"The Voice": Fierce But Friendly Competition: Davis, Jenkins, Rey, & Thomas

By Karen Moul

The VoiceWhat distinguishes The Voice from other talent competitions, such as American Idol or America's Got Talent?

For starters, the celebrity judges aren't judges at all, they're coaches. In the first two weeks, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Maroon 5's Adam Levine drafted their teams based solely on singing ability. In the next phase of the show, the coaches will groom their singers but will also pit them against each other in head-to-head battles, cutting their teams down to the strongest vocalists.

The Voice is also distinguished by not pretending to be about raw, undiscovered talent. The creators make no apologies for including contestants who have already released albums or sung professionally. The most recognizable performer is Frenchie Davis, a contestant on season two of American Idol who has also performed on Broadway. Javier Colon has released two albums with Capitol Records, and Kelsey Rey was a YouTube sensation. But don't consider them favorites to win – they're up against an array of talented newcomers who wowed the audience, and at this early stage the competition is wide open.

"This is the first singing competition on TV that's all about singing," says Davis, "and so everybody's good. You'll see this coming up when the battleground episodes air, there were moments where the judges got emotional because how do you choose between two amazing singers?"

College student and country artist Patrick Thomas agrees. "It's apples and oranges sometimes because there is so much talent. Everybody on this show is so musically talented...how can you compare the R&B singer with the country singer? That's very, very difficult to do."

Thomas and fellow contestant Jeff Jenkins are seen as direct competitors due to their similar country styles, but during a recent conference call with reporters they made it clear that the competition is not only fierce but also friendly.

"Though we both are country singers," says Jenkins, "we're different singers. And so whether or not we will in the end be competing for ratings on the radio, if it is a competition it's a friendly competition."

Thomas agrees. "Whether we're competing this round or down the line...we are competing for ratings and we are competing in essence for a rank on iTunes.

"But with that said, I'm sitting there cheering Jeff on when he's at number 30 or whatever he was out on the country charts. I'm sitting there cheering him on at number 30 as I'm happy with my number 50. You know, I'm not bitter about any of that because Jeff is my good friend. And I respect Jeff's talent."

Davis has a similar take on the competition. "What's been so special for me during this process," she offers, "is that while I am in competition with these people, I'm rooting for them at the same time. We've been become like a little family.

"Everybody's so talented...and they're good hearted. And I think that's been the highlight of my experience so far, just the wonderful friendships that I've made and just being able to share a stage, share a living space, share this experience with so many wonderfully talented people who have hearts of gold."

During a recent conference call, competitors Davis, Jenkins, Thomas and Rey also talked about the audition process and why they chose to work with their specific coaches.

The Voice
Conference call with Frenchie Davis, Jeff Jenkins, Kelsey Rey, and Patrick Thomas

May 3, 2011
12:00 pm CT

QUESTION: Frenchie, you've been through all of this before, having been on [American Idol]. And I'm wondering how this whole experience has been different for you this time?

Frenchie DavisFRENCHIE DAVIS: Well because I wasn't allowed to compete on Idol I don't really have a full breadth of experience to fully compare the two shows. I mean, I did audition for Idol and, yes, I did sing with Kim Locke during Hollywood Week but I never got to the point where I was performing for a studio audience or any of that.

So I can - the differences that I can point out between the shows is that number one, it's a serious competition. All of the artists auditioning for it are serious about it; they are good singers, everybody can sing. There are no bad people, you know, who are cast on purpose so that we can sit at home and watch our televisions and laugh at them. Everybody's genuinely wanting this; everybody's an artist; everybody can sing including the judging panel.

And that's another difference as well. It's not just a panel of judges telling you, "you suck, you suck and this is why." It's a panel of coaches who are saying "this is where I think you can grow as a singer and this is how I think I can help you do that." And I think those are major differences that I can say are between the two shows.

