In July 2011, Fort Worth musician Josh Weathers dedicated a cover of Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" to his mother. It is world-class diva quality. Kessler Artistic Director Jeff Liles recorded it, and posted it on YouTube. This Tuesday, more than two years later, reddit user silverslayer posted a link to the video along with the comment, "Guy covers 'I Will Always Love You,' and absolutely kills it."
Hundreds of thousands of people have watched the video since then, and on Wednesday, Weathers was taking several calls he wouldn't have if silverslayer had just posted another clip from Conan instead. Calls from managers and booking agents and very big, very well known national television talk shows and, yes, journalists.
"I don't even know what to think about all this," he says. He's currently pulling into a garage to get his truck inspected and its oil changed. Also at this moment, the Huffington Post is publishing a blog post about him. "In two weeks if it slows down, no one's going to give a crap."
As of this writing on Wednesday night, the initial reddit post has 2,595 upvotes and 696 comments. The YouTube video itself started the week with nothing special, view-count wise. On Tuesday at 4 p.m. it was up to 20,000 views. It's now over 275,000.
This isn't Weathers' first brush with virality. Maybe you've seen the video of Sarah Churman, who was born deaf, hear herself breathe for the first time after getting a cochlear implant. She initially uploaded the video in order to share the moment with a few close friends, including Weathers' wife. Weathers and Churman's husband were working in the Churman's barn in 2011 when she drove up and said, "CNN just called me."
That video now has over 18 million views. Churman appeared on Ellen, got a book deal and now tours the world, telling people about her experience. "It's just changed her life completely. I know the power behind it," says Weathers.
YouTube statistics have actual career-making potential for musicians, too - just ask Karmin or Mac Lethal. And maybe Weathers will land on some talk show, playing his Whitney Houston cover in that remarkable falsetto ("I could swear I was wearing underwear just a few minutes ago," says maybe the least prurient of those 696 reddit comments). Then maybe he'll wind up with some cash to record an album, and a tour, and off we go.
Or maybe a few months from now he'll just be driving his truck with its new oil to another gig at someplace like The Wine Crawl in Burleson, Texas (that's November 9, in case you'd like to mark your calendar). He doesn't seem to be that concerned either way.Weathers had a fever of 102 when the above video was recorded.
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"We live in the American Idol generation," he says. "They're interested in what's hot right this second. I'm a family man. My priority is just to be there for my wife and my kid."
That's not to say he wouldn't take an opportunity that made sense for him. "I'm scoping the stuff as it comes in," he says. "If someone keeps knocking after this thing dies down, then maybe it's someone who think, 'Wow this guy's talented,' instead of, 'Wow, this guy got 200,000 YouTube views overnight.'
'Snakes in the grass, man," he says. "There are lots of them."
So what will those management companies and promoters and whoever else find, if they do stick around? Weathers is quite a bit more than a novel voice. He's a talented original songwriter and a tireless performer - the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Preston Jones wrote a long feature on Weathers a couple months before that Kessler performance in 2011 entitled, "Josh Weathers: the hardest working man in local music."
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What he'd really like to do, short term, is reach his goal of getting 500 African orphans sponsored, which sounds like a joke or beauty pageant interview answer but is in fact neither.
The Asante Choir is a group of East African children whose mission is to spread awareness about the plight of orphans in the region. Weathers saw the group perform and was deeply moved - he spoke with one of the foster mothers about what the Choir is trying to accomplish and calls the conversation life-changing. He's planning to help the group produce an album when they tour the United States this winter. He made a pledge to get 500 orphans sponsored, one way or another. "And now this has happened, and now that may be easier," he says.