Religion

'The Voice' helped Christian singer reach a different audience

Anthony Evans
Anthony Evans

Early in this season of The Voice, super singers and strong contenders Anthony Evans and Jesse Campbell were pitted against each other in a showdown to determine who got to stay in the competition.

Their rendition of Alicia Keys' If I Ain't Got You was an epic battle of high notes and extended runs, vocal endurance and gymnastics. It was the sort of thing you'd expect to see late in a show like this, like now, as The Voice comes to a conclusion Monday and Tuesday night.

But with the show's format, it was taking place very early in the competition as judge and team leader Christina Aguilera pitted her two soulful singers against each other.

"I had that whole feeling of, 'This is crazy, that you pair up the No. 1 and No. 2 seed and the No. 15 and 17, and one of the two top ones is going to go home and No. 17 is going to stay," says Evans, who ended up being the one to go home that night.

That early March event has given Evans time to work on his gospel career, which was already well established before he went on The Voice. Evans is the son of megachurch pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and he got his big break in Christian music as a backup singer for Kirk Franklin. Since then, Evans has recorded six solo albums.

"The show for me was like a little break from what I was used to doing, so I was just having fun," Evans says from his Los Angeles home. "It wasn't dictating whether I was going to have a career after the show, which took off some of the pressure."

Evans says Christian pop star Jeremy Camp suggested Evans give the show a shot to change things up. What attracted Evans to The Voice over, say, American Idol or other singing competitions was that it was open to and even wanted professional singers in the mix.

"I was like, OK, this isn't amateurs," Evans says. "They're not going to get gimmicky and try to stress us out at the hotel, keep us up all night and then turn cameras on and watch us flip out on each other. I wanted to be part of something musical and something just about the music."

But being part of that drew some criticism from people who thought Evans was turning his back on the church, or, at the very least, should have been singing more Christian-geared music than Alicia Keys love songs.

Evans says he went into the competition expecting criticism, but critics don't know everything that happened on the show or appreciate that his appearance brought people into churches who were not previously there.

"If they did know the big picture, they would not be complaining about me being on that show," says Evans, who notes that at church concerts he has played since the end of his run on the show he has seen people who came just because he was on The Voice.

Had Evans stayed on the show, he says he would have tried to perform some more Christian material, but he adds that song selection is only partially up to the singer. Coaches pick songs for the competitors and then there is an issue of getting copyright clearance for songs.

"There is a list of songs to choose from, because there are people working night and day to get clearance to do this stuff on TV," Evans says. "I would do what I could do and try to make sure they covered my story."

His story now is post Voice, as is Campbell's, as he was eliminated by Aguilera in a somewhat surprising move April 16.

Aguilera, Evans says, was very influential in getting him to think outside of what he was doing.

"I'm trying to expand my horizons musically so that the next record I write is different and fresh," says Evans, noting a move from Nashville to L.A. was part of that strategy.

"This week I'm writing with one of the guys from One Republic, and that connection came because of The Voice. It has brought me new, fresh ideas. Lyrically, people will hear the same message. Sonically, people will hear things that are a little fresher sounding, probably more creative because L.A. isn't Nashville, so it's not a bunch of people doing the same kind of music. I'd be the odd-man-out here doing Christian music."

But now, his profile is much higher than a lot of Christian musicians, thanks to The Voice.

"That show has created a platform for me that I never could have created for myself," Evans says, "and it did by me being on TV for what felt like five minutes."

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