For those who wondered why Daly was so ecstatic, a “one-chair turn” means that Hoot barely made it on the show. Clarkson was the only one of the four celebrity coaches during the initial “blind” audition who spun around in her chair when Hoot started crooning Luke Combs’s “When It Rains It Pours.” So, by default, he was automatically on her team.
This is a very unusual situation for the winner. Chris Blue from Season 12 is the other one-chair turn champion in the show’s history — and in that case, the other teams were full by the time he auditioned, so only Alicia Keys could offer him a spot. By comparison, for the other finalists this season, all four coaches turned for rocker Ricky Duran (second place) and blues pianist Katie Kadan (third place). Two coaches turned around for R&B/soul artist Rose Short, who finished fourth.
Throughout the last few months, as Hoot became increasingly popular to the voting audience, Clarkson often marveled at his humble beginnings. “I’m the luckiest coach in the world. How are you a one-chair turn?!” she exclaimed after he belted out a particularly moving version of the Eagles hit “Desperado.” During the live playoff episode, Clarkson confided, “Jake Hoot, he’s a one-chair turn and one of the best country singers that’s ever been on this show.”
So, how did Hoot manage to win despite barely squeaking through the first round? And why did the other coaches initially ignore him?
Both questions can be answered the same way: He’s a country singer. As viewers are well-aware, Nashville-bound performers are very popular on this show, and country fans love to vote in reality singing competitions. Hoot is the sixth country singer to take home the show’s prize of $100,000 and a recording contract, following Cassadee Pope (Season 3), Danielle Bradbery (Season 4), Craig Wayne Boyd (Season 7), Sundance Head (Season 11) and Chevel Shepherd (Season 15).
But despite angry viewers who claim country contestants just automatically win (last season, pop singer Maelyn Jarmon triumphed over three country singers), Hoot had to do more than just sing cover songs from Willie Nelson and Lonestar. He also accomplished the second-most important task on a reality singing show: connect with viewers, ideally with a devastating yet inspiring backstory.
Hoot easily did this: Not only did he seem like an all-around nice guy, he spoke candidly of the pain of going through a recent divorce, and cried when he talked about how much he loves his young daughter, Macy.
“Macy’s everything to me, so it’s very scary to step away from all that and come out here and take the chance of doing this full time,” he told the camera in the premiere. “I would hope that when she gets older, she can look back and say, ‘Well, Dad chased his dreams.’ Maybe it will inspire her to chase hers.”
Viewers responded to Hoot’s story, as well as his powerhouse vocals that drew comparisons to country legend Ronnie Dunn. (“You are a magical country cowboy unicorn,” Clarkson proclaimed at one point.) His songs had the highest streams on Apple Music of any artist this season, and the tracks typically shot to the top of iTunes download chart.
As for the other coaches missing out? Well, during the blind audition, Clarkson jokingly threatened Blake Shelton — who usually lands all the best country singers — not to turn his chair. Afterward, Shelton said he thought Clarkson was going to block him. (Each coach can use one “block” during the blind auditions.) But those things have never stopped Shelton before, and he still didn’t attempt to turn for Hoot.
Plus, Gwen Stefani and John Legend may have assumed they didn’t have a shot with Hoot against two coaches with more country experience. Although later in the season, Legend appeared to regret it.
“It’s amazing to me that only one of us turned for you in the blinds,” Legend said after Hoot brought down the house with Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up.” “Anybody who heard this performance today — you would have been a four-chair turn.”