QUESTION: Frenchie, have you bonded with Christina and how has your experience been so far on her team?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I've been having a wonderful experience being on her team. You know, what's been most pleasantly surprising about being on Christina's team is that she's very insightful and she's really kind of smart.

And I love that the advice and even critiques that she gives. It's really coming from of place of, you know, it's not like from someone who doesn't know anything about this, she's a singer and she's really insightful; I think that's the best word I can use to describe how she's been as a coach, insightful and kind of, you know, kind of a momma bear a little. And I've been loving it; it's been a wonderful experience. I'm learning from her and working with her.

QUESTION: Frenchie, how challenging was it to overcome what happened with Idol, to forget ahead with a career and still be singing today?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: It certainly had - it certainly was not easy. But, you know, I choose to focus on the positive and the positive is that I've been able to make a living doing what I love. And, Broadway was a wonderful blessing and that was hard work; there was eight shows a week. And that's been my life up until now.

And all I can say is that I'm thankful that I've had this time to just grow as a performer and grow as a singer. And, it was difficult but I just choose to focus on all of the good that came out of it.

QUESTION: My question is for Jeff Jenkins. You were one of the two people that were selected by all four judges. What made you select Adam as your coach and how has it been working with Adam Levine?

JEFF JENKINS: A big thing that my mom always taught me was to follow your gut and, you know, the things that you do. When listening to all of the coaches talk to me and say why I should be on their team he really stood out. He spoke after every other coach spoke and said that he could take me to that next level. And that's what The Voice is about, going to that next level.

And I'm really happy with my decision. He's an awesome coach. He really, really knows exactly what he's talking about. He pinpoints all your problem areas and knows how to tell you how to fix those. And he's really cool. And he adds a new side to what I know about the music.

QUESTION: Good morning, Frenchie. Do you see this as your last shot and is that why you want to go through all? Because you had a lot of notoriety after the last one and that didn't seem to boost your career. So do you see this as your last shot for a recording career?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I don't see anything as a last shot. I'm sure that some people saw Idol as my last shot and clearly it was not. So I think - I believe that it's never your last shot as long as you are willing to continue working and continue pushing forward. What this shows was about for me is it's not even about necessarily winning; I feel like we've all won by being on the show.

For me it's about, you know, when I did leave Idol most people remembered me from Idol because of the, you know, the scandal surrounding my leaving the show. And I - if I couldn't sing then maybe I could live with that. And so what this show represents for me is a chance to reintroduce my talent to the world because they didn't get to see it in the two minutes of air time that I was on Idol.

So it's a chance to reintroduce the full extent of my talent to the world. And this time win or lose I walk away being remembered for my talent and nothing else.

QUESTION: Jeff, how did you find out about the show? How did you get picked? Did you have to audition to get to the [blind] audition? What was it like?

JEFF JENKINS: Well, yes, I go to school in Nashville at Belmont University and so - a lot of my friends, you know, sing and perform. And so I wasn't performing out, I was just focusing on school. And a friend of mine told me to check out this new show on NBC.

So, I checked it out and there was one audition left and that was in Seattle. So I made the decision to fly to Seattle and I went by myself and went to the open casting call and went through that audition process.

QUESTION: Frenchie, [are we] going to get to hear you sing Broadway songs on the show?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I sincerely hope so. We're not at the stage of the competition where we can pick our own songs yet, so hopefully.

QUESTION: What Broadway shows would you like to sing, other than Rent of course?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: If I got to sing a Broadway song it would more than likely be "I Am Changing" from Dreamgirls or "Home" from The Wiz.

QUESTION: Jeff, you talked about how much of an inspiration your mother was to you and how much you wish she could have heard you sing. If you don't mind, could you talk a little bit about your mother and how she happened to pass away? I know you referred to her as a fighter at one point in your introduction.

JEFF JENKINS: Yes, definitely. You know, my mom was always my inspiration and she still is my inspiration. Going into this, I remembered all the things that my mom taught me about singing and about performing and really pushing for my goals.

