Jake Simpson believes that dreams do come true, and growing legions of fans nationwide have helped turn those dreams into reality. This handsome, young, high tenor, with a three-octave range, won the ultimate grand prize on CBS-TV’s popular talent show STAR SEARCH on March 13, 2004. This was his second of two seasons on the show. Jake sang George Michael's’ ONE MORE TRY and accompanied himself on piano. The romantic ballad had celebrity judge Naomi Judd in tears, wowed host Arsenio Hall, received numerous accolades from other celebrity judges, and received a thunderous standing ovation from the studio audience in Hollywood.
Fans of all ages watching the show “live” (EST and CST) nationwide, voted online and Jake was declared the winner, after he competed against two former STAR SEARCH winners and scores of other competitors throughout the season. Jake received $100 thousand dollars in prize money.
Jake previously won $100 thousand dollars on STAR SEARCH on February 6, 2003, with his dynamic renditions of ISN’T SHE LOVELY, WHAT’S GOING ON and SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED.
Here’s a little bit of history on Jake. He almost did not get the chance to audition for STAR SEARCH. While tending bar in Manhattan in November 2002, Jake noticed an audition flyer for the show. While taking the train back to his apartment in Queens, he suddenly realized that the STAR SEARCH audition was taking place at that very moment! Jake immediately caught the next train back to Manhattan, without even having the chance to change his grubby work clothes fix his hair. After getting signed up with a very narrow margin, he participated in the last group on the last day of auditions. Jake went on to perform ISN’T SHE LOVELY acapella and remembers that “There were twenty people auditioning in my group and only three of us were invited to stay. I was really surprised because there was some unbelievable talent in that room.” After making the first round of auditions, Jake informed the talent scouts that he was supposed to fly back to his former home in Springfield, Missouri the next morning and play with his band 4JAX. (Jake supplemented his income in New York and paid his rent by flying to Springfield once a month, to sing lead, play keyboard and run sound for the popular local band. He played with the group for three years, before moving to Manhattan to pursue his dream of a musical career.) The STAR SEARCH talent scouts asked him to cancel his upcoming trip so he could audition a second time the following day. They asked him to wear the same clothes and have the same look when he returned. He remembers fondly “I still can’t believe I had to wear that same wine-covered shirt and dirty jeans, but it worked the first time, so I promptly agreed.” Jake auditioned the next day and did not hear anything for almost three months. He states that, “I got the best New Year’s present of my life when my phone rang the first day of 2003 and I heard that CBS was interested in having me on the show-LIVE!” Disappointingly, he was invited to fly to Los Angeles as an alternate performer and thought “Well, it’ll be a great way to see California for the first time even if I don’t get to perform on the show.” “I didn’t take it seriously, until I was informed that I would perform on the show the very next day!” The rest is history.
Sony Music released Jake’s first CD, STAR SEARCH WINNER: JAKE SIMPSON in April 2003 after his first big win during season one of STAR SEARCH. The first single, I DON’T KNOW HOW I GOT BY, written by Grammy winner Diane Warren, garnered positive reviews.
He had been heavily influenced by the vocal talents of Stevie Wonder, Steve Perry (Journey) and the classic vocal styles of Sam Cooke. He chose ISN’T SHE LOVELY as a tribute to his idol, Stevie Wonder. Jake was really nervous backstage at the taping but “once I stepped out and began performing I felt at home.” Simpson’s upbeat version of ISN’T SHE LOVELY delighted the audience, judges and TV viewers and this talented dynamo was selected to return for the next round of competition.
Jake’s second selection, Marvin Gaye’s WHAT’S GOING ON, proved to be very timely due to the current state of the world today. Jake added, “All we need is some love today” to the end of the song. At the conclusion, all five judges collectively leapt to their feet and held up five fingers for a perfect score. Once again, Jake won first place and returned during the final round, to perform an exciting, colorful version of SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED that rocked the theatre. Friends and family flew to Los Angeles to support their favorite performer. The STAR SEARCH judges rewarded Simpson with a perfect score and the championship!
