Blue Mountain's Singer/Songwriter

The Voice

 In August 2012 I received an unexpected phone call. I was in the garden having just finished mowing the lawn. I had been contemplating my future in the music industry. A regular occurrence in the life of an ageing rocker like myself.Having not long past seen the demise of a long awaited record deal and the subsequent flop of a follow up album, I was not in great shape. For perhaps the third or fourth time in my 25 years of public performing, I had begun the process of coming to terms with the end of my usefulness as a musician and singer.To make matters worse, I was rapidly hurtling towards the significant end of my fourth decade.

A sweet voice on the other end of the phone said ‘Hi Phil this is Loz from “The Voice”, I know you probably aren’t keen to talk with me but I have an offer for you that we’d really like you to consider’.  Immediate fear took hold of me and my dislike for singing competitions was aroused as I listened. ‘We’ve been talking to some people and your name has been suggested to us as a perfect candidate to compete on next years show. How would you feel about that? We’d really love you to consider it.’ I was lost for words. I didn’t know what to say so I retreated to the safety of my usual response. ‘Loz’ I said, ‘I’m really honoured that you would consider me but I really don’t think I’d have what it takes. I’m not really a singing competition kinda guy and besides I’d probably make a right fool of myself in front of the whole country.’ Loz, having probably heard it all before responded with ‘You know we will treat you and all our artists with great respect and dignity, please consider it. You have 2 weeks to apply. We’d love to see you there.’

With that, she was gone.

I stood there for a few minutes a little chuffed at the thought that I’d actually been scouted for something, especially my voice. I’d always held to the fact that my voice was rather ordinary and limited. There’s a first time for everything it would seem. I walked inside to the kitchen where my wife Judy was making a cuppa and said ‘Guess what? I just got scouted for The Voice! Can you believe it? They must be really desperate this year.’ She looked at me with that all knowing look and say’s ‘I hope you are going to do it!’ I respond with a glib ‘Nah, it’s not really my thing. I hate singing competitions anyway. Nice to be asked tho.’

Thinking I’d put the conversation to bed, I turned to walk away. As I made haste my exit, her next words ‘What else have you got?’ hit me between my shoulder blades like a dart.

I fumbled for an answer, but as usual, her wisdom and directness had me against the ropes and I had no reply. Desperately seeking an out, I responded, ‘Ok, I’ll think about it but there’ll be no guarantees.’

I left it for a week.

My journey in the music business has been a chequered one. I have thoroughly loved every minute of it but it has to be said it has also been a journey of set backs, knockdowns and sheer, tear your hair out, frustration.  You learn to roll with the punches, dust yourself off when you get hit and build up an enormous thick skin layer to protect yourself each time you do. Add to that the constant striving to be as good as you can and competitive nature of the business and you have a potential cocktail for disaster, waiting in the wings. Any quick scan of the great musicians of the modern era will show a vulnerable fragile soul hiding behind the façade of fame and fortune.

Now, I should add to this story that I am a man of faith and I try to put into practice what I’ve learnt in my journey as a Christian. Not always successfully, I might add, but nevertheless it’s a plan I try to practice. I have learnt that my destiny is in hands much greater than mine and have seen many instances in my own life where God has intervened and pulled me from the wreckage of my own recklessness. I am acutely aware that any decisions of this nature are best given over to my creator. Sometimes I do this; sometimes I forget and find myself in a pickle someplace down the track down on my knees asking for help…again.

Sometimes God speaks loudly, sometimes He whispers. This time He whispered. ‘Test me on this’ he said. ‘Throw down your net and see what you find.’ ‘Ok’, I said, ‘but I’m not really a singing competition kinda guy, you know that don’t you?’

Part of the audition process required that I submitted a video clip of me singing, so I thought I’d make it as difficult as possible for the selectors. I sung an original song that I hadn’t even finished and made sure it was 100% gospel. ‘If God wants me to keep going then He’s gonna have to make it happen, and I’m gonna make it difficult.’ To my utter surprise I was accepted through to another round. ‘Wow’, I thought. ‘How on earth did that happen?’

That was followed by a live audition round. I felt like I had given the worst performance of my life. I rung Judy as I left the building and actually told her that that was it, the journey was over, so bad was my audition.I prayed as I drove home and smugly reiterated to God that I still wasn’t a singing competition kinda guy and my performance today proved it. Again, to my surprise, I made it thru, from 1000’s of applicants down to the last 120 or so.