And I thought "oh wow, I don't have that anymore." But then I quickly realized that all those things that she taught me remained inside of me. And I'm really thankful for that.

She actually passed away of colon cancer, which she fought for years and years. And many people didn't even know that she was as sick as she was because she was such a fighter and didn't let on to people that she was that sick. But, you know, I'm thankful for the time that I had with her and it's a blessing to be able to say that she was my mom. And, yes, I know she's right there with me when I'm performing every time now.

QUESTION: What type of music do you see yourself singing and what kind of artist would you like to become down the road? Since you chose Adam Levine as your coach does that signify that you might be interested in going down more of a pop route than country?

JEFF JENKINS: Well, I definitely want to remain in my roots of country music. But I've always sang more of the Rascal Flatts, pop-country type stuff that could cross over. And I really think that Adam can really help me along with that side of the country - or of the music industry.

QUESTION: Kelsey, [how did your] YouTube video come about and what sort of fame [did you get] from it?

Kelsey ReyKELSEY REY: Well it was kind of a random idea why I did the YouTube video. My producers at the time, they own the rights to the song. And they kind of just wanted to do a video just to see how many hits it would get.

And I'm based out of Miami so the club scene is huge down here. And so they made the song a club song and they made a video just to see how many hits. And within like four days it ended up getting one million views which was kind of surprising because, I mean, it happened so quickly. So it was really just to get me out there.

QUESTION: We've seen the competition among the judges. Will we get a chance to see ... you guys compete? Are you placed in a house together? And will we see any of that on the show?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: We don't know if we're going to be placed in a house together yet. We don't know that part so far. And at first you'll see us competing with other members of our own teams before we get to compete with members of other teams.

JEFF JENKINS: I think that's a good answer.


QUESTION: How are you doing Jeff? You come from a very small town in Texas, how has it been adjusting to all the changes that come from being on the show?

JEFF JENKINS: Well, I mean, the changes are - they're crazy. I go to school also in Nashville so that has kind of been a middle ground from Jones Creek to LA. But even from Nashville to LA the changes are insane. You know, it is city, city, city. But my family and I traveled a lot and even though we would come home to our quaint little village of Jones Creek I was able to kind of see, you know, around and that kind of got me ready for the big city.

QUESTION: Patrick and Jeff - you guys seem like more of the amateurs of the competition; do you guys feel that it's unfair or that some of the other contestants that have had professional experience? Like Javier, who's actually released two professional albums before, or Frenchie, who's done Broadway? Do you guys feel that there's any unfair advantage there?

PATRICK THOMAS: I think I could kind of speak for both of us saying that although we haven't had a record deal and we may have not signed a bunch of contracts and had performing experience such as Frenchie or Javier, we still have been doing this for a long time whether on an amateur level or not.

And we have been working at our craft, everybody on this show is indeed an artist. We don't just sing a cover of a song; we've been working on developing a unique sound, a unique style, becoming our own very unique and individual artist.

And so ... although we may have not ... have the impressive resume like a lot of the other artists on this show, I think we're both still very confident that we know we who we are and we know what we can accomplish. I don't know, Jeff, you have anything to add to that?

JEFF JENKINS: Yes, I mean, it's awesome. You know, it's kind of sometimes crazy looking at all these fans that they already have. But I feel really great being the fresh face. And I really - I like that aspect of it is that we can be a new face for America - or for the world. And I think that brings a different thing to the table as well.

QUESTION: Frenchie, you mentioned that you guys are not at the point in the competition where you can choose your own songs. Do you guys feel like it affects your performances at all? And how does that work? Are you guys given a list of songs to choose from?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Yes, we are given a list of songs to choose from. And I know a lot of my fans were disappointed with "I Kissed a Girl." They wanted me to go out there and belt out Aretha or Whitney. But I do want to add that the singer who sang an Aretha song, no one turned around for her.