In June of 2004 Jake was elated when asked to perform on the OPRAH show in Chicago. During the filming of the show he was surprised and thrilled when STEVIE WONDER appeared from behind a curtain to play a harmonica solo and finish out the performance with Jake. He says this was the very BEST day of his life and continues to praise both STEVIE and OPRAH for making one of his dreams come true!
Jake has been a “hot” performer since his big win. He did star in the musical version of TOMMY in Boston’s Stoneham Theatre from September 9, 2004 through October 3, 2004. The show and Jake’s performance were highly successful and won rave reviews among fans and critics.
On June 12th 2004 Jake headlined at a black tie gala in Los Angeles honoring Specialist Shoshana N. Johnson, (Ret.) the first female POW of
Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is also the first African-American female POW in United States war history. Rear Admiral Barry C. Black, the current and 62nd Chaplain of the U.S. Senate was also honored.
Jake later headlined at the annual CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT gala in Los Angeles on June 26, 2004. This prolific non-profit organization, rescues young girls nationwide who have become prostitutes, gives them a place to stay in L.A., and provides them with psychological and career counseling and the opportunity to attend college or learn a trade. Jake also performed THE NATIONAL ANTHEM at Dodger Stadium on July 22, 2004, when the Dodgers played Colorado.
The glamour and bright lights of Hollywood are a world away from Jake Simpson’s hometown of Crocker, Missouri. This young man remembers growing up in a town without a traffic light or a Wal-Mart. Jake’s grandmother performed in a trio in her local church. At the tender age of five she invited her adorable grandson to sing before the parishioners and Jake’s first gig was singing AWAY IN THE MANGER during the annual Christmas program. Jake remembers the moment vividly. “I was terrified; my grandmother told me to hold the mike against my chest and sing without showing any emotion – what a tough crowd to please!” Simpson continued to sing in church throughout his freshman year in college in Springfield, Missouri.
Later Jake’s band director in grammar and high school became the most influential guiding force in his life. He nurtured Jake’s musical abilities and supported his dream of forming a band when Jake was in the 8th grade. As a matter of fact, the band director acted as M.C. and played keyboards when the band performed most of their concerts at the local American Legion Hall.
During college Jake’s band 4JAX became very popular and Jake enjoyed performing and playing keyboards with the band for three years. They played up tempo ‘80’s music and developed a large following of loyal fans in both Crocker and Springfield, Missouri. Jake fondly remembers returning to Springfield, Missouri to perform with 4JAX after winning STAR SEARCH and says “So many friends and fans showed up for the concert that the fire marshal had to turn disappointed people away!”
Before STAR SEARCH Jake wanted to follow his musical dreams. That meant moving from Missouri to New York in February 2001. “I met a choreographer from Manhattan, who came to Springfield to work on a local theatrical fundraiser. He suggested that I move to NYC and taught me the art of bar tending. I would work at the restaurant in the evening and audition during the day like thousands of other struggling artists. I flew back to Missouri once a month for gigs with the band so I could make some rent money.”
Jake auditioned for several theatre projects without much luck. “Theatre people just don’t seem to like my voice,” he says. The irony is that Jake received a phone call a day after moving to Los Angeles after his STAR SEARCH win and was notified that he was selected to perform as one of the leads in RENT on Broadway. He had to graciously decline the offer and began recording his first album, STAR SEARCH WINNER: JAKE SIMPSON for Sony Records. His STAR SEARCH selections are featured on the CD.
Since 2004 Jake has performed on other nationally broadcast television shows, and has ventured into commercial music production. He has also concentrated heavily on his newest independent project “My Song”. Slated for release in March 2008 it consists mainly of songs that are written, produced, and performed by Jake, with an all-star cast of musicians to really round out what is sure to be an awe-inspiring achievement in emotional heart and soul.
Jake is extremely grateful for his recent opportunities to perform on prime-time shows like STAR SEARCH and OPRAH. He says; "[that] just getting on these shows made me feel so special, and I love performing on national TV. Everyone on STAR SEARCH is a winner regardless of whether he or she won, and the experience was extremely positive. And singing with STEVIE WONDER on OPRAH had to be the single most exciting and humbling experience of my life! I’m so thankful that I can focus on music and live my dream!”