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THE VOICE -- Season: 17 -- Contestant Gallery -- Pictured: Alex Guthrie -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Age: 26

City of residence: Marietta (east Cobb)

Volunteer work: Alex has supported numerous charities with his musical talents and humble charm, including Enduring Hearts, Rock By The Sea, Diamonds Over Georgia, Arby’s Foundation, Dream Big Atlanta and Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers.

Awards and honors: Reached the Top 20 contestants on NBC’s “The Voice” Season 17; starred in a nationally-aired American Family Insurance commercial with Jennifer Hudson in 2017, Voted Atlanta’s Creative Loafing 2018 Americana Artist of the Year, 2015 Georgia Americana Artist of the Year and 2014 Atlanta Braves Band of the Year

efore he was singing for a TV crowd of millions on NBC’s “The Voice,” east Cobb resident Alex Guthrie was a Lassiter High School student with a garage band.

“We went by a different name every month,” he said with a laugh. “But it was an awesome outlet.”

Fans compare Guthrie’s silky vocals to folk performers like John Mayer (with more of an edge), but in those days, the young musician was influenced by hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and ’90s grunge acts like Nirvana.

Guthrie said his time in the Lassiter chorus taught him proper singing technique, and his discovery of singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne helped chart his musical course.

“I had never experienced a kind of music that made me feel so good,” he said of LaMontagne. “I had been pumped up by harder music and faster music, but when I found Ray LaMontagne in particular, it touched something to my heart that just instantly drew me to it, and I haven’t really looked back.”

Guthrie remembered taking his first solo gig at east Cobb bar Suburban Tap after being talked into it by a friend.

“I went out on a Tuesday, super awkwardly,” he said. “I closed my eyes and stood like five feet away from the microphone, but enjoyed it nonetheless, and I played there for a number of years and they really helped me get my start.”

As time went by, Guthrie started taking more and more gigs until he realized he had become a touring musician.

“It started off with a show on a weekend that’s out of town and then a couple shows in this city and a couple shows in that city. And then, every year that goes by, you keep adding until at some point you’re like, ‘Oh. I’m touring,’” he explained.

To fund his expeditions, Guthrie turned to another lifelong interest: snakes.

Guthrie said he had loved the scaly reptiles as a boy, and his parents encouraged him to learn more about them so he’d know which ones were safe. He and a friend bought a breeding pair of Central American boas and started selling their offspring at snake shows.

“It felt like a lot of money at the time,” he said with a laugh. “But it was enough to get by.”

Guthrie said he learned to find comfort in the routine of touring, having a new home on the road every night. But one day, he learned of a strange casting call for a singer and guitar player for an event. He took a chance, auditioned, got the part and ended up on an insurance commercial where he was surprised by singer Jennifer Hudson. After that, Guthrie’s face and voice could be found on billboards and televisions across the nation.

“Overnight, people knew my name,” he said. “It’s not like I was famous anywhere, but there was enough brand recognition that if we went out of town to play a show, people were going to come - maybe not a lot of people, but people would come.”

Some success followed, including opening for his first “Voice” coach, Kelly Clarkston, when she performed at the Coca-Cola Roxy in 2017.

But his next big break came in 2019 when he tried out for “The Voice,” not expecting to get very far.

“Every single round, I’d get to the next one and go, ‘OK, well, it was fun so far, but probably not gonna make it through this next one.’ And then the next one would happen, and I’m like, ‘OK, but I probably won’t get to the next one,’ until I got to the top 20 and I was finally right,” he said, with a laugh.

Guthrie was eliminated from show in late November, but said the process has given him plenty of memories and taught him a great deal about his craft. On the show, he was able to study under singing legends Clarkston and John Legend.

He said the most important lesson Legend taught him was to focus on the emotions behind the music rather than just hitting the right notes at the right time.

“And Kelly taught me how to be more of a performer, not just some singer-songwriter who hides behind a guitar,” he said. “She helped me find my own comfort as a real performer and singer, and I always just viewed myself like a singer-songwriter. That was a whole other freedom I had just never felt onstage.”

Guthrie said he’s been keeping busy recording tracks with other former “Voice” contestants and touring, but he’s not going to forget about his fans back in Cobb County.

“I’ll spend a lot more time out of town touring, sure,” he said. “But when I’m in town, it’s gonna be a lot more exciting of a show, a bigger production, things I’ve never done before that I’m really excited to share with everyone.”

If you would like to celebrate these honorees, please join us for The Cobb Life List: 20 Under 40 Awards Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre. Tickets include the the fun awards program and a reception immediately following can be purchased by visiting cobblifemagazine.com/list

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Ross Williams covers Marietta. He grew up in the city and graduated from Pope High School. He has a bachelor’s degree from Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven as well as a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

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