But we were given a list of songs and "I Kissed a Girl" was the song that was left that hadn't already been selected for another girl that would be auditioning. So, yes, I do think song choice plays a role which is why I'm hoping that we'll get to choose our own songs soon.

PATRICK THOMAS: Well, I was just going to say that although the producers are exercising some control, obviously with the list we do have some input.

But you've got to remember that, as this is a talent competition it is also a TV show and so you have to make sure that you're, you don't want - if everybody were singing some big Aretha ballad in the same round that comes off a little bit weird on TV. You want to have variety.

And I do think they have our best interest in mind. And...

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Thank you, Patrick.

PATRICK THOMAS: ...I mean, for Frenchie - I know Frenchie was a little bit - was a little bit surprised by her song choice and then she walked out and just killed it and nobody would've expected Frenchie to sing that song and so it's very - it almost worked for her that now she still has that Aretha ballad waiting in the wings that she can pop out the next round and blow people away with.

And they also know that she can go out there and perform a dance [number]. So in a way they've been our allies in this even though we don't have complete control.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Yes Patrick. That's why I love you.

QUESTION: The judges kind of made [Frenchie] work before one of them turned around. What was going through your mind?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Well, you know, I came into this expecting to have to work. I don't feel entitled to any of this. So I'm totally okay with having to ... work for it. And what was going through my brain - I think you can see from my reaction, when Christina did turn around I was genuinely excited and happy and honored that ... I mean, a lot of singers auditioned for this and each coach could only pick eight.

So, you know, I was just up there like "please God, let someone turn around." And the fact that it was Christina was like a double yes. That was a double answer to the prayer so...

QUESTION: Was there a moment of internal freak-out at all while you were singing?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: No, I couldn't let myself go there because at the end of the day whether someone turned around or not I - there was still an audience there that I had to... I felt like I needed to give a good performance to.

Because I mean, there were some singers who nobody turned around for and I disagreed with the judges and I'm sure that there will be people in the viewing audience who will disagree with some of the people who coaches decide not to turn around for because everybody was really good; everybody could sing.

So ... you never know what will happen for some of the singers who were great but none of the coaches turned around for them. So I feel like, you know, I couldn't allow myself to freak out too much because I had to focus on still giving a good performance for the audience. And thank god Christina saved me.

QUESTION: [Were] any of you were surprised by how you were portrayed on the show? Was there any [time that you thought] "oh, I didn't realize I acted that way or I came off that bad?"

KELSEY REY: Well, I could answer that one probably. I might as well say it. Some people definitely I think portrayed me in the wrong way because I have been getting some comments, negative comments saying that I might be too cocky or conceited.

And I'm pretty sure the three people that are on this call right now would agree with me that it's, you know, I they knew me, they know that that's not the truth.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Yes Kelsey is golden.


FRENCHIE DAVIS: Kelsey was my roommate during this process when we were staying at the hotel. And the people who think that she's cocky couldn't be more wrong. She is a sweet, sweet girl; that is my little sister. I've adopted her.

She's fantastic. And ... I think that there may be a little bit of validity to the point that Kelsey was trying to make ... because let's face it, the industry is full of beautiful girls who may not necessary be great singers.

And Kelsey is a gorgeous girl and people probably do look at her and assume that she probably - that's what she is and that she doesn't have any musical talent. So I think that she's an excellent example of how this show works in the reverse. Like she's not just a pretty face; she has a heart of gold and she's a smart girl and she's talented. And I don't think that there was anything wrong with her acknowledging that.

KELSEY REY: Oh I love you Frenchie. Yes, it was...

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I love you too, girl, I have your back.

KELSEY REY: It's hard because I really - that was one thing I didn't want to be portrayed as. And it think that a lot of people saw it like that just because at the end I did say, you know, I have been looked at as the pretty face who can sing. And for once in my life I'm actually, I'm showed as a singer and it's a great thing and it's an amazing accomplishment for me.

