Jake Hoot is still processing the fact that he won "The Voice."
The Cookeville, Tenn., native was crowned the winner of season 17 earlier this month, perhaps against all odds: Considering the fact that Kelly Clarkson was the only coach to turn her chair for the country crooner during his Blind Audition, his win was certainly unexpected.
But the show's first-ever one-chair winner found the perfect coach match in Clarkson, who he said he "bonded [with] over multiple things" throughout their time together. She was also integral in getting Hoot to believe in himself against stiff competition.
"One piece of advice was that she told me to be way more confident," Hoot told AOL's Gibson Johns the morning after his win. "She told me that I deserved to be there and that I should act on stage as if I belonged, so building up my confidence was a big thing."
For more on Jake Hoot's win, what he learned from Kelly Clarkson and where he wants to take his career over the next 12 months, read his full interview with AOL below:
We're talking the day after your big win on "The Voice." How are you feeling? How did you celebrate the win?
I’m in a daze, trying to figure out the gravity of what all just happened. I think I told Kelly [Clarkson] last night that I’m still trying to process getting Kelly’s chair turned in the Blinds, much less winning this thing. Last night I came back to the hotel afterwards and hung out with my girls for a while and my family and friends and then I went and met up with a bunch of people from the show — past contestants and people from the behind the scenes — so it was a really special night. I got me some sleep and saw my girls off, but I’m feeling very grateful and trying to figure out what’s next.
What have other coaches said to you since you were announced as the winner?
The other coaches were all supportive. Gwen [Stefani] came up and told me congratulations and said she was a huge fan, Blake [Shelton] came up and told me he was proud of me and John [Legend] came up and said the same. Of course, Kelly is a cheerleader. She said she knew I had it in me from the Blinds, and I'm glad she did. I’m going to take her to the horse races with me or something. [Laughs] There’s been so much love, and I’m very grateful for it. It’s been a journey to get here with so many ups and downs, so to be at the end of this and see so many people rally behind me is really special.
Kelly was the only coach to turn for you, so she clearly did have that belief in you from the beginning. Talk to me about the connection that you were able to cultivate with one another in the months following that moment. What makes it so special?
Having her support and her believe in me from the get-go was something I didn’t even do. To have somebody at her level — she’s a legend in the music industry — get behind me and believe in me as an artist and as a person ... we bonded over multiple things. First off, she knows what we all go through — she was on "American Idol." And she knows what it’s like being on the other side of that. Then, of course, being parents and seeing how much each of us cares about our kids and families made it different, too. I’m glad for any moment we got to spend together and to talk, because she’s just a genuine person.
I'm sure you learned a lot from her, but are there one or two particular things that have stayed with you that she told you?
One piece of advice was that she told me to be way more confident. She told me that I deserved to be there and that I should act on stage as if I belonged, so building up my confidence was a big thing. One time I asked her how she juggled being a parent while also holding a million different jobs, and she told me it’s all about being present wherever you are. If you’re at work, work your butt off and be your best at work. When you’re with family, have no outside distractions and just be present. That’s something that has stuck with me, because that was one of the things I worried about going into this industry with my daughter and my girlfriend and her daughter. To see how Kelly Clarkson does it was something I looked up to.
You’re her third winner of "The Voice." What makes her such a great coach?
I can’t really say in comparison to other coaches, but with Kelly one thing that blew me away was that she is the same on and off camera. She doesn’t change or put on a front when the lights come on, and she also takes that extra time to get to know you personally. There were a couple of times when she turned into the mama bear and was looking out for us, making sure we were getting the best opportunity possible. That goes a long way, because I feel like she actually cares about it beyond winning or it being a TV show. That in and of itself was special.
There are a lot of different directions that you can take the next year of your career. What do you hope you get to do next?
Honestly, first and foremost, I’m excited to get home and spend Christmas with the girls. I’ve got an EP that I recorded last year that hasn’t been released, and the first step is regrouping with Kelly and whoever else to figure out what the best plan of attack is. Do I use songs from the EP for an album or start writing new ones? Kelly said she wants to hook me up with some great writers, so I’m looking forward to taking a running shot with this thing and giving it everything that I got. I’m excited for what the future holds.
This interview has been edited and condensed.