song “Hurt So Good, ” and I said, “If you think this will get me a golden ticket, then let’s do it!”

What musicians have influenced you the most?

Michael Jackson is one of the big ones. Freddy Mercury and Queen, and Bruno Mars. The list goes on and on. The thing about all of those people is that they have the ability to breathe life into a song. When you can breathe life into a song, that’s a quality that not many people have. So, to look at them, watch them, and see what they do, I try to put that into my own style and say, “Ok, how can I do that, but in Zachariah Smith’s way?”

What are your top 3 favorite songs of all time?

“Smokin Out The Window” – Silk Sonic
“Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson
“Livin’ On A Prayer” – Bon Jovi

We have to know…what’s your favorite menu item here at Bill’s Burgers?

Oh my goodness, I kind of do my own thing. We have this fry sauce that we make here called smash sauce. I like to toast my bun, put the smash sauce on it, add the patty, and then add the grilled onions, the ketchup, the mayonnaise, and everything else…it is the best burger I have ever had!

From flipping burgers at Bill’s to American Idol, Zachariah Smith puts his heart into everything he does and is now capturing the hearts of millions as they cheer him on from their homes all over the county.

Watch Zachariah Smith on American Idol, Season 21, on ABC, or stream it on Hulu or Youtube TV.



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