And I'm really proud of myself in that sense. And, you know, I wish people could see that. But not everybody is going to like you so you've kind of just got to...

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Yes, you can't - girl, you can't please everybody and keep your sanity; they'll get over it.


QUESTION: Jeff and Patrick, do you feel that you're in direct competition with each other more so than the others, given your country styles?

Jeff JenkinsJEFF JENKINS: I really don't think so. I think, you know, though we both are country singers we're different singers. And so whether or not we will in the end be competing for ratings on the radio, if it is a competition it's a friendly competition. But I think we're different enough to where people like us for our own instead of wanting that competition between us.

PATRICK THOMAS: Yes, you know, I think Jeff hit really the nail on the head is that we really - although in essence this really is a competition for everybody regardless of whether we're competing this round or if we're competing, you know, hopefully down the line because we are competing for ratings and we are competing in essence for a rank on iTunes.

But that said, I'm sitting there cheering Jeff on when he's at Number 30 or whatever he was out on the country charts. I'm sitting there cheering him on at Number 30 as I'm happy with my Number 50 whatever. You know, I'm not bitter about any of that because Jeff is my good friend.

JEFF JENKINS: Feel the same, yes.

PATRICK THOMAS: And I respect Jeff's talent. And we - I know that everyone, when we watched Javier for example, when we watched his single go up to whatever it was, Number 18 on the overall chart, I can speak for everybody saying that we were all so genuinely happy for him.


FRENCHIE DAVIS: We love Javier, oh my gosh.

PATRICK THOMAS: Exactly. And we're all so happy to be where we are right now.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: And together.

PATRICK THOMAS: And then to share this together, to share this experience, to share the exposure together, yes...

JEFF JENKINS: It's a blessing ... That's my word for it.

QUESTION: You guys mentioned Javier and your mutual respect that you have for one another. A lot of people in the blogosphere are saying that Javier is a favorite to win the whole thing right now.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: He should be. He's amazing.

QUESTION: If each of you could choose one person that you think has the potential to go all the way – not including yourselves – who would you pick?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I'd definitely, I mean, Javier, Jeff, Beverly...

JEFF JENKINS: I don't know if that's even a fair question. I would be listing everyone in the competition.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I say Javier, Jeff, Beverly, Patrick, I mean, everybody, I mean, everybody is so - it's really one of those things where you just don't know because everybody...

FRENCHIE DAVIS: This is the first singing competition on TV that's all about singing. And so everybody's good. And so it's really - I mean, and you'll see this coming up when the battleground episodes air, there were moments where the judges got emotional because how do you choose between two amazing singers?

PATRICK THOMAS: And it's apples and oranges sometimes because there is so much talent. And, like I said, these people are artists; these are not - they don't just imitate what they hear on the radio. Everybody on this show is so musically talented and they have their - such a unique style that it really does become apples and oranges. How can you compare the R&B singer with the country singer? How can you, you know...that's very, very difficult to do.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: And what's been so special for me during this process is that while I am in competition with these people, I'm rooting for them at the same time. It's like I'm simultaneously competing against and rooting for these people because it's like everyone has been, I mean, we've been become like a little family.

And everybody's so talented. And, you know everyone deserves it because they're so good. And they're good hearted, you know... and it's like you root for good people. And I think that's been the highlight of my experience so far is just the wonderful friendships that I've made and just being able to share a stage, share a living space, you know, just share this experience with so many wonderfully talented people who have hearts of gold.

KELSEY REY: I agree completely. Well done, well done.

QUESTION: Frenchie, it's been obviously about eight years since you left American Idol.

FRENCHIE DAVIS: Almost nine ... Yes, I'll be 32 on Saturday and I was 23 when I did Idol so it's been a little minute..

