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Bluff City's J4 wins 'Singing Family Face Off'

Staff Report • Apr 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

It was fitting that members of J4, winners of the CBS “Early Show” Singing Family Face Off, answered together when asked about their future.

“Hmmmmmm,” was their response.

Wednesday marked the beginning of a musical journey for the Bluff City quartet as CBS Records Executive Vice President Larry Jenkins handed the group a platinum record plaque and a recording contract with the company during the show’s live broadcast.

J4 — made up of Jessi, 15, Jedidiah, 13, Josiah, 8, and Josephine, 7 — was chosen by viewers voting over the Internet. Jenkins described the voting as “incredibly tight” between the Tennessee group and the four brothers of the The Peay Family of Greensboro, N.C.

“(I see) lots of practicing, more work (in the future). I’ve never been through anything like this, so I can’t wait to have this experience. I might love it. I might hate it. I don’t know. We all need to have this experience and find out where it takes us and what happens,” said Jedidiah “Jeddy” Smith, in a telephone interview with the Times-News following the broadcast.

He and his three siblings will record material with the Viacom company sometime later this year, but a definitive date has not been set, said Lori Smith, mother of J4.

It has been a busy six weeks for the Smith family, with flights to New York City at the beginning of the week for rehearsals and live performances on the CBS “Early Show” and then flights home Wednesday so that father Mark Smith could preside over services at Bunker Hill Christian Church, where he is lead pastor.

“We’re ready to catch up on some sleep, some schoolwork, and have some normalcy. But we are just really proud of how they have flowed with everything, stuck in there, and bonded with the other contestants. It’s hard to explain the emotion right now,” said Lori Smith.

A video e-mail submitted on the deadline date for the contest began the chain of events for J4, including being surprised on live television Feb. 18 by “Early Show” weather anchor Dave Price at their Bluff City home announcing they were one of six family finalists selected for the contest. There were approximately 700 entrants, according to CBS News.

“I always thought that they had the possibility of winning. You never know that for sure,” said Mark Smith.

The children are home-schooled and have been taking music lessons since they were old enough to hold an instrument, said Lori Smith.

J4’s competitor in the finals, the Peay Family, also honed their talent in church.

“They are just a wonderful group of kids,” said Katif Peay on Tuesday’s broadcast, complimenting the group on their win, which Lori Smith says was bittersweet.

“We’ve become close with them here in the past few weeks. So we knew that this day was going to be hard because only one group could win,” said Lori.

“I hope we’re going to be able to record with them in the future because they are just such a great group,” said Jessi.

The two groups joined together for a parting number in the contest Wednesday, singing Martha and the Vandellas’ classic “Dancing in the Streets” — a performance that just came together in the past 48 hours.

“That was hard because they sent the music home with us, and we practiced it, but we only had Tuesday to arrange things (with the Peays). It was a challenge, but I love how everything meshed. It sounded good,” said Jedidiah.

Now, a voyage begins that the Jacksons, the Partridge Family, the Jonas Brothers and the Bee Gees have taken in the past.

“The more normal and grounded that they can remain, the better they will be at being able to do what they do,” said Lori. “I think that’s why so many other kids have been able to identify with them because they are just your normal, everyday kids. The more we pull them away from that lifestyle, the harder it’s going to be for them to remain that way.

“That’s been the hardest thing for them accepting this whole thing is not wanting their life to change. They don’t want to live in Los Angeles and never see family and have a completely different lifestyle. They want to stay connected, and we are going to work as hard as we can to keep that considering the circumstances.”

Showing just how normal they are, when asked what they had missed while being in the competition. Their answer — in unison of course — was “Not school!”

Past performances of J4 can be viewed at the “Early Show” Web site at www.cbsnews.com, keyword search: “singing family” or “J4.”

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