HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - In today's world, it's hard to watch television, use your phone, or even walk outside without seeing all the negative that goes on in the world. The hardest part is turning those negatives into positives – life lessons even. A country music artist – that you may recognize from NBC's The Voice – is using his platform to encourage kids to do just that.
Growing up in a small town in Arkansas, Jared Blake has been playing music and writing songs since he was 5 years old.
"It's definitely been the most important piece in my life. It keeps me in touch spiritually, it keeps me in touch with my family, it's really that saying, music is the soundtrack to your life. I don't believe people really even realize how important music is to every single person," Blake said.
He was a semi-finalist on Blake's team on the first season of The Voice. Since then, he's used his platform and personal experiences as a recovered addict to reach out to today's youth, focusing on not only sober living, but bullying, hard work, dedication, encouraging them to rise above. His foundation is called "Live To Be."
"Everything was kind of based on this negative message of don't do this, don't do that. Don't say this, don't wear this. Growing up it was very much don't do these things, do these things, don't do all this. So we started thinking, maybe if you put out a negative you get a negative. Maybe if we put out a positive, you'll get a positive. If you keep talking about what I shouldn't do, my mind is still focused on what you're talking about," he explained.
Live to Be has partnered with treatmentcenters.net, which has allowed Blake to keep his program free, something he says is so important because it allows him to go to schools that need it the most - ones that may not be able to afford it otherwise. He has since traveled to over 200 schools. Blake says his music is a powerful tool – he's able to connect with students of all back rounds, spreading a message of friendship and unity.
"When the kid that's on probation and the quarterback of the football team both come to you that day with tears in their eyes talking to you about their issues and you see the broad spectrum, and you get back home and your Instragram is filled with 80 messages from kids talking about how much it changed them, if can't help but change you, it can't help but motivate you to keep doing this," Blake said.
Jared and his wife Jennifer were hit head-on by a drunk driver last May. At the time, Jared was working on a new song called, "Don't Let Her Be Gone."
"In that moment everything changed for me. the idea of don't let her be gone went to a whole different place," Blake said.
The music video stars Blake and his wife, who agreed to let the accident inspire the video, under one condition.
"She said I want to play the role as the drunk driver. And I was like why would you do that? And she said I think we as America point out finger nonstop look at what someone else did to me, look at what someone else did, when all of us are responsible for everyone else's lives around us all day, we all get in that car, we get on our cell phone we put on our make-up, we're drinking our coffee, we do different things in this vehicle that distract us from what we're truly doing," Blake said.
Instead of dwelling on a tragic event, the pair uses it to inspire others. Blake hopes today's youth will use their ambitions and dreams to make good decisions, leading them toward their goals. He also encourages kindness, spreading positivity – and smiling at strangers.
"You wouldn't believe how much a smile can change that. Just to feel like someone cares."
Jared is performing at SBB in Murrells Inlet on Saturday, March 24. For ticket information, click here.