The Voice Alum Jon Mullins Looks Back on the Tragedy That Led His Music Down a Whole New Path

·4 min read

Jon Mullins can still remember the phone call. It was February of 2016, and his wife of two years Whitney was working full-time as a teacher in Brentwood, Tennessee when she slipped on something on the floor of her classroom and hit her head on the concrete underneath her.

From the sounds of it, she was going to be OK. But she wasn't.

"The hospital told us she had a slight concussion," remembers Mullins, 34, during an emotional interview with PEOPLE. "The next day she started having panic attacks. She started losing her speech. She couldn't put sentences together. She started losing motor functions. She could barely stand. It was this instant regression of speech, motor functions and short-term memory. I watched my wife go from this incredibly strong, independent woman to somebody who was not able to even put the sentences together."

jon mullins, whitney mullins
jon mullins, whitney mullins

Laura Moll Jon Mullins and wife Whitney

In fact, the couple, who had first met in the business office of Tennessee Temple University, could no longer communicate their feelings for one another or for the dire situation they suddenly found themselves in.

"All we could do is just cry," Mullins remembers. "She would sit in the bed and cry and I'd bring my guitar in and I would just pick on the guitar and she would just fall asleep, crying."

jon mullins, whitney mullins
jon mullins, whitney mullins

Laura Moll Whitney and Jon Mullins

From there, Mullins and his wife found themselves on a journey of questions and pain and dead ends and doctor's visits. Much of this journey added to the incredible story of the rambunctious kid with the big voice who turned into the man who wowed Kelly Clarkson on The Voice in 2020. And it was on that singing competition show that the Pennsylvania native shared his and Whitney's story with the world.

"I wasn't sure about even going on the show in light of everything that was going on at the time, but Whitney was always like, 'Listen, God opens doors for a reason' and 'There's a timing for everything,'" Mullins remembers. "Auditioning for The Voice audition felt like this little light at the end of this big tunnel. And, you know, I had placed music on the back burner for about two and a half years, making sure that Whitney's recovery was good."

jon mullins, whitney mullins
jon mullins, whitney mullins

Laura Moll Whitney and Jon Mullins

Flash forward to today, and while Mullins is grateful to have shared his painful story for so many through somewhat heart-wrenching songs such as "Better Man," "Get to You" and "Survive," Mullins says he now feels like he is at a moment in his career when he also wants to show the other, more carefree side of his and Whitney's relationship.

Hence, his new single "Hot Like Summer."

Jon Mullins
Jon Mullins

Brandon Cawood Jon Mullins

"I think this song tells people that seeing somebody and knowing right away that you love them is still feasible, even in today in today's day and age," says Mullins of the song produced by Ryan Prewett and the music video directed and produced by Brandon Cawood. "Everyone seems to be swiping on apps and doing all these things, but when you see that person in real life and you feel that connection, it's real. I wanted to tell that story of how it happened with Whitney and me."

Mullins says he also wanted to move past the sadness for a little while.

"I wanted to show [my fans] something that is so incredibly positive and give them a song where they can concentrate on the more positive aspects in life," he says. "I also wanted to show them a different part of my artistry. Some people have only noticed the sad songs that I've released. I wanted to give them something to jam to for a change."

Jon Mullins
Jon Mullins

Brandon Cawood Jon Mullins

It's also a needed personal boost for Mullins and Whitney, who continues to work on her recovery.

"Right now Whitney is 85% recovered. That's the best it will ever get," he explains quietly. "Her speech, her motor functions, her short-term memory — everything is pretty much recovered. But her anxiety and panic attacks — those are the things that have stuck around, and we did not have that before the fall. That's a new normal for us."

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