This week has Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so I thought I’d start my column with a wonderful performance by Brian Stokes Mitchell at our very first Concert for America. He combined “America the Beautiful” with “Wheels of a Dream.” So stunning and inspiring.
I had Javier Colon from The Voice (and October’s Concert for America) on Seth Speaks my weekly SiriusXM talk show and I am such a fan. He told us that when he began in the business he nabbed a record deal with Capital, but it didn’t work out. It was the whole “let us market you as something we want you to be instead of who you are.” They wanted him to be an R&B star, but he knew what he was a singer/songwriter. Not surprisingly, he knew that when you try to market yourself as something you’re not, it doesn’t work out. Cut to, Capital dropped him.
I told him it reminded me of Billy Porter’s first record deal where they insisted he was a R&B/slow groove/straight guy. He was decidedly not happy.
Thankfully, Billy now is completely himself on his records. And how better to say it than with the song “I Gotta Be Me” from Billy’s Back On Broadway?
Anyhoo, Javier had no record deal and didn’t know how he was going to keep getting gigs, and he had two kids at the time (now he has three!). Then one day his manager emailed him, saying that he got him an audition The Voice, a show that had been a hit in Holland and was starting in the US. Javier did not want to do a reality show and told his manager to cancel his audition. A few days later he was talking to his brother, and when his brother heard he had cancelled the audition, he asked Javier what he had going on that made him think he could miss this opportunity? Silence. Javier frantically called back his manager and asked if he could possibly get the audition again. Turns out, his manager forgot to cancel it! Perf!
Javier showed up and didn’t realize the requirement was to sing three songs that had been a hit over the last five years. He cannot believe how he sang the total opposite: “Time After Time” (hit from 30 years ago), an original song (no one wants that on a reality show), and “Over The Rainbow” (a hit from 80 years ago). Regardless, he was asked to be on the actual TV show and audition in front of the celebrity judges. He was feeling confident while on deck to go on. Until he heard the woman before him. Javier said she was amazing. But that’s not what hurt his confidence. It was the fact that she was rejected! He basically thought, “Wait. If she’s not good enough, then who the hell is?” And then he had to go out. If you don’t know, you sing in front of the judges who have their backs to you and, if they like you, they turn around in their seat. Scary! I asked how he restrained himself from over-singing. He said it was hard, and that he wanted to show the judges all he had, but he also knew his song had an arc, and he was better off following it and give smatterings of his sassafrass throughout. Needless to say, it went amazingly. Watch!
Adam Levine wound up being his mentor and one week, Javier was assigned “Every Breath You Take.” I think a lot of audiences think that contestants get to choose their own songs on singing shows, but usually they are assigned by the show. And sometimes quite badly. That’s what happened to Constantine Maroulis on American Idol. He had a great song to sing one week, but right before air, they lost the rights and he was given another song that totally didn’t show him off. Not surprisingly, it was the week he was eliminated. Ugh!
Anyhoo, Javier knew that “Every Breath You Take” wasn’t right for his style of singing and wouldn’t show him off. He asked Adam if he would lobby to let Javier sing “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan instead. Adam said yes, and got it set up. Javier was supremely thankful because he knew another mentor might not have trusted him, or might have not wanted to go against what the show wanted.
Speaking of which, before filming day, the creator of the show told Javier he was making a huge mistake. He was a big fan of Javier and didn’t want him to leave the show. And he felt that “Angel” would put him at great risk of being eliminated. What do you do? Well, years of not being himself because of his record contract taught Javier that it’s better to follow your gut and do what you know is right for yourself. He thanked him, but sang “Angel.” Not only was he not eliminated, it wound up being the first time a song from the The Voice went to number one on iTunes! BRAVA! Javier told him that when the producer saw him next he walked over said, “I was wrong.” However, it was in Dutch. So he might have been actually said, “Look at the tulips.”
Spoiler alert: Javier won The Voice, and now is dying to do Broadway. I told him I’m going to harass the Hamilton powers-that-be to get him into that show. The good news I sent a video to the creative heads. The bad news is I got zero (0) response. Hm. But it’s better than a “no”! Stay tuned to see what happens.
In other news, Disaster! is being done all over the country. I just made this video for theatres and schools who are considering doing the show. Jack edited it, and I love what he did. Especially the scrolling song titles! Side note; it was in my fancy room at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Speaking of Jack’s videos, here is a compilation of his horrific art teacher, Ben Siskind. Watch and remember your “favorite” teacher:
One of the schools that did Disaster! was the Tucson Magnet School in Tuscon, Arizona. It was such a big hit that they wanted to bring it back in January as a one-night-benefit for their arts program. However, their music director wasn’t available. Well, turns out, I’m going to be in Arizona doing a show a Kelli O’Hara in Scottsdale on January 27 (and then San Francisco on the 28) so the timing is perfect. Yes! I’m going to go to Tucson and be the music director for the high school kids! It’s on Friday January 26. If you’re in the desert, come see us! Tix here!
In other news, I promise I’m going to go back to deconstructions. I got an email from someone who took my deconstruction of “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen and made an amazing video. I cannot believe the painstaking work he put into this. So good! Watch then peace out: