Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TOP STORY >> Rising star returns to Beebe

Leader staff writer

It was a homecoming for Beebe native Cody Belew Saturday night, when the singer performed at the Beebe school auditorium.

The recent contestant on NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice” came back to his hometown to support Beebe High School’s Project Graduation, an all-night party for seniors held after graduation. The project holds fundraisers throughout the year to purchase prizes and college necessities, such as laptops that are given away during the party.

“I participated in Project Graduation, my parents were heavily involved and my brother, Casey, did it. A great way to celebrate in a safe way,” said Belew, a 2003 Beebe High graduate.

“I haven’t been back to the school since freshman year in college,” he said.

The concert brought in $8,409, as the auditorium was packed with an audience of 660.

“It was a good crowd. I was worried we wouldn’t have a great crowd,” Belew said after the concert.

Belew performed in front of his home crowd that have supported his career and called in their votes during his run on “The Voice.”

About playing for Beebe residents, he said, “It meant the world and there’s no greater feeling than that.”

Belew continued, “I didn’t bring home the trophy (on “The Voice”) but it felt that way.”

Throughout the concert there were cheers and screams of “I love you Cody — We all love you,” from a group of tweens near the stage.

Beebe High 2013 honor graduates introduced Belew. He started the show by singing Beebe High School’s alma mater. The curtain opened to reveal Belew wearing his Beebe letterman’s choir jacket.

Backing him were his band from Nashville. They are drummer Jared Romero, bassist Rob Cureton, keyboardist Dustin Ransom and lead guitarist Dylan Williams.

Belew went immediately into “Crazy in Love” and then performed his new song, “You Gotta,” before singing “One and Only.”

Belew spotted a former classmate, Jennifer Ridings in the audience. He tried to get her to come on stage, but she stayed in the audience.

“I haven’t been home since I was on a little TV show called “The Voice,” Belew told the crowd.

He gave credit to his fans in Beebe who voted and supported him in the talent competition show.

Belew said growing up his family lived in Stoney Point, “when we were really poor.”

He had a cassette tape of Dolly Parton that he listened to over and over. She shaped his love of music. He said he didn’t know who she was or what she looked like, but if he had known, things might have been different.

He then sang “Jolene.”

Belew was in the 10th grade when the auditorium was being built.

“If it was built for anybody, it was built for me. I’m proud of this place,” Belew said.

He sang “Baby Get Out,” a new single released Monday, and then “Here With Me.” Belew said he heard the song and wished he had written it.

He got the audience to their feet when he sang “Lady Marmalade” and some started dancing.

Belew continued with “One More Try,” the last song he performed on “The Voice,” and slipped in the one thing he held was Badger Pride into the lyrics.

Belew recalled in kindergarten they would call roll in the morning. He said there were kids who brought their lunch, had money, or were charge-it kids.

“I was a charge-it kid,” he said.

He gave props to the lunch ladies. He said we always had good food and always had enough to eat.

Belew said no one should go hungry and is teaming up with Heifer International to fight hunger.

All proceeds from his new song, “Say Love,” debuted at the Beebe concert, will go to Heifer International. The Say Love campaign rolls out on April 1. This week Belew travels to Ecuador with Heifer International as part of the program.

Belew rounded out his show with Beebe High’s ninth-grade choir led by Jane Cunningham joining him on stage to sing “Somebody to Love.”

Cunningham was Belew’s school choir teacher from fifth through 12th grade. He said she was great and allowed her students to be creative.

For an encore, Belew sang “Desperado.”

“I just wish you’d travel with me to all my shows,” Belew said.

After the 50-minute concert, Belew took the time to meet with his fans and friends. For an hour and a half he stayed in the auditorium lobby shaking hands, signing autographs, posing for pictures and giving hugs.

He didn’t disappoint anyone. No one was turned away, not even the last woman in line.

Belew plans to release an album at the end of August, but will release singles throughout the summer.