The spacious Beverly Hills room was nearly claustrophobic with rival singers/songwriters, a reality TV camera crew, a childhood idol, and a neglected grand piano the colour of French vanilla ice cream.
“I said, I’ll play,’” Jacob William recalls. He sat at the piano. William was about to sing “You Make My Home,” an original composition of love and regret. Listening was Walter Afanasieff, the songwriter and producer best known for co-writing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” But for William, Afanasieff was best known for producing the CD his mother kept in the car: Celine Dion’s eponymous album. “Being a geek,” William was compelled to pore over the liner notes, learning about the studio hands who made Celine Dion sound “as awesome as she could.”
He followed Afanasieff’s career for years until, “on a whim,” he discovered the songwriter’s role with Isina Academy, an international music mentoring company prepping a reality show designed to be “The Voice meets Big Brother.” “I just applied to it, thinking it’s probably a scam,” William laughs. He was flown to Los Angeles and put up at a Beverly Hills mansion, but the real appeal was Afanasieff. “I got to meet my idol.” They met in that Beverly Hills room with the grand piano. And after the other performers hit play on their recordings, William performed live at the piano.
“I can remember every little second of every little note,” he breathes. His idol turned to him and called the emotion he put into his music: “breathtaking.” “Next thing you know I’m sitting outside having a private word with Walter,” William crows, not seeming to believe it. “And when I say private word, I mean there were also three cameras watching.”
As the grand finale, William and his fellow musicians played in front of 1,500 music fans and industry professionals at the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles. “It was a dream, the whole six weeks.”
The show will be available worldwide on Netflix in late 2019.
“IF ART CAN BE DEFINED AS ‘THE PROCESS BY WHICH WE ENCODE EXPERIENCE IN ORDER TO SHARE IT WITH OTHERS, THEN JACOB WILLIAM IS A VERY FINE ARTIST INDEED”
– Tom Robinson, BBC introducing