WATCH: Jackson Snelling’s Powerful Rendition Of A Justin Moore Hit Earns Him A Spot on Team Reba
Snelling dedicated the song to his late father, who passed away when he was a young boy.
Jackson Snelling; Photo by: Greg Gayne/NBC
21-year-old Jackson Snelling delivered an emotional performance of Justin Moore’s “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” during the Season 24 premiere of NBC’s The Voice on Monday evening (Sept. 25).
Prior to his blind audition, the Austin, Indiana native shared his inspiring story, revealing that he and his brother are adopted and that they are both on the autism spectrum. He shares a close relationship with his brother and often sings to him to help stimulate his brain.
“He’s like my built-in best friend,” Jackson said of his brother.
Dedication To His Late Father
At a young age, Jackson awoke and found his father dead. This moment deeply impacted his life.
Previously Appeared On American Idol
Jackson Snelling may look familiar to some as he previously appeared on American Idol Season 19 in 2021. At the time, he performed an original tune that he wrote for his brother to help them cope with their father’s death.
Justin Moore Cover
With his brother and mom, Dacia, watching from the other room, Jackson delivered a soaring performance of “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.”
“If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” was released by Justin Moore in February of 2011 as the lead single on his second studio album, Outlaws Like Me. It climbed the charts and became his second No.1 single at country radio. Written by Dallas Davidson, Rob Hatch, and Brett Jones, the song was originally recorded by singer/songwriter, Rhett Akins, in 2006. Akins’ version of the song failed to chart.
Donning a black cowboy hat and black suit jacket, the 21-year-old had captured the attention of the coaches, especially Gwen Stefani and Reba McEntire, who each turned their chairs for him.
“Now I’m proud to be here and say that I have autism and being on the spectrum… music has helped me so much,” Snelling told the coaches following his performance.
Niall Horan then took a moment to explain why he didn’t turn his chair.
“Really nice song choice. I personally didn’t turn. I just heard a couple of little pitchy things and then when she went and she’s married to Blake Shelton and then she went, I was like, well, I can work with a bit of pitch, but I don’t know if I can work against this,” Horan said. “I can’t wait to see this fight.”
“He’s afraid of me now,” McEntire quipped.
“I’m very excited to meet you. You have a gorgeous tone of voice and I’m very excited for you,” John Legend complimented.
Now, it was time for McEntire and Stefani to attempt to convince Jackson Snelling to join their teams.
“Who did you grow up listening to?” McEntire asked Snelling, to which he replied, “I grew up listening to you Ms. Reba.”
Reba Gets Emotional
McEntire appeared to get a bit choked up as she shared her love for country music.
“I tell you, Jackson, I love country music so much. I grew up on a working cattle ranch. I’m a third-generation rodeo brat, so country music is my life, my foundation. So to hear you come on The Voice and sing like you did today, I am just so proud to be in the country music business and proud that you’re representing us here on The Voice today,” she shared. “You did a great job. I love your tone. Love that song anyway, touches my heart, so congratulations and I’d love to be your coach. We would have so much fun together developing you to make those finals and win this thing.”
Stefani Name Drops Blake Shelton
Stefani pulled the Blake Shelton card when it was time to address the contestant.
“I’m very super selective on when I press my button, especially sitting next to Reba McEntire, she’s going to judge me. Okay. So at that moment it was like nothing else mattered. I love this guy’s voice. I’ve heard enough country music in the last eight years. I married Blake Shelton and name-dropping right now,” she admitted. “What you did so well with your tone in the way that you just cradled the lyrics. I mean, you really did touch my heart, but listen, I know that the queen is going to come beat me right now.”
McEntire then interfered with Stefani’s pitch to Snelling as she stood in front of her and stated, “She’s saying all the right things. I’m going to veto all of that. Let’s rewind that footage there. My gosh, you’re a good salesperson.”
“Listen to me, Jackson. I’ve had two number-one Country hits on country radio,” Stefani added before McEntire said, “I’ve had more than two, next.”
Ultimately, Snelling decided to join Team Reba.
“This a tough one. Ms. Gwen, you made a very, very awesome argument, but I’m going to have to go with Ms. Reba,” Snelling said.
After Jackson Snelling joined Team Reba, McEntire gushed over the contestant.
“What I’m listening for when I hear a country performer is not too much trying just honest country singer and for Jackson to come up and do this,” McEntire explained. ”That took a lot of courage and I’m very proud to have him on my team. We want to have so much. Love his voice. It’s just like great chocolate. It’s just rich.”
Stefani also praised the contestant.
“I can’t wait to watch you sing. I’m actually super bummed about Jackson. I really want a country artist on my team. You picked the queen. I don’t. So whenever I get that feeling, then I’m just going to press and fight,” Stefani added.
McEntire then danced across the stage and celebrated, shouting, “I got a cowboy.”
This blind audition aired during the official kick-off of Season 24 of The Voice, ushering in the new star-studded panel of coaches, which includes Niall Horan, John Legend, Reba McEntire and Gwen Stefani.
Niall Horan returns for his second consecutive season, alongside Gwen Stefani and John Legend, both of whom have made their comebacks to The Voice following a brief hiatus.
Meanwhile, Reba McEntire is making her debut as a coach on The Voice, replacing Blake Shelton, who announced his decision to step down from the singing competition earlier this year. Shelton appeared on The Voice for a total of 23 Seasons and holds the title of the longest and winningest coach in the history of the show with nine wins.
Lauren Jo Black
Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.