What made the show unique was that the first "Rising Star" was televised in Israel, and this man from Israel created it and brought the concept here. The concept was that the singer would be behind a wall and the audience would see the singer, but the singer couldn’t see the audience, and people at home would be voting on apps. You’d have to raise this bar to a certain percentage, and when you reach that percentage the wall raises and you go on to the next round. That’s what intrigued me about the show.
As soon as they contacted me, I did research about the show and was just fascinated by it. I was born in the '90s and I grew up watching these shows, and I think by 2014 they were on the way out. But I think that this "Rising Star" show was something different, something unique, something fresh, and I thought it would be a good idea to go for it and see what happens.
DTH: What was it like to get that validation that your message was resonating with people?
JK: It’s kind of more that you prove something to yourself and to other people. I was a very motivated teenager — I was never out doing drugs or alcohol, smoking or hanging out on street corners. All I cared about was music, and I just had laser focus on what I wanted to do.
This kind of music was my passion as a teenager, and I would go out to clubs performing all these songs. I see people going crazy and I believed in what I was doing. I had a family that believed in what I was doing. But you also face skepticism from people, people that see a young kid performing classic songs, people in my own age group who say, “This is old music, how can you bring something back?” It’s not necessarily about bringing something back. Music is music. I believed in this music that I was performing.
DTH: What was the most important thing you learned while being on the show or a particularly significant memory from your time on the show?
JK: The whole experience in general was enough of a memory and enough of a beautiful thing. It was just a unique circumstance for anyone to be chosen to do that and to make it all the way to the end out of all these people. The greatest feeling in the world was probably the first episode when I performed, “I Put a Spell on You,” and I think the feeling was validation, but it was like everything I had worked for, dreamed for and believed in was coming true. Seeing the judges give me a standing ovation and seeing the bar go to 92 percent was amazing. That’s all I can say. It just confirmed everything I believed in as a teenager and showed me that all my passion and hard work paid off that day.
DTH: Why Durham, N.C.?
JK: I pay close attention to the fans and social media. I really look to see peoples' passions for wanting to see me live, so when I get letters, I try to make an effort to make things come true when someone says, “Come to my hometown.” A while back, a fan wrote me about a new venue that was opening up in Durham called Rhythms Live Music Hall and the person just said that they were dying to see me live. She said, “Please come to my home town, this venue would be perfect for you.”
DTH: On your audition for "Rising Star," you said that singing live doesn’t make you nervous but actually makes you feel more comfortable. Why is that?
JK: First of all, music is what I am. What I am couldn’t possibly make me feel nervous. When I’m on stage, I’m just showing people who I am through my music, and that’s what people love the most, I think. It’s not just about singing a perfect note or playing a perfect note on the guitar. It’s about putting yourself into the music, because that’s what people fall in love with.