I was through to the all important, Blind Audition round. This was my chance to give it my best in the hope that I can get the judges to turn for me.

But first, lawyers were called, contracts had to be signed, outfits had to be bought, weight (in my case) had to be shed. I was now caught up in the thick of it. As I sat amongst the other artists in the final meeting before filming I was overawed as to how significant this moment was. I fell back into my hotel room and prayed that God would show me what I was doing there because I didn’t feel worthy to be there.

At the sound check later in the week, I began to feel even less worthy when I heard the calibre of some of the voices.

The day before the blind auditions before the judges, I was called to the studio for a quick costume and makeup check, a meeting with a vocal coach and my TV ‘story’ interview. I was shuttled up to a tiny, cold room with my vocal coach, whom I’d never met before. After a rather nervous rendition of my song she looked at me intently and said ‘You know? That song reminds me of a song I heard at a funeral recently.’ ‘Excellent work Davidson’ I thought. ‘You’ve really murdered that one, nice!’

I apologised.

 She said “No, no I didn’t mean it like that. I meant the sentiment in the song reminded me of a song by Alex Lloyd I heard at a funeral recently. The song was called ‘Amazing’.To my utter horror, at the mention of the song I began to weep.

That song has a deep place in my heart as I sung it at my much-loved sister in laws funeral a few years beforehand. I can’t bear to hear the song, as it dredges up all manner of sadness from that day. As I shared the story with my coach she then began to weep also. I’m thinking, ‘What is going on here? Here I am in a room with a woman I’ve never met before and we’re both weeping.’It was totally surreal.

Fortunately, or so I thought, a knock came from the production crew requesting I head down pronto for my ‘story’ shoot. Literally within a minute of me weeping like a child with my vocal coach and I’m in front of the cameras. Reality television is a complex beast, which I thought I could cope with. Things however were about to take another unexpected twist. About the third question into my interview, my interviewer asked me ‘whom I’m doing this for, and why at my age, I was there?’I can’t explain what happened next but I couldn’t speak. I started to weep, uncontrollably. The more I tried to speak, the more I wept. Deep, deep tears like those shed in a moment of grief. Thru my tears I could see the camera and audio guys leap to attention and begin the process of zooming in and tweaking the sound to pick up every sniffle and every tear. 

My mind was screaming ‘Noooooooo, not now! Pull yourself together man!’ But the harder I fought, the more I cried. I blubbered my way thru the interview and felt like it would never end. When it did, my interviewer walked up to me and gave me a huge hug saying, ‘I’m sorry; I knew how hard those questions were for you. I’m soooo sorry!’ She all but carried me to the door, all the while listening to me mutter like a madman, “I’m really sorry, I’m really sorry, I have no idea why I cried.’

I rung Judy from the taxi and excitedly she asked me how it went. I said, ‘Not good, I feel really bad. I need to go back to the hotel and sit alone for a while. I’ll call you later.’ I could feel her pain as I hung up the phone. She has been my rock throughout my journey but I know how hard the set backs have been for her as she has tried to support me and hold me together.

Again, I fell back onto my hotel bed alone and sobbed for about 20 minutes. I sobbed unlike I’ve done before. It was deep, deep sobbing from some place within my soul. I cried out again that God would show me why I was here.  As I wept, I felt a peace come over me that I’ve never had before and can’t really explain.

A voice rose up in my heart and spoke saying, ‘It’s time to stop running. It’s not about you, it’s about me! Stop trying to prove to everyone how good you are. You are mine and I can do what I want with you. I can put you here, I can put you there, and I can put you anywhere. You’ve gotta stop getting in the way and let me use you. I’ll show you something that will blow your mind, but you have to trust me on this. I love you, but you need to let go.’ Those words rung in my head as I continued to sob. Right there, on the floor of that hotel.‘God’ again I pleaded. ‘Take this away, all this running, all this striving and help me to just be. Help me to trust and help me more than anything to let go. Show me why I’m here cause this isn’t making any sense to me.’

I hadn’t realised that up till that moment I had been trying to prove myself to God. Trying to be the best for Him. I wanted to show the world that I could make God look really good if I could do something really great for Him. As if God needs my help to make him look good! In the end I was just playing the game like everyone else. Striving to be the best, watching over my shoulder for the competition. Always looking out for the next big break. God doesn’t want that, he just wants us to get our egos out of the way so he can use us for His glory. When He does, we see a glimpse of his glory and our real purpose. That’s a  satisfaction that is life changing.

