Simon Cowell is a hard man to please. And having been on what feels like dozens of iterations of talent competitions over the years, he’s heard the standards many, many times. But during Wednesday’s (Dec. 11) semifinal episode of “The X Factor” Season 3, he said Jeff Gutt‘s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” — a song that’s been covered countless times throughout the years — was one of the best he’s heard. And he’s produced some versions of the song!
“Simon doesn’t like anything,” Gutt’s mentor Kelly Rowland tells Zap2it backstage after the show. “Inside I was dancing across the tables, but I had to completely just chill and was just so happy that Simon felt that way.”
Says Gutt, “Simon is a very smart guy, so to get two standing ovations from him when he still has two acts in, it meant that he really liked it. He wanted to show his appreciation of that, and I was honored.”
Gutt brought a lot to the song with his powerful rock voice, his mentor gushes. “It was beautiful, wasn’t it? It was absolutely beautiful and he believes every word he says,” Rowland says. “What I love most about working with Jeff is it’s not a gray area with him. He’s very authentic. It’s very black and white. There’s no in-between. He’s just really honest and if he loves it, he loves it and if he hates it, he’s like, ‘I hate it and I never want to sing it again.’ He’s wonderful to work with.”
It was an especially emotional song for Gutt, since it’s what he auditioned with during “The X Factor” Season 2. “I have been trying to live up to that moment ever since [my audition],” Gutt tells us. “With Kelly’s help I have been able to let go more and more on stage and I have lost all the insecurity that I have always had performing. But doing that song was so emotional for me. It took me an hour to get out of that! I had to do the song with Restless Road and I was still thinking of the first performance. The feeling of it, I just wanted it to come across, the pain of my life. I have had a very good life, but everyone has had pain and I just wanted to show that pain in that moment, everything will be OK.”