QUESTION: In these eight, almost nine, years what got you through the ups and the downs, what in your personal life or in your personal upbringing got you through those tough times? And what have you learned about yourself that has helped you in this show?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I've learned that I'm a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. And I have just used this time to grow. You know, what's gotten me through the tough times I would have to say faith and just, I am one of those people that, you know, I truly believe that there's good out there. I believe that there's good out there for all of us; you just have to go out there and grab it.

And there was a part of my life when I had allowed what happened with me on Idol to kind of scare the hell out of me. And there was a part of me that had been afraid to really take a chance and take a - you know, Broadway was safe for me. But there was a part of me that was afraid to take that leap of faith, take that chance and really put myself out there again.

And I'm telling you ending up on the cover of the National Enquirer for being fat is the best thing that could have ever happened to me because it made me have an epiphany that being afraid of putting myself out there isn't protecting me from the scrutiny. So I might as well go balls to the wall for my dream because they're going to come for me anyway.

QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of the other American Idols from your season - Season 2?

FRENCHIE DAVIS: I do. And it was so amazing watching Reuben Stoddard and Kimberly Locke tweeting the other night rooting for me. And Rueben is like my brother, Kimberly and I we still perform together every now and then because we both have a huge following in the gay community and the gay boys will revolt if we don't sing together.

And I'm still friends with Trenise and Clay has been an amazing support. He's come to see me in almost every Broadway show I've been in. And I went to go see him when he was in Spamalot in Broadway. So - and like I said what's been the highlight of this experience has been the wonderful friendships that I've built because I made lifelong friends when I did Idol and I was only on Idol for like two minutes.

QUESTION: Kelsey, if you should down the road make your own record, what type of music do you think is your particular style and what type of record would you like to make?

KELSEY REY: You know, it might come as a surprise to everybody that I - yes I do love pop music and I do think that I fit in with the pop genre. But I like pop with flair, I like soul music and I like blues. I really like to sing from the heart. And I like big band stuff. I would like to eventually someday have a band behind me. And I would love to have an all-girl band which is kind of crazy but I think that would be really cool.

And I think that's another reason why I chose Cee Lo.

QUESTION: Patrick, what are some of the artists in your background - some of the artists that you grew up with that have been an influence on your career?

Patrick ThomasPATRICK THOMAS: Hey, you know, country was kind of a recent thing for me. I didn't really start singing country until I was about 16. For me I was listening - in middle school I was listening to Josh Groban. And when I was singing even at a younger age, at 8, 9, 10, it was Robert Goulet, it was Broadway artists, it was Bing Crosby. I was singing "Would you Like Sing on Star? And so I've had a very wide array of influences.

My parents were both Broadway performers so I had that background always. But country was the most commercial for me and it's also - I learned to love it; I needed a place to play at 16 and my dad suggested country.

And at first I hated it but I started watching CMT television every morning and, you know, I fell in love with "Amazed" by Lonestar; I fell in love with Clay Walker, with Blake Shelton. And it became the only thing I listened to on the radio. I still have a lot of different genres that I love but country is not definitely how I identify myself.

QUESTION: Kelsey chose Cee Lo over Christina Aguilera. [Was it because] Cee Lo may have been able to give you more on the producing and the marketing side than Christina might be able to?

KELSEY REY: Yes, you know, I think that when I was choosing I was kind of thinking as a business woman. You know, I love Christina - I love Christina. I grew up listening to Christina. She is one of my idols. And same with Adam Levine; I love Adam Levine. But I know like what Cee Lo really likes and the songs that he sings and his music nowadays, I mean, I love his music.

And I love his style. I think he has a very unique voice. And he is also a producer. And just the way that he spoke and the way that he said, you know, you sang this song and your clarity was amazing and all the compliments he was giving I could tell that he was truly passionate to work with me.

So I definitely was thinking about choosing Christina I have to say; I was going back and forth. But I knew that Cee Lo could do something wonderful with my voice so I ended up choosing him.

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