Now here’s the REALLY exciting bit. I still had one more lesson to learn.

The following day was my blind audition. This is the moment where the rubber hits the road. All my previous months of work are now focussed on this day. I’ve just, the day before,  had my whole focus shift and my eyes are wide open, I’ve broken down and am emotionally exhausted. I prayed as I lay in bed that morning that God would help me to continue to surrender and show me why I was there.

I’d invited Judy my wife and my beautiful daughter Georgia, who has Down syndrome, to appear on camera with me. Georgia is a huge fan of The Voice. We spent most of the day waiting around for the call to perform, in a windy cold old tent out in the back lots of Fox Studios.I was scheduled to be in the last group of 8 to perform. Not a great position, as the competition has limited spots. Being last meant we were waiting when all other contestants had been and gone.

The wait was torture.

Finally at about 10.45pm the producers of the show entered the tent, looking very ashen. I knew the news wasn’t going to be good. They explained that the nature of the program meant that someone was going to not get a chance to appear before the judges. Sadly it was our group.I was to be the next to perform. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement. We were devastated. I could hear the sobbing from others in my group. I looked over at Georgia she was exhausted. An announcement was made that this year they were going to offer those who missed to appear would have the chance to sing before the audience if we still wanted to because we’d come so far. The judges would leave, so as to not influence them next year should we decide to re enter. The call went out for those interested in performing to step forward.

There was silence.

I looked at Georgia and saw her disappointment. I had come so far. Surely there had to be more. Was this all just a bad joke? I was gently reminded of God’s promise that he would show me something amazing. I stood up and walked to the front of the line, alone. Everything in my being was saying ‘Don’t do it, this is wrong. You don’t deserve to be here, don’t kid yourself.’ I had to trust that God still had his hand on me and had a purpose, even thru the darkness I was feeling at that moment.As I stood there, my group, one by one, lined up behind me in a gesture of solidarity, some still sobbing. We were shuttled down to the studios; the band and the crowd remained to give us our final hurrah.

As I was walking in, one of the producers took me by the arm and asked if I would like to take Georgia up onto the stage with me. Nothing would have given me more joy than to have been able to do that. I thought to myself, ‘Ok this is going to be interesting.’The announcement was made from the stage explaining the plight of the last 8 contestants and my name was announced, along with Georgia as my special guest. As we walked onstage, unlike most performances I do I felt no pain and no nerves. I felt at peace and for the first time in the competition I was finally ready to sing. I was ready to sing like I’d never sung before. ‘God help me to connect and help me to let go’ where the last words I remember as the music started.

I put my hand on Georgia’s shoulder as her smile beamed up at me. I looked out into the crowd where Judy was sitting with the rest of the group. They were hugging her and crying together. I reached my hand out, doing the best Bono impression I could, to her. ‘This is for you my beautiful wife.’ I thought as I raised my voice. I looked down to the front of the stage as I sang and I saw the crew and producers standing with tears streaming down their faces. I looked into the crowd and they were now rising to their feet.‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘There’s something happening here. This is amazing.’

As the song wound to a close I leaned over to Georgia and I said ‘Georgia, this is for you. You need to take a bow.’ She walked to the front of the stage and bowed gracefully, smiling all the way. As she straightened herself up, she thrust her hands into the air in jubilation and yelled ‘YES!!!’ as the crowd cheered at the top of their lungs.

We walked off to a standing ovation and met with the producers at the foot of the stage, some still crying. Some saying 'that that moment was the highlight of the show thus far. ' One of the crew had even managed to snap four photos on his phone. They are the photos below and the only recorded record of the moment.

God had truly shown me something amazing. He took what looked like a moment of utter despair and disappointment and made it into something I will never forget. A moment where a small glimpse of His glory, compassion and everlasting promise was revealed.

Remember, I’m not a singing competition kinda guy, but I know God had a reason for me being there. In the end, there was no competition for me. I had nothing to prove, that was taken away. All I had to do was trust that he would be with me, step out watch as His plan unfolded in the most spectacular way.

 As to whether I’ll reappear next year? I’m really not sure. I don’t need to. I will ask if God wants me to. If he does, I am confident that he has a plan and that he is with me. I just need to continue to let go.

Watch this space!