‘Even back then you really knew:’ Vocal coach for Usher says she knew he’d be a star

ATLANTA — Atlanta’s own Usher Raymond and friends touched on about a dozen songs in a show produced by Atlanta talent Sunday night during his Super Bowl halftime performance.

One person who was listening closer than others was Usher’s vocal coach, Mama Jan Smith.

Jan Smith is in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, a multi-platinum certified local coach who has trained some of the most distinctive voices in the music world like Rob Thomas Matchbox Twenty, Shania Twain, Justin Bieber, Jill Scott, India Arie, Nicki Minaj and of course Atlanta’s own Usher to name a few.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

“You know, Usher was already signed to a deal with the LaFace Records. And so I knew that I was already dealing with one of those, you know, young, young artists that had that potential,” Smith told Channel 2′s Karyn Greer. “When you hear him sing, though, even back then you really knew that there was something special that God gave that kid.”

Mama Jan as Usher started calling her, started working with the global icon when he was only 18, right after his voice started changing and was in jeopardy of losing his contract with Atlanta-based LaFace Records.

“There are just certain changes that come in play with puberty. And it’s all it’s all-natural. It’s all normal, respectable stuff, it’s just a matter of learning how to navigate through that,” she said. “And when you have a career that’s already on the line, it’s a real scary thing. And, and for him, it was a matter of making sure that he kept his confidence.”


Mama Jan is now working with the next generation, and at least one of Usher’s sons appears to have the gift of music as well.

“I have an ongoing relationship with Usher he calls me when he needs me now. And also when he just wants to visit or wants to play me some of the new stuff that he’s doing and getting my opinion on that but I have the great honor and privilege of that lineage working with his one of his sons now,” Smith told Channel 2 Action News.

Channel 2 Action News can also confirm Usher got a marriage license in Las Vegas and married longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Goicoechea.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]


